Exploring the Potential Benefits of Cannabidiol for Treating Behavioral Disorders in Horses

This case report describes the successful use of cannabidiol as a novel treatment for oral stereotypic behavior, otherwise known as crib-biting, in a horse. A 10-year-old gelding was presented with a history of chronic crib-biting/wind sucking behavior for over 2 years. A number of long-term consequences of this behavior disorder were observed, such as weight loss and poor body condition. Traditional therapies such as cervical collars, environmental enhancement, dietary modification, chemical anxiolytics (e.g., acepromazine) and surgery may not be successful in a significant percentage of cases, therefore new therapies are needed. After traditional methods of treatment failed to reduce or control the behavior, a cannabinoid derivative - Cannabidiol (CBD) - was utilized to treat the patient. Following 6 weeks of CBD administration, the horse’s behavior was significantly reduced, with no adverse effects reported. This case report highlights the potential use of cannabinoids in treating similar behavioral disorders in horses.

The horse in question was initially presented with a history of chronic crib-biting/wind sucking behavior. Initially, feed management and environmental enrichment were used as a method of reducing the horse's craving for oral stimulation that resulted from boredom or anxiety. Unfortunately, traditional methods failed to yield any positive results and it became apparent that more intensive treatment was required. The owners agreed to try alternative medications and CBD was recommended by the attending veterinarian.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active component of Cannabis sativa which has been gaining popularity due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and analgesic properties. It is well tolerated in human and animals. After 4 weeks of CBD administration, there was a significant reduction in crib-biting/windsucking behavior from 4 times per day to once every 2 days. The improvement continued after the study ended. No adverse effects were reported during or after the treatment period.

Cannabinoid and cannabinoid-related receptors have been found in the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as peripheral tissues, suggesting an important role for their support of natural healthy tissues.

Moreover, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties which could reduce pain that may be associated with these types of behavior disorders. This reduction of pain could lead to an overall soothing effect, leading to decreased stereotypic behavior. Additionally, CBD acts on glutamate receptors which can influence the amount of circulating neurotransmitters in the brain; this could impact the reinforcement loop required for the maintenance of such behaviors.

This case report suggests the potential benefit of using cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) to treat similar behavioral disorders in horses including wind sucking and crib-biting. As there are few studies exploring the use of cannabinoids in horses, further research should be conducted to better understand its benefits in treating these types of behaviors. Additionally, further research should also be done regarding safety concerns and potential side effects.

Case report: The use of cannabidiol as a novel treatment for oral stereotypic behavior (crib-biting) in a horse. Cunha RZ, Felisardo LL, Salamanca G, et al. Veterinary and Animal Science
Volume 19, March 2023, 100289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vas.2023.100289

This article was published as a case study about a horse with the behavioral disorder of cribbing. Using Cannabidiol (CBD) to treat behavioral disorders in horses is a new field and not much data is published.

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