A look at arthritis in horses and why hemp is becoming a popular treatment option for this common condition.
Hemp has been around for a long, long time. It has been used in the manufacturing of rope, clothing and paper for thousands of years. Thanks to its value, American farmers were even legally required to grow hemp as a staple crop in the 1700s. Things have changed a great deal since then, but thankfully, the value of this versatile plant has not.
Over the last two decades or so, we’ve seen a surge in popularity of this long-time beneficial plant for both animals and humans. Much of this popularity has to do with cannabidiol (CBD), a potent compound in the hemp plant.
Found in high concentrations in the stalk and flowers of the plant, CBD has incredible potential for treating an impressive variety of health conditions, from epilepsy and other neurological conditions, to pain, inflammation and anxiety. Studies even suggest that CBD may protect against the development of certain types of cancer. And it’s not just for humans, dogs and cats. It’s wonderful for horses, too.
Hemp for horses
Just like humans, horses have an endocannabinoid system. This system runs throughout the body, including the brain, central nervous system, and vital organs. It regulates and helps maintain balance within the central nervous system, and is made up of receptors (CB1 and CB2) that, when supplied with CBD, elicit a response to pain or mood.
That’s what makes it so promising for arthritis. Any horse caretaker knows that arthritis is an unwelcome diagnosis in an equine partner, regardless of discipline or occupation. It’s painful, and can significantly limit mobility. It can also have an impact on a horse’s temperament.
Arthritis: a dreaded diagnosis
Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that leads to a breakdown of the soft cartilage between the bones. It’s actually caused by wear and tear; over time, the tissue that absorbs shock and protects the bones begins to wear away. Often, an injury to the joint will exacerbate the problem and lead to arthritis.
Because arthritis is a degenerative disease, it is most often seen in older horses, especially those involved in racing, jumping, dressage, or other high-impact sports. While it’s most commonly seen in weight-bearing joints, it can affect any joint in the body.
Understandably, just as with humans, this breakdown of tissue results in inflammation, stiffness, and considerable pain. It can also result in lameness if not addressed.
Managing equine arthritis
Currently, there is no cure for most types of arthritis. Once that tissue is gone, it can’t regenerate. That’s why early diagnosis and appropriate management are crucial, especially with cases of inflammatory arthritis. Proper hoof trims and shoeing, good conformation, and proper footing can all help delay the onset of arthritis in horses.
A slight stiffness when first working out is an important early warning sign to watch for. Any pain or discomfort are also telltale symptoms, as is a change in temperament. In the advanced stages, x-rays may show bony growths (osteophytes) on the joint.
When the signs of arthritis start to appear, many caretakers will turn to anti-inflammatories such as Bute (phenylbutazone) for daily pain management. However, the issues with this type of pain relief regimen are well documented (plenty of research shows it can lead to kidney damage); and we’ve seen a shift in the belief that Bute is the only solution to a horse’s discomfort — thanks in large part to CBD.
Protection for the future
While CBD is a powerful pain management option, it is by no means only reactionary. It’s also a powerful proactive deterrent to help defend against any arthritis that may develop in the future. It can alleviate not just the joint stiffness in that can lead to arthritic symptoms, but can also go to work on the endocannabinoid system early on. Studies have shown that this can help reduce the painful neurological impulses that simulate and result in adverse joint and nerve pain.
Finding the right product for your horse
There are many different CBD products available on the market, although very few are labeled for use in horses. When sourcing a reliable product, look for a Certificate of Analysis from a third party laboratory. Make sure the product is tested for heavy metals, pesticides, and any residual solvents. Also ensure it’s sourced from organic hemp, as hemp absorbs toxins from the soil, which can then be transferred to the CBD oil.
Additionally, look at the extraction method used. CO2 extraction is the cleanest and most complete method. It uses carbon dioxide (CO2) to extract the CBD from the plant, rather than solvents (which, like toxins, can remain in the oil).
According to the World Health Organization, CBD has a positive safety profile and long-term use has shown no negative side effects.
CBD oil is a breakthrough in health and wellness, especially when it comes to arthritis in horses. It has the power to support proactive joint growth and give protection from future breakdown, as well as providing significant relief from the painful symptoms of arthritis, helping your horse live a long, healthy and full life. It has been amazing to see, firsthand, the benefits of CBD for horses, and to hear from others the many positive experiences they’ve had with it. Adding it to your horse’s daily diet, no matter his age, weight or daily activity, can help bring about positive health benefits on so many levels.