New study is evaluating CBD use in horses

March 17, 2020
dvm360 Staff
dvm360, dvm360 April 2020, Volume 51, Issue 4

Cannabidiol is already being used to mitigate obsessive-compulsive behaviors in horses. This study aims to find out whether it’s actually working.

Ever since the 2018 Farm Bill removed industrial hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, the availability and popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) products have skyrocketed. But it remains unclear whether CBD is safe or effective, and the research to find out is in its infancy. Data on CBD use in horses are more scarce than data on dogs and cats, so researchers at Tarleton State University’s Equine Center in Stephenville, Texas are conducting a study to learn more about the effects of CBD in horses. (Tarleton State is a member of the Texas A&M University system.)

“I have just been overwhelmed by the level of interest in this study,” says Kimberly Guay, PhD, assistant professor at the university, in an article on the Texas A&M Today website. “By now, horse owners have all heard the hype about the potential benefits of CBD oil. Here at Tarleton, we are working to give them the reliable data that’s just not there yet,” Dr. Guay says.

The study, led by Dr. Guay, is measuring the effect of CBD on inflammation, stress and stereotypical negative behaviors in horses, as well as pain and lameness scores.

For the trial, Dr. Guay and student researchers are administering different forms of CBD (i.e. oil or pellets) to the study horses, and measuring and evaluating the physiologic effects on the horses’ heart rate and cortisol level. They are also observing horses after dosing to see whether CBD had an impact on obsessive-compulsive behaviors such as cribbing (when a horse bites on a fence or gate). Dr Guay says they are also tracking how long CBD stays in the horse’s system.

“[By] the end of this study, we hope to have the data that will define and document what exactly is going on with the horses. Is it actually helping to minimize stress and stereotypical behavior? … Once we have this for horses then we’d like to … see if we can increase wellbeing within our food production animals,” says Dr. Guay.

Results of this study are expected to be published next year.

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