CBD and Horses: Paving the Path for Future Research

May 1, 2020

Currently, little information exists on the calming and painkilling effects on animals using cannabidiol (CBD). Dr. Kimberly Guay, an Associate Professor at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, is hoping to change that by conducting research on the effects of CBD on horses and other livestock. Dr. Guay and her group hope that their future findings can benefit animals during transport and other times of stress. Here, Dr. Guay discusses her interest in this area, some of the current research, and her plans for the future.

What enticed you to research the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on horses?
Dr. Kimberly Guay:
My area of research details evaluating methods of monitoring and improving well-being in both companion animals, as well as livestock. Many of my students were already using CBD to help ease anxious behavior in their horses. CBD products for both horses and dogs have been available online for quite some time, so it seemed like a logical place to start.

Can you tell us more about the science behind your study (how were the horses selected, how frequently are they given treatment, what dose, how are the monitored, and so forth)? 
We have multiple ongoing projects: An acute dose study—which is more controlled in that we use university horses, dose them once and monitor how quickly the CBD is detected in their system, as well as how long it took to metabolize it. Another single dose study we are performing measures a change of behavior (such as anxious or stereotypic behavior) after a single dose. We are researching several daily dose studies that will document any changes in behavior, immune response, and stress indices over time. Lastly, we will be doing several transport studies that will evaluate how CBD (both single and daily doses) may help mediate the stress of transport.

What form of CBD have you found to produce the best results?
Currently, it is too early to tell what methods deliver the best results.

How were the CBD products chosen?
Most CBD companies are very confident in their products, we have many who are eager to let us analyze their products. 

Have you done quality control testing on the products? 
Although it is evident that there are differences to products from different origins, we require the companies to send certificates of analysis for each batch of product that we use. Also, we only use one product in one project at a time so as not to confound the results.

Has the stigma around cannabis affected your work at all?
You mean aside from the jokes? Yes. Primarily, people are very interested and open to the potential of what CBD can offer, however some of my student workers have received hang-ups when we call looking for potential subject horses for studies.

What results has your research revealed so far?
Unfortunately, it is still too early to tell. We do anticipate releasing our initial findings in early 2021.

Do you think that CBD has the same effect on animals as it does on humans? Does that imply that animals also have an endocannabinoid system?
Most animals have an endocannabinoid system, where all of the receptors are still unknown. I expect much research to be seen in the near future that will verify and document similarities and unique differences of cannabinoid receptors in various species.

How will your research affect future CBD studies with animals?
Firstly, I hope to gain insight as to if, and how, cannabinoids and industrial hemp may be utilized to increase human and animal well-being. Then with my work, provide other researchers direction to focus on further studies.

What are the next steps in your CBD research? Do you plan to study any other cannabinoids as treatment options for animals?
Yes, we have multiple projects in the pipeline, but we are also planning to work with multiple species—not just horses. There is potential for work in transport and weaning stress in livestock species such as pigs and cattle. I am also very interested in the potential benefits of cannabinoids in wild-captive animals.