As many of you are aware, the CBD industry is currently booming in the United States. The human products have been rolling out consistently, and within the past few years products for animals have become available as well. CBD has been touted by its supporters as a wonder supplement being used for a variety of reasons including pain, acute stress, and anxiety (all of which are pretty common for horses). The real question on everyone’s minds is: is CBD actually safe for our horses?
First of all, before considering this product you have to understand what it is and where it comes from. Although CBD (cannabidiol) is a derivative of the Cannabis sativa plant, it is not in and of itself psychoactive. THC is the psychoactive element of cannabis, and CBD products generally contain less than 0.3% THC content. The companies selling equine CBD are claiming that it is good for inflammation, anxiety, and joint health, among other things. Equine CBD products come in a variety of forms, like pellets, tinctures, and pastes, all of which are good for different things. For example, pellets would be good for a horse that needs constant joint support, and a tincture would be best for an acute stress situation, such as trailering.
Now here is where things get a little shady: there are almost no legitimate scientific studies published on the use of CBD for horses. The few published “studies” out there have been conducted by the companies that are selling the CBD products, so in my opinion they are difficult to trust. Kentucky Equine Research has begun studies on using CBD for horses, but they are just starting to test it long-term. So far, they’ve found that there are benefits from the Omega-3s in the oil (not necessarily the CBD itself) such as:
-Reducing behaviors like cribbing
-Immune system support
-Allergies and skin issues
-Joint health and support
In actuality, CBD oil doesn’t have as much Omega-3 as tried-and-true fish oil does, plus fish oil has had definitive research published on its safety and benefits. CBD products are not evaluated by the FDA so there could be a variety of ingredients in each product that are not safe for horses. There is no official testing required to check for pesticides and herbicides or other chemicals. If you are considering a CBD product for your horse, be sure that the company has a Certificate of Analysis (COA) accompanying that product. Lower-priced CBD products may be tempting, but it is generally better to stick with higher-priced products from reputable companies. There is also little information out there about the dosing for equine CBD.
In May 2019, the USEF announced that CBD for its equine athletes will be deemed illegal starting September 1, 2019 because of its anti-anxiety properties and lack of testing regarding detection and withdrawal times. The FEI has also added it to its list of illegal supplements. If you are a competitor involved in any organization, be sure that you know the rules regarding CBD before considering it for your horse. It’s also important to check that CBD is legal in the state you are in, as well as states that you compete in or are traveling through.
In short, right now we don’t really know whether or not CBD is safe to use in horses. There isn’t enough definitive, reliable research out there to say either way. When considering any supplement, be sure to discuss it with your veterinarian before making a decision.