The health benefits of turmeric (curcumin) are impressive for humans, and the herb has been noted to have impressive results for dogs as well.
Today I’ll be discussing the benefits of turmeric to help you decide if it might help your dog.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant that has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, dating back nearly 4000 years to the Vedic culture in India.
Curcumin is the biologically active component of turmeric. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial, anticancer, and wound healing properties that help it fight diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, skin conditions, gastrointestinal issues, and more.
That’s an impressive list!
The medical community has shown significant interest in the healing potential of turmeric; more than 3000 publications studying this spice have been produced in the last 25 years, as well as over one hundred clinical trials.
For your dog, turmeric (curcumin) poses the possibility of reducing or eliminating the need for drugs such as:
- Gastrointestinal disorder medications
- Allergy medications
Health Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs
Important Disclaimer: I am not a vet. Not even close. I’m just sharing my own personal experience and information I have read. If you think you want to try something you read about here, talk to your vet! But first read this and many more articles to empower yourself for a good discussion in which you can ask your vet great questions about what you want to try.
Knowledge is power – never forget that!
Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Turmeric
This is a big one. Science is seeing more and more proof that inflammation is at the root of many chronic diseases. By reducing inflammation you are preventing and healing multiple health issues in your dog.
The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin, the active component of turmeric, has been tested in many studies.
One study even showed that turmeric was just as effective as ibuprofen in human osteoarthritis patients and caused fewer gastrointestinal issues.
Yet other studies stated that turmeric was not effective as an anti-inflammatory. This drives me nuts – it’s hard to know what to believe when you read conflicting information.
One thing I learned as I went along was that curcumin is not very bioavailable – i.e. it is not absorbed well by the body. It is also quickly metabolized and eliminated from the body.
So, when I saw a study that showed it to be ineffective I wondered if it was truly ineffective, or was the curcumin not administered in a way that improved its bioavailability so the body could use it? Just some food for thought.
I continued looking at studies focusing on curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties and tried to focus on randomized, double-blind studies (translation: more scientifically respected).
In one study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were treated with either curcumin or a placebo. Results showed that patients receiving curcumin showed statistically significant improvement in their arthritis symptoms in comparison to the control group (the one who got a placebo instead of curcumin).
Another study looked at marathon runners before and after a race. The study authors looked at two factors: interleukin-10 and myoglobin. Interleuken-10 is a cytokine with potent anti-inflammatory properties. Myoglobin is a protein released into the blood when muscle damage is occurring.
The runners who took curcumin before and after running the marathon had higher levels of interleukin-1- and lower levels of myoglobin – indicating that curcumin keeps inflammation down and reduces muscle damage.
I saw a range of results in dog specific studies.
In one study, the dogs given curcumin had statistically higher improvement in arthritis pain as measured by the pain scale used by study authors, but did not show a statistically higher improvement based on owner evaluations.
In another study, the owner evaluations indicated statistically significant improvement, but the pain assessment of the study authors didn’t show this improvement.
I know – frustrating, right? Who do you believe?
Here is my take: based on the successful results in many human studies, and a fair amount of success in dog studies that tracked improvement but didn’t have a control group, I think it’s worth trying if your dog has inflammatory issues.
Just make sure you give the right dose and that you pair the curcumin with the correct food so your dog’s body is able to absorb it. Give your holistic vet a call to help you decide the dose, the brand, and how to effectively administer it.
If your dog has arthritis, read our dog arthritis article to learn more about managing arthritis using natural dog anti-inflammatory options.
Cancer-Fighting Potential of Turmeric
Turmeric, and more specifically curcumin, has been the subject of numerous studies of its effects on cancer, both alone and as an adjunct to chemotherapy.
Studies have documented notable improvements in cancer patients (measured by biological markers and patient reports) taking curcumin. This review of the Therapeutic Roles of Curcumin documented curcumin benefits in a range of cancers: breast, pancreatic, prostate, lung, head & neck, cancerous lesions, as well as a list of other chronic health conditions.
One article even describes how curcumin selectively kills tumor cells and not normal cells.
Turmeric and Your Dog’s Intestinal Microbiome
The anti-inflammatory agents in turmeric help reduce gastrointestinal problems such as inflamed bowels, intestinal permeability, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Studies conducted on humans have shown that curcumin improves conditions of patients with Ulcerative Colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). In one study, curcumin increased the detected species of good bacteria in the intestines by 69%.
How does it help? Many gut disorders are characterized by inflammation in the intestines along with a lack of good bacteria. By reducing inflammation and helping the intestines repopulate with helpful bacteria, curcumin reduces and eliminates gut leakage and supports healing in the gastrointestinal tract.
Turmeric/Curcumin and Allergies
Turmeric’s antihistamine properties help it function as a decongestant, and its anti-inflammatory properties reduce itching – both helpful to dogs with allergies.
One curcumin study showed that it reduces mast cell activity (mast cells release compounds responsible for allergic reactions in the body). In another study, curcumin reduced allergy symptoms (sneezing, nasal congestion, tearing, and scratching) in hamsters.
Reducing inflammation can go a long way in healing allergies, and if you can do it naturally it is so much better for your dog!
Curcumin to Reduce or Eliminate Steroids
Numerous studies have been conducted to compare the effects of curcumin to that of steroids for various medical issues. Not surprisingly, results varied based on the illness being treated.
One study found that curcumin was equally as effective as prednisolone. In another, curcumin was more effective for the first 6 hours, but in the long-term prednisone was more effective. In yet a third scenario, researchers discovered that by adding curcumin to a treatment regimen they were able to decrease the amount prednisone.
What does this mean for your dog? If your vet recommends steroids for your dog, talk to them (if they are holistic) or get online and research if turmeric/curcumin is an option, either as a replacement or added to therapy in order to reduce the amount of steroid needed.
Steroids can have nasty side effects, so even reducing the dose can be a big plus for your dog.
In a study on gingivitis and plaque using human subjects, turmeric gel was equally as effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis as a gel containing an antimicrobial drug.
Researchers also noticed the subjects were more likely to continue using the turmeric due to its pleasing smell.
How do you do this for dogs? Easy. Combine the following:
¼ cup coconut oil (important – helps the body absorb turmeric)
½ teaspoon organic turmeric powder
½ teaspoon kelp (antibacterial)
(a pinch!) of dried parsley flakes (natural breath freshener)
Mash them together in a small bowl. If your coconut oil is too hard, set the bowl in a sink filled with an inch or two of hot water. Once it softens mash the ingredients together, dip a toothbrush or finger in it, and gently brush your dog’s teeth and gums.
Turmeric for a Healthy Heart
Although it’s not as common to hear about, dogs can suffer from heart disease just like humans. Valvular disease is more common in smaller dogs; myocardial disease is more common in larger breeds. Dogs can be born with congenital heart disease as well.
Studies on this subject abound. Some found that curcumin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties for heart patients, others found that it reduces blood cholesterol levels. Some studies show a clear benefit from curcumin and some don’t; this review of curcumin studies discusses various studies and their results.
Choosing the Best Turmeric for Dogs
When I shop for natural supplements, I buy organic if possible. I also try to do a little research on the manufacturer; there are so many fly-by-night ones out there with little to no information on their website (if they have one).
You want an established manufacturer with a solid reputation. Look at the product details: Is it sustainably grown? Tested by an independent laboratory?
I store my supplements in a cool, dry location; heat and moisture can adversely affect certain products.
Turmeric or Curcumin?
Some say that the compounds of the turmeric root work together synergistically – i.e, that curcumin will be more effectively used by your dog’s body if given as part of the whole root.
The drawback is that you have to give your dog more of the turmeric to get the needed dose of curcumin.
What would I do? Probably try a product that uses the whole root first. Many natural health practitioners believe that the whole plant is usually better than one isolated compound.
Turmeric may be similar to adaptogens for dogs; in adaptogens research has shown that they work better together (synergistically) vs. standalone.
Look for Piperine and/or Healthy Fats in the Product
One study of humans taking curcumin found that piperine increased the bioavailability of curcumin by 2000%. Wow.
When purchasing turmeric or curcumin, you want to use a product that contains something to help your dog absorb it. Look for a black pepper ingredient (most labels will list piperine, BioPerine, or black pepper fruit extract), or a fatty oil such as coconut oil. Some products contain both.
Turmeric/Curcumin Products for Dogs
**Note: this post contains affiliate links. No one paid me to recommend these products, I recommend them because I like them. By using the link to buy the products you are helping support happyynaturaldog.com**
Here are the two products I found that I would try for my dogs. I actually ordered the maximum strength to try myself for a stubborn case of elbow tendonitis I have struggled with for a year and will update this article once I try it.
Both of these contain a compound from black pepper which increases the bioavailability of the curcumin, and the Zesty Paws contains coconut oil as well.
Zesty Paws Turmeric Curcumin Chews
Zesty Paws is an established company (vs. a lot of the companies marketing turmeric supplements for dogs) that uses quality ingredients. Most other turmeric supplements for dogs had a list of ingredients I couldn’t pronounce (and had no idea what they were).
When I inquired about the palm oil in their supplements, they sent me a document showing it was sustainably sourced. That’s a plus.
Garden of Life Turmeric
For those of you with dogs like mine who are sensitive to flavoring, you may need to look at a human turmeric capsule. Garden of Life has a solid reputation and uses high quality organic ingredients.
This turmeric has a similar level of turmeric and curcumin to the Zesty Paws. I would run the ingredients by your vet to be sure, it contains ginger which is safe for dogs in moderate doses.
For dosing, I would recommend checking with your holistic vet to be sure you do it right. I tend to look at my dog’s weight and adjust the adult dosage to match, but I feel better if my vet has OK’d it before I use it.
How Much Turmeric for Dogs?
The Zesty Paws product has a dosage chart based on size:
Up to 25 lbs 400mg turmeric/200mg curcumin
26 – 75 lbs 800mg turmeric/400mg curcumin
Over 75 lbs 1200mg turmeric/600mb curcumin
Some articles said giving smaller amounts more times a day is more effective.
Multiple sites recommended starting with a low dose and working up to the desired dose gradually to avoid stomach upset.
Turmeric Side Effects
The following side effects have been observed (anecdotally):
- Constipation or diarrhea
Add water or yogurt to dog’s food to decrease likelihood of constipation. A tablespoon of canned pumpkin can help both of these issues as well.
Start in small doses and watch dog carefully for any signs of nausea as you increase the dose.
- Medication interaction
If your dog is on any medications it’s important to check with your vet before giving turmeric -it may interact with the medication and change its efficacy.
- Turmeric has “warming” properties
In traditional Chinese medicine, turmeric is a warming food that helps restore balance to dogs that tend to be “cool” in nature. If your dog tends to have too much “heat,” turmeric may not be the right choice for them.
- Possible liver effects
If your dog has liver issues, check with your vet before giving turmeric! Some articles talked about turmeric’s beneficial affects on the liver, while others said it can cause problems for subjects with liver disease. When I see conflicting information like this, I definitely consult with my vet before using it.
- Possible blood thinning effects
Turmeric can have blood thinning properties, so stop using it before any surgery.
- Do not give your dog turmeric if she’s pregnant without veterinary supervision.
- Turmeric can change the color of your dog’s poop
Are the Health Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs Worth it?
As with many natural substances, there are conflicting opinions about what it can or can’t do for your dog.
Science aside, I want to point out a very unscientific thing that I noticed. When looking at organic turmeric supplements online, they all had very high reviews. When I read reviews, story after story told of dogs and humans experiencing a decrease in pain or symptoms after taking a turmeric supplement.
Relief was not immediate; many dog owners noticed a difference over the course of many weeks.
Personally, if my dog was limping due to arthritis, I would prefer to try turmeric before putting my dog on prescription medications for the rest of their life.
Each person has to make their own decision and preferably get the input of a good vet with holistic treatment experience.
Make sure you give it time to work; using natural remedies requires more patience than using conventional medication. You are less likely to see an instant effect, but also less likely to encounter some of the negative effects that come with many conventional prescription medications.
Have you used turmeric or curcumin for your dog? Tell us how it helped your dog in the comments below so others can benefit from your experience.
Until next time-
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