Evidence based

Is CBD Safe For Horses? The Ultimate Guide to Equine CBD

If you’re considering giving your horse CBD, there are a few important things you should know. Find out how to use CBD with your horse safely & effectively.

Article By
Andrea Nestoroska , posted 1 month ago

  • Table of Contents

You care more about your horse than anyone else. So, when she started turning down food due to pain — you decided to try something different and have been looking into using CBD with your horse.

The truth is, you’re not the only one. More and more equestrians give their horses CBD these days for chronic pain, inflammation, and a host of other symptoms.

Science has yet to catch up on the effects of CBD on horses. So, seeing horse owners taking the initiative by using CBD before the evidence is complete has some veterinarians worried.

However, recent anecdotal evidence and research show that CBD is safe, non-toxic, and non-addictive to mammals — including horses.

If you’ve been thinking about giving your horse CBD, keep reading for tips on how to calculate an effective dose. We’ll also cover how to stay safe when giving CBD supplements to horses, and discuss the different ways of administering CBD to your trusty steed.

Why Are People Using CBD With Horses?

Horse-owners use CBD to support the horse’s well-being. CBD’s anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic effects may help horses manage symptoms of common ailments, including:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Soreness and stiffness

That said, CBD is not used to “cure” common conditions in horses, but to improve the animal’s quality of life. CBD in horses is also used to aid natural metabolic processes and speed recovery after a big day of exercise.

CBD may support horses in the following areas of health:

  • Metabolism and appetite
  • Emotional state and mood
  • Immune system
  • Mobility
  • Digestion and bowel health
  • Irritated skin

Is CBD Safe For Horses?

Horses, like humans, an endocannabinoid system (ECS) — which functions as a regulatory system in the body to maintain homeostasis (balance) of many different areas.

Some basic functions of the ECS include regulating digestion, sleep, appetite, inflammation, mood, immune function, temperature, memory, and more.

Although there are no horse-specific studies involving CBD — most of the research performed on both humans and animals show that CBD is both non-toxic and non-addictive [1].

In fact, even when administered in higher doses, CBD is well-tolerated by both humans and animals.

Some common side-effects of CBD in animals include diarrhea, drowsiness, and dry mouth — all of which are mild in nature, and tend to only result from using very high doses.

CBD May Help Your Horse… When Nothing Else is Working

Many times, both hemp CBD and marijuana are used as a last resort for horses with painful chronic conditions.

One example of marijuana use in horses is Tori, a 16-year-old Paso Fino with equine melanoma. When Tori’s owner got the news for the horse’s probable euthanasia, she decided to turn to cannabis as the last option.

So, over the course of a few years, Tori’s owner used cannabis oil (a mix of 6% THC and 11.7% CBD) to keep her alive. Luckily, cannabis had a great long-term effect on Tori.

“Update from 2020: Tori’s tumors continue to look good, and she continues passing full rectums of manure nearing 3 years after it was first proposed to euthanize her for bowel blockage.”

Now, we wouldn’t recommend you to give your horse marijuana without consulting a vet, but the message from Tori’s story is that if used responsibly, cannabis won’t hurt your horse. 

In fact, one veterinarian is making a case for the responsible use of THC in animals by comparing it to common pain medications. The logic behind that is that if you give your animal the minimum lethal dose of THC (3000 mg/kg for dogs), the animal will experience the same intoxication as if it accidentally ate an entire bottle of pain meds.

Now, back to hemp CBD.

Another horse owner decided to give hemp CBD pellets to his horse post-colic surgery. When the owner noticed that one scoop of CBD pellets twice a day didn’t show any results, he increased the dosage to two scoops twice a day and noticed a “huge difference.”

“His lingering edema almost completely went away within a few weeks, and he’s been moving so much more forward and pain-free. People are amazed at how quickly he’s bouncing back in under saddle work now. “

Furthermore, one case report found that 250 mg of pure crystalline cannabidiol administered by mouth twice daily helped a 4-year-old Quarter Horse with a 5-week history of “marked sensitivity to touch” — when traditional meds showed no improvement in clinical signs. When the animal started taking CBD, the clinical signs resolved after two just days [2].

Dosing Guidelines: How Much CBD Should I Give My Horse?

Now, the most important part, “How much CBD should I give my horse?”

Animals are more sensitive to CBD — horses in particular. Horses require lower and less frequent doses of CBD than other animals, according to Dr. Luedke, a veterinarian and leading expert on CBD for horses.

Dr. Leudke stated that horses need longer dosing intervals than other species and seem to be more sensitive on the “per kilogram” dosing model.

For example, if a CBD dose of 1-2 milligrams per kilogram works well for dogs, horses need a lower dose —  ranging from 0.25-1 milligrams per kilogram.

Horses sensitivity to CBD may or may not be attributed to the way they digest food. As hindgut (large intestine) fermenters, horses get the majority of their energy through fermentation, not digestion like other animals do.

Simple things such as “feeding too much grain, improper ratios of forage and grain, or moldy forage or grain” can wreak havoc on the equine digestive system — according to Kentucky Equine Research. This sensitivity may make horses more susceptible to CBD.

So, when you start giving your horse CBD, make sure you start low and increase the dose gradually. Starting with low CBD doses allows you to track your horse’s progress and adjust the dose when you start to see benefits.

Many people will start with the baseline dose of 40 mg and increase until you reach the desired results. According to Dr. Juliet M. Getty, the best dosage for horses are as follows:

  • Minis (400-660 lbs) — 25 to 50 mg
  • Full-sized (660-1110 lbs) — 75 to 170 mg
  • Large breeds (1100-1800) — 120 to 200 mg

1. Calculating Horse Doses For CBD Tinctures

If you’re using CBD tinctures, first look at the size of the bottle and the amount of CBD inside. Then, you divide the amount of CBD with the size of the bottle. This will give you the potency of the oil in milligrams of CBD per milliliter of oil (mg/mL).

So, if your bottle is 30 mL and contains 3000 mg of CBD, you get 100 mg of CBD in 1 mL (a full dropper) — 3000mg/30mL = 100 mg/mL.

Once you know the potency, you can use simple math to find the right dose. If you have an oil with 100 mg/mL CBD, and you want a dose of 40 mg — all you have to do is give 0.4 mL (40% full dropper).

Our product reviews include the potency of each oil in case you’re not math-savvy.

Number Product Total CBD Potency Cost per mg CBD Link

1

Cannimal Equine Formula

2000 mg

40 mg/mL

$0.12

2

Hemp Bombs Pet CBD Oil

125 – 1000 mg

4 – 33 mg/mL

$0.10 – $0.24

3

Cannimal Gold Concentrate

650 mg

99%

$0.11

4

NuLeaf Naturals CBD Pet Oil

240 – 1450 mg

50 mg/mL

$0.12 – $0.16

2. Calculating Horse Doses For Capsules & Pellets

For other products such as pellets or capsules — you can check the exact mg contained in each capsule or pellet.

For example, CBD pellets may advertise 25 mg, 50 mg, or 75 mg of CBD per capsule, or per scoop of pellets.

You can then simply calculate how many capsules or scoops you need to give the horse to reach the intended dose.

3. Calculating Horse Doses For CBD Concentrates

CBD pastes and concentrates come in different tube sizes, from 400 mg to 1000 mg per syringe.

Just like tinctures, each product has its own potency measured in mg per mL. The only difference is that with concentrates, this potency is much higher. Therefore, you will need much less volume to get the desired dose.

Always follow the directions on the bottle when using a CBD concentrate, and make sure to speak with a vet before using these highly potent products with your horse.

Example Starting Doses: CBD Tinctures, Capsules/Pellets, & Concentrates

Horse size CBD Tinctures   1 mL = 33 mg/mL CBD Pellets   1 scoop = 25 mg CBD CBD Capsules   1 capsule = 25 mg CBD CBD Paste   100 mg of CBD per 20 cc
Minis (400 – 660lbs) Half a dropper twice a day OR 1 full dropper once a day 0.5 – 1 scoop / twice a day 1 capsule per day 10 cc once a day
Full-Sized (660 – 1110 lbs) 1 – 2 full droppers twice a day 1.5 – 3 scoops twice a day 3 capsules per day 15-30 cc once a day
Large Breeds (1100 – 1800) 2 – 3 full droppers twice a day 2 – 4 scoops twice a day 4 capsules per day 25 – 40 cc once per day

*cc – cubic centimeters, usually marked on the tube.

How Do I Give My Horse CBD?

There are several different CBD products for horses available on the market, including:

  • CBD paste
  • CBD tinctures
  • CBD powder
  • CBD pellets
  • CBD sprays
  • Topical CBD balms & salves

One of the most favorable administration methods for horses is sublingual. Sublingual administration has a quick effect and is generally considered safer for your horse’s sensitive gut.

Usually, CBD oils and pastes are administered sublingually (under your horses tongue). These two types of products hold well in the animal’s mouth and provide better absorption. When absorbed through the mucosa in the oral cavity, CBD directly reaches the bloodstream faster and more efficiently.

With the right dosage of CBD via sublingual administration, you may notice an improvement in your horse’s symptoms within about half an hour.

CBD powders and pellets are usually mixed with feed and administered orally. The success of oral consumption of CBD depends on the dosage and whether or not the horse took the remedy on an empty stomach.

When administered through the mouth, CBD gets broken down by the horse’s digestive system. That’s why it takes longer to work and reaches the bloodstream and may not offer as potent an effect.

Tips on Using CBD Safely With Your Horses

Let’s cover a few of the most important considerations you should keep in mind when administering CBD to your horse.

1. Avoid Glass Droppers

Most companies produce CBD tinctures with a glass dropper. It goes without saying, but giving your horse a CBD tincture with a glass dropper isn’t safe. The dropper can easily break in the animal’s mouth and cause an injury.

Instead, use a plastic oral syringe for horses, which is one of the most common ways of administering other types of medications that your horse is used to.

2. Avoid Low-Quality CBD Products

When you include CBD in your horse’s diet regimen, carefully select the products before you use them. You’re choosing CBD to support your horse’s well-being, so you should look at all the ingredients on the bottle. Some of the low-quality horse CBD products on the market are chock-full of unnecessary, potentially harmful chemical additives.

Here are some tips to help you choose a safe CBD product for your horse:

A) Choose CBD supplements specifically designed for horses

CBD horse manufacturers are more likely to pay attention to the things that may irritate the horse’s digestive system compared to general pet CBD manufacturers.

B) Check the label for CBD content per dose and other ingredients

A rule of thumb is to get pure CBD product, no artificial flavors or colors. Many things may trigger your horse’s sensitive gut so you shouldn’t take any risks.

C) Choose a product made from organically-grown hemp

Look for hemp grown in clean soil that’s non-GMO and pesticide-free.

D) Request a Certificate of Analysis (CoA)

Check the quality of the product by looking at the following:

  1. Are the levels of CBD and other cannabinoids the same as advertised?
  2. Does it contain residual solvents from the extraction method? — the product has to be alcohol-free and made using the CO2 extraction method.
  3.  Did an independent, third-party lab test the product? If the company tests in-house, that’s a major red flag.  

E) Choose a transparent manufacturer

Good manufacturers will be willing to provide all of the info regarding the safety of its products.

3. Speak With Your Vet Before Giving Your Horse CBD

If you’re giving your horse CBD for the first time, you may feel uneasy about the first couple of doses — this is normal. It’s natural to worry about what could go wrong or whether or not you’ll choose the right CBD product.

So, before going for it, discuss using CBD for your horse with your vet — preferably a vet that knows the animal well and has treated them in the past.

4. Start Low and Go Slow

CBD doses for horses are weight dependent but can be adjusted based on the severity of the situation. A rule of thumb is to start low and increase the dose slowly over the course of days, weeks, or even months.

Finding the right dose is a matter of trial and error. In some cases, the effects of CBD are visible immediately, while in others, it takes a couple of weeks to see improvement — so remain patient, and be persistent.

How Do I Know If CBD Is Working On My Horse?

If CBD is doing its job, you’re going to notice changes in the behavior of your horse. For example, if the horse refuses to eat or drink due to pain, you may observe improvements in appetite or overall mood after using CBD for a few days.

If your horse is anxious or avoiding the usual trails or refusing to ride, you may notice the horse is calmer and wants to explore and spend time outside after a few days of taking CBD.

If your horse is dealing with eczema or other skin changes, you’ll notice visible improvement on the horse’s skin when CBD starts to work.

All of these changes will be different on a case-by-case basis. You know your horse best, so you’ll be the most likely to be able to see indications of improvement when you’ve found the right dose of CBD.

Regarding the time frame of CBD absorption — usually, after the product is absorbed, it takes 30 minutes to an hour to see results from both oral and sublingual administration.

CBD has an excellent safety profile. However, there are a few side-effects that may result if you give your horse too much CBD:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Diarrhea

If your horse manifests any of these symptoms, simply cut back on the dosage to the last dose you gave that didn’t produce these side-effects.

Also, don’t give CBD to a pregnant horse or horse intended for breeding — a safe use in these cases hasn’t yet been proven. 

Bottom Line: Is It Safe to Give My Horse CBD?

It’s generally considered safe to give your horse CBD. Research studies performed on animals show that CBD has a great safety profile for mammals (including everything from rats to horses and humans).

Equestrians are using CBD to support their horse’s quality of life. Preliminary research suggests CBD may offer improvements on your horse’s digestion, metabolism, immune function, mobility, pain, anxiety, and stress.

The baseline dose recommended by vets is 40 mg of CBD for horses within the weight range of 660 – 1800 lbs, and 25 mg for 400 – 600 lbs horses. You can then add 5 mg or so per day until you get the desired effects.

If you follow the rule, “start low, go slow,” you’re unlikely to give your horse too much at a time. 

It’s important to select high-quality CBD products. Look for a reliable, 100% transparent manufacturer that offers a third-party lab analysis certificate. Make sure the product is made from organically-grown hemp and has no residual solvents, pesticides, or heavy metals remaining in the final product.

References

  1. Bergamaschi, M. M. (2011). Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa Constituent. Current Drug Safety.
  2. Ellis, K. L. (2020). Treatment using cannabidiol in a horse with mechanical allodynia. Equine Veterinary Education . doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/eve.13168