As they age, horses may start to show signs of pain and stiffness. Just like humans, many horses develop arthritis, as they get older.
Just like humans, this can have an impact on physical ability and mood.
Sure, there are drugs you can give your horse daily, but is that the route you really want to take? Is treating arthritis in horses naturally an option?
What is Arthritis in Horses?
Arthritis in horses is a degenerative joint disease. It happens when the cartilage between the bones starts to break down. This can lead to pain and stiffness. If left untreated, it can also lead to lameness.
What causes it?
Over time, with stress and regular wear and tear, the cartilage in a horse’s joints begins to wear down. An injury may also lead to the development of arthritis.
Racing, dressage, and jumping horses, or those involved in other high impact activities are usually at higher risk. This is both because of the extra stress on the joints and because of the increased risk of injury.
Since it’s a slow progression, sometimes it takes time to notice arthritis. Keeping a careful eye out for even the smallest sign is really important. Early on you might notice a horse moving stiffly until she has warmed up. Another sign is a reluctance to move in one direction or at a certain gait.
Other signs of equine arthritis can include:
- A decline in movement
- Small bony growths (osteophytes) around the affected joint (you may be able to feel them, and they’ll also appear on an x-ray)
- Heat in and around the affected joint
- Increased irritability
Unfortunately for our equine companions, there’s no cure for arthritis. Once it sets in all you can do is work to reduce the inflammation and the pain.
The Problem with Popular Drugs
Most vets will prescribe a regimen of daily anti-inflammatories and/or pain meds to help regulate inflammation and pain. One of the most popular drugs is phenylbutazone, or Bute.
Bute is cheap. It can be injected or given orally as a paste or powder. And sure, it does reduce inflammation and pain. Pretty well in fact. That said, it also puts your horse at risk. In some cases, that risk is serious.
Why? Well, Bute works by stopping COX (cyclo-oxygenases). COX is a class of enzymes that, when activated, lead to inflammation. Yes, that sounds like a good thing. But your horses actually needs those COX enzymes. They’re crucial for the normal healing of tissues.
When it comes to arthritis in horses, that’s essential.
It goes beyond that though. The body also needs COX enzymes for:
- normal kidney function
- the production of blood cells
- to shield the intestines from damage
So, do you really want your horse to stop producing COX? No.
Hold on to your hats folks. It gets worse.
As far as repair, Bute doesn’t help either. A study out of Ohio State University found that Bute delays healing and slows the production of joint cartilage. And as for adverse effects, research shows several conditions can come from long term use of Bute:
- kidney failure
- decreased appetite
- intestinal problems
- water and sodium retention (dangerous for horses with congestive heart conditions)
- bone marrow suppression
But since arthritis can’t be cured, what’s the alternative? Is treating arthritis in horses naturally effective?
Treating Arthritis in Horses Naturally with CBD Oil
Animals, like humans, have an endocannabinoid system. This system has receptors that are found all throughout the body. The goal of this system is to keep everything balanced. That includes pain and inflammation (and helping the body manage it).
CBD oil has chemical compounds called cannabinoids. These cannabinoids go to work in the body to help bring about that balance.
It’s slow going, but research has been done. While studies in animals are not numerous, they are finding some pretty incredible results. For example, a 2018 study on arthritic dogs found that CBD oil significantly decreased pain and increased activity. They saw no side effects, even with long term use.
The study’s recommendations? “This pharmacokinetic and clinical study suggests that 2 mg/kg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity.”
In horses specifically, so far the research is in the early stages. But reports from horse owners are promising. So promising, in fact, that the American Veterinary Medical Association is calling for more research to catch up.
We’ve also seen the results ourselves. A few years ago, we worked with Taquito, a 15 year old sorrel Quarter horse at the Wheel Barrow Ranch in Arizona. He was suffering greatly from late-stage arthritis. After just a few treatments with CBD, Taquito was not only moving around more, with visibly reduced pain, his temperament (amped up because of his discomfort) had significantly improved.
There are many benefits to adding CBD to your horse’s daily diet:
- reduce joint stiffness
- add muscle mobility
- alleviate pain
- relieve swelling and discomfort
- improved temperament
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 provide protection from future breakdown, helping them live a long, healthy, and full life. And we’re very thankful for that.