Effects of a Supplement Containing Cannabidiol (CBD) on Sedation and Ataxia Scores and Health
Supplements containing Cannabidiol (CBD) are available for horses, however, few studies have been published on their effects on behavior and health parameters. The purpose of this study was to determine if a daily oral supplement containing CBD would cause sedation, ataxia or alterations in other health parameters during administration for 56 days. Twenty clinically healthy adult Thoroughbred horses were housed in stalls.
Before treatment was initiated, a complete physical examination, complete blood count (CBC) and biochemical panel were evaluated. In addition, horses were examined for sedation and ataxia using standard scoring systems. Horses were randomly divided into two treatment groups, treated (supplement pellets containing CBD as Hemp Extract, 150 mg) or control (supplement pellets without CBD).
Horses were treated daily and sedation and ataxia scores were assigned by two masked observers once weekly for 56 days. Horses were monitored daily for clinical signs or adverse events and body weights were recorded weekly. A CBC and biochemical panel were repeated on days 28 and 56, two hours after administration of the supplement.
The supplement was readily consumed by the horses and no adverse effects were seen over the treatment period. Sedation and ataxia scores ranged from zero to two for all horses during the weekly examinations and there was no statistical difference between treatment groups. There were no treatment effects on blood values, including indicators of anemia and blood proteins, liver enzymes, kidney values, electrolytes or calcium.
Body weight significantly increased in all horses, by Day 56 compared to Day zero but no treatment by day effect was noted. The CBD supplement (150 mg) was readily consumed and safe and did not result in changes in mentation, gait, or other health parameters, and no adverse clinical signs were observed during 56 days of oral administration.
Supplements are encountered commonly in equine practice to treat and manage a variety of conditions in horses. One such supplement contains cannabidiol (CBD), a phytocannabinoid originating from Cannabis sativa and widely used in human medicine.
While cannabinoids have been used for many years, their derivatives have been increasingly employed recently for the treatment of a variety of conditions in people including neuropsychiatric conditions, epilepsy, neurodegenerative diseases, autism spectrum disorder, various cancers and associated comorbidities, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases associated with oxidative stress , , , , .
Cannabidiol use in horses has largely been based on anecdotal evidence and extrapolation from literature in other species . Recent studies have described the pharmacokinetics of oral CBD formulations in horses in addition to its effect on the arachidonic acid pathway . Additionally, reports describing its effect on inflammatory cytokine production, as well as synovial fluid concentrations following systemic administration, have been published [8,9].
One study investigated the topical use of cannabidiol extract on wounds in the equine distal limb . Despite a paucity of supporting data, equine supplements containing CBD have been marketed and promoted in recent years and are currently available to owners in over-the-counter formulations.
In humans, adverse effects associated with CBD administration are well described and include gastrointestinal disturbances, lethargy, anemia, thrombophlebitis, elevations in liver enzymes, and nervous system disorders . A recent report in horses noted that CBD (0.35 and 2.0 mg/kg) was well-tolerated, but objective testing for adverse responses were not undertaken .
The purpose of this study was to determine if oral administration of a supplement containing CBD would result in changes in mentation (sedation) or alteration of locomotion and neurologic abnormalities (ataxia) in horses.
A secondary objective was to evaluate the effect of the supplement on clinical health and blood parameters including indicators of hepatic and renal function. We hypothesized that stall-confined horses treated with an oral supplement containing CBD once daily for 56 days would not experience increased sedation or ataxia scores when compared to untreated control horses.
Furthermore, we hypothesized that no significant alterations in either clinical or blood parameters would be observed in treated horses.
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