Cannabinoids May Help Horses with Colic and Other Gut Problems -- Study Shows

By Maryanna Phinn

Researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy recently published a promising study analyzing the distribution of cannabinoids and various cannabinoid receptors at the cellular level in the ileum, which is a section of the horse’s small intestine. The study demonstrated that there is a wide distribution of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors in that area of the horse’s intestines which could have beneficial implications for horses with colic or abdominal pain and other digestive disorders. The study, published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, was conducted on tissue specimens of six healthy horses at a slaughterhouse.

Cannabinoid receptors in the horse

The study demonstrated the greater need for more research of the activation of cannabinoid receptors in the horse’s gut. 

Colic in Horses – Signs and Symptoms

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), colic is a common but serious digestive order in horses that requires immediate examination by a veterinarian to determine its severity. ACVS notes that horse owners should watch for these signs and symptoms:

  • Depression  
  • Not interested in eating
  • Pawing
  • Looking at the flank  
  • Lying down more than usual or at unusual times
  • Lying down, getting up, circling, laying down again repeatedly
  • Curling or lifting the upper lip
  • Kicking up at the abdomen with hind legs
  • Rolling up onto back 
  • Stretching out or dog-sitting 
  • Groaning or sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea or less than normal to no manure production
  • Foals may roll up on their backs or grind their teeth and salivate excessively

 Most horses respond positively to traditional medical treatment such as pain medication administered intravenously, laxatives administered directly into the stomach or oral hydration or IV fluids. However, some horses may need surgery.  Cannabinoids, such as CBD, may help support proper digestion, bowel health and reduce gastric distress caused by intestinal inflammation and pain, such as colic. Read more about CBD and a horse’s gut health here.

To read the entire study, click here. To learn more about CBD from products that may benefit the health and wellness of your horse or other pets, visit Doc’s Hemp.


Galiazzo G, Tagliavia C, Giancola F, Rinnovati R, Sadeghinezhad J, Bombardi C, Grandis A, Pietra M, Chiocchetti R. Localisation of Cannabinoid and Cannabinoid-Related Receptors in the Horse Ileum. J Equine Vet Sci. 2021 Sep;104:103688. doi: 10.1016/j.jevs.2021.103688. Epub 2021 Jun 16. PMID: 34416995.

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