Similar to humans, horses can develop arthritis in their joints. Arthritis can be difficult to deal with, especially for horses. This is because they constantly need all four legs to function normally. You may have heard of the many benefits CBD oil can have on humans, dogs, and even cats. But did you know that horses can also benefit from CBD? Many studies point to CBD as an effective treatment for pain and inflammation caused by arthritis, including equine arthritis.
What is Equine Arthritis?
Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is a condition of chronic inflammation in the joints that ultimately results in the loss of cartilage in the joints.
Arthritis causes pain and suffering in many horses. A horse uses all four legs to move about and carry out his daily functions. Arthritic joints can greatly, if not fully, decrease these abilities and dramatically reduce your horse’s quality of life.
Horses put a great deal of force on their legs every day for almost everything they do. The cartilage in their leg joints constantly undergoes stress from flexion and extension. Overworking the joints causes damage to the cartilage and triggers an inflammatory response. Inflammation is a normal part of the body’s repair mechanism.
Over time, however, this constant damage to the cartilage can lead to an overactive inflammatory response. At this point, components of the cartilage can begin to break down and lead to painful joints.
How Do You Know if a Horse Has Arthritis?
Symptoms of Equine Arthritis:
- Stiffness – Stiff movements are common, and they usually improve once they are warmed up.
- Swollen joints – A major visual symptom, swollen joints are a classic sign of arthritis. This occurs due to inflammation, and is often accompanied by pain.
- Shorter strides – Arthritic joints can make it hard for a horse to take normal strides. Due to stiffness and pain, an affected horse will likely take shorter strides.
- Lameness – Described as an abnormal gait or stance, lameness can develop as equine arthritis progresses.
To properly diagnose arthritis in your horse, you need a physical examination by your veterinarian. X-rays may also be used to determine the severity of the condition.
Treatment Options for Arthritis in Horses
Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are treatments to help manage pain and inflammation. The first thing you should do if you notice that your horse is experiencing discomfort is take him to the vet. It is important that the vet takes a close look to make sure nothing is serious.
In the case of arthritis, your veterinarian might offer injections of lubricating fluids to ease any pain and discomfort. Lubricating injections such as hyaluronic acid can also help slow down wear of cartilage. Injections of corticosteroids can also be done to reduce inflammation, thereby reducing some of the swelling and pain.
Glucosamine is a popular joint supplement. It is the building block of cartilage. It can be used to reduce pain and inflammation, while also reducing cartilage degradation. Chondroitin, a major component of cartilage, has effects similar to glucosamine. It most notably can prevent cartilage breakdown.
Phenylbutazone, commonly known as bute, is an anti-inflammatory that can be used for short-term pain relief. Its long-term use, however, can have negative effects like kidney damage. Firocoxib is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) for dogs that can be used as a long-term treatment. However, just like with all NSAIDs, the risk of developing stomach ulcers still exists.
Other treatment options include:
- Stem cell therapy – Veterinarians are making an effort to incorporate stem cells into the joints of arthritic horses. Injecting stem cells into a horse’s joint can greatly reduce inflammation. Stem cell therapy can be highly effective, but it is also costly.
- Cartilage transplant – Surgical procedures to replace bad cartilage with good ones are not always a guaranteed success. It can also get costly.
- Herbal remedies – Some people find that herbal treatments help their horse with managing pain and inflammation caused by arthritis. However, you may want to consult your vet before committing to an herbal treatment since its dosage and efficacy are not well-established.
What is CBD Oil?
Cannabidiol (CBD) comes from the hemp plant. More specifically, it is an extract of the leaves, flowers, and stalks of industrial hemp plants. These are the same plants used to manufacture goods like paper, textiles, plastics, and health foods.
CBD oil is non-toxic and non-psychoactive, meaning it does not produce the “high” effect most people associate with cannabis. It is completely safe and has many known health benefits for mammals, including humans and horses. This is because all mammals have a built-in endocannabinoid system (ECS) in their bodies. The ECS regulates many vital functions in the mammalian body.
Cannabinoids, such as CBD, interact with receptors of the ECS to produce beneficial effects throughout the body. Two known receptors are the CB1 and CB2 receptors:
CB1 receptors are located primarily in the brain.
CB2 receptors are located in peripheral organs and in the immune system.
We actually produce our own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, that interact with these receptors. CBD is known as a phytocannabinoid because it is derived from plants, but it mimics the activity of endocannabinoids. Because of this, it is able to interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors and produce the same incredible effects in the body.
Benefits of CBD Oil for Arthritis in Horses
Equine arthritis affects the joints of a horse’s legs. This makes it difficult for the horse to carry out her normal activities. Inflammation is a big part of arthritis, causing swelling and tenderness in the joints in addition to pain and stiffness.
The therapeutic effects of CBD are well-supported by medical research. CBD can help to effectively fight several symptoms of equine arthritis:
One of the main functions of the ECS is to regulate inflammation. When cannabinoids interact with CB2 receptors in immune cells, they increase the activity of the ECS, resulting in more regulation of the inflammatory response. This increased regulation of the immune system can suppress the inflammatory response and ultimately decrease inflammation.
In addition to managing inflammation, CBD oil can reduce pain associated with equine arthritis. Inflammation typically results in pain, and in this case it results in pain in the horse’s legs. By reducing inflammation in the joints, CBD can be effective in managing pain as well. This will not only make your horse feel more comfortable, but it can also allow your horse to move about and perform basic activities with less difficulty.
CBD has many other benefits as well. It has anti-anxiety properties and can also help with sleep. Both are factors that contribute to better management of equine arthritis because they can make it easier to cope with the condition.
Are There Side Effects of Using CBD Oil for Horses?
CBD is 100% safe and non-toxic. No known reports of CBD overdose exist. In fact, it is virtually impossible to overdose on CBD. The mammalian body processes CBD very well, which in turn allows us to enjoy its incredible health benefits.
Most people confuse CBD with THC. Terms like hemp, marijuana, and cannabis are often times mistakenly used interchangeably. CBD has no psychoactive properties and does not alter your state of mind. This psychoactive effect actually comes from THC. In summary, CBD offers desirable health benefits without the high. At the molecular level, CBD and THC differ from each other by one bond. Although they are similar in structure, they clearly have different effects when ingested.
Hemp, marijuana, and cannabis are all different terms. Cannabis is a genus of plants and is sub-classified into hemp and marijuana, two different species of cannabis. Marijuana contains high amounts of THC, resulting in a high when you ingest it. Hemp, on the other hand, naturally contains extremely low amounts of THC but relatively high amounts of CBD. This makes it an excellent candidate for therapeutic use because it promotes wellness with little to no side effects.
Possible Side Effects of CBD Oil:
- Dry mouth
- Lowered blood pressure
- Drowsiness (in higher doses)
How Much CBD Oil Should I Give My Horse for Arthritis?
Currently, there are no standard dosing guidelines for CBD because it is not yet regulated by the FDA. However, when using CBD oil, it is important to start out with low doses to make sure your horse is responding well to the treatment.
The recommended dosage is 0.25 milligrams per 1 pound of bodyweight. For a stronger dose, you can use 0.50 milligrams per 1 pound of body weight if you notice that your horse responds better to a higher dose.