You want what's best for your four-legged family members. Therefore, it's no surprise that the more studies that uncover the dangers of conventional medications, the more dog owners search for natural replacements. It makes sense, why subject your dog to a laundry list of potentially harmful side effects, when you could choose a treatment method with virtually no adverse reactions? What if we told you that a little spice that may very well be in your kitchen cabinet, could make a world of difference for your dog? Well... it's true. Turmeric for dogs is making important headway in the world of holistic health and we're happy to be the ones to share this groundbreaking information for pet parents everywhere!
What is Turmeric for Dogs?
Let's start with the basics.
￼Turmeric is a spice that is yellow-orange in color. It gives curry it’s deep, earthy flavor and is commonly used in Indian and Thai dishes. Whether or not you realized it at the time, you’ve likely had turmeric before. As a matter of fact, you probably have some in your kitchen cabinet right now, as you’re reading this. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family. It’s a root that is native to Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Although turmeric root has been widely used as a medicinal treatment for hundreds of years in humans, it’s benefits for our furry friends have only recently been getting the recognition it deserves.
With over 6,000 studies to its credit, turmeric has been proven to either effectively eliminate the need for, or enhance the effects of many conventional medications. There are many reasons to add turmeric to your dog's diet. From treating arthritis to fighting inflammation. Turmeric is an extremely important little spice that may just make a world of difference for your dog.
What is Curcumin
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. It is found in the roots and bulbs of the Curcuma longa plant. We've learned quite a bit about this primary active ingredient from the 6,000+ published studies on turmeric. Curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer properties.
In fact, because of its incredible healing potential, curcumin earned the nickname, "cure-cumin" in one study at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.
Furthermore, while curcumin is extremely powerful in treating existing ailments, it is also important in preventive medicine to ward off the onset of various diseases and ailments in the first place.
What is Turmeric Good For?
The health benefits of turmeric are very impressive. Turmeric root can help fight diseases like arthritis, cancer, diabetes, liver disease, gastrointestinal conditions, and Alzheimer's Disease (among others). But just how does it compare with conventional medicines? Take a look!
Turmeric as an Anti-Inflammatory for Dogs
Turmeric is an incredibly powerful anti-inflammatory, but what exactly does that mean?
When you think about inflammation, you may consider it to be associated with conditions like joint issues and swelling alone. However, inflammation is at the core of a number of health problems.
In fact, inflammation may cause:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Dental disease
- Digestive diseases
among many others
Not all inflammation is bad. It's simply the body’s natural response to bacteria, trauma, and toxins, etc. If your dog is exposed to harmful bacteria or experiences something like trauma, blood flow to the affected area would be increased, and an army of white blood cells would be automatically sent to the site of injury or infection. It is this substantial increase in white blood cells to a specific area that is characteristic of inflammation. The initial stages of inflammation, or the acute phase, is also characterized by increased heat, redness, swelling, pain, and loss of function.
However, problems arise when inflammation persists for weeks, months, or even years. This is known as chronic inflammation and is the underlying cause of many diseases.
However, there is good news! Studies have shown that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) works just as well as conventional anti-inflammatory drugs and can actually outperform both aspirin and ibuprofen in treating individuals with inflammation.
As inflammation is the key factor in most diseases that your dog may face, turmeric can be a remarkable natural remedy.
Turmeric also has powerful antioxidant properties. By fighting free radicals, antioxidants have the ability to slow aging and degeneration, and can even increase lifespan. While free radicals exist and are naturally formed in the body, they can also develop on exposure to pesticides, processed dog food, chemicals, pollution, radiation, and toxins. Turmeric works to fight off these free radicals and prevent potentially irreversible cell damage.
Turmeric for Arthritis
Because turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent, it can effectively treat dogs with arthritis. Turmeric can reduce inflammation, and relieve the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
A 2014 comparison study showed that turmeric worked just as well as ibuprofen to reduce pain, yet without the gastrointestinal side effects associated with ibuprofen.
If your dog has arthritis, you know first-hand just how heart-wrenching it can be to see how simple activities can become very painful for them. Adding turmeric to your dog’s diet is a safe, effective way to help them get back on their feet.
Turmeric for Pain
Turmeric's anti-inflammatory effects also make it great for pain relief. Inflammation typically involves swelling and can make your beloved dog very uncomfortable. Turmeric helps to significantly reduce or even eliminate this discomfort.
Another great feature of turmeric that you certainly won't find in other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) is that it promotes heart health. That's right! Curcumin is actually terrific for dogs who suffer from congestive heart failure. Turmeric is able to lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind of cholesterol) and reduce the potential for blood clots.
Turmeric for Dogs with Cancer
We know that chronic inflammation can lead to cancer. Curcumin can stop the precancerous changes in your dog's body from becoming cancer, which makes it a great preventive therapy.
Additionally, The American Cancer Society states that curcumin interferes with cancer cells and their ability to grow and spread. Curcumin is also able to reduce tumor size and actually kill cancer cells!
Nearly half of all adult dogs will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. Turmeric is a great way to stop cancer in its tracks.
Treating Gastrointestinal Disorders
The anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric can effectively treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), as well as other gastrointestinal disorders. Turmeric also has positive effects on gut inflammation and gut permeability.
If your dog has joint pain, suffers from allergies, or has a slew of other conditions, your vet may likely recommend a steroid medication. However, like all conventional medications, steroids come with their fair share of adverse reactions. Luckily, studies have found that turmeric is just as effective as conventional steroid medications, but without the potentially harmful adverse effects.
Furthermore, if it is absolutely necessary for your dog to be on a conventional steroid medication, studies have found that taking turmeric along with the steroid can help to reduce the side effects associated with the steroid.
Turmeric for Supporting the Liver
You are probably aware of how vital a fully functioning liver is. The liver plays a paramount role in removing hazardous toxins, regulating the blood, and processing nutrients.
Studies show that turmeric supports liver function by helping to break down fat and remove waste.
How to Use Turmeric
By now, you're likely convinced that turmeric has the potential to do wonders for your dog. So how do you incorporate it into their diet? Unfortunately, sprinkling the spice on top of the food won't really do the trick. Turmeric isn't easily absorbed by the body, but don’t worry! Combining turmeric with a healthy oil, such as coconut oil, will significantly increase its ability to be absorbed.
Check out these great ways to ensure your fur baby is reaping all the health benefits that turmeric has to offer!
You may have heard of golden paste. It's easy to make and will provide all the benefits of turmeric that Fido deserves!
1/2 cup - turmeric powder (*make sure the turmeric powder is organic and is loaded with curcumin!)
1 – 1 1/2 cups - filtered water
1 1/2 teaspoons - freshly ground black pepper (*we recommend using a coffee grinder or magic bullet)
1/4 cup - organic, cold pressed coconut oil
- Mix the turmeric and the filtered water in a pan
- Begin with 1 cup of water and add more if needed
- Stir the liquid combination on low/medium heat until it forms a thick paste (approximately 7–10 minutes)
- If the paste is watery, simply add more turmeric powder
- Next, add the pepper and coconut oil to the paste and stir in very well
- Allow the paste to cool. The mixture can be put in a jar (one with a lid), and should be kept in the refrigerator for no more than 2 weeks
Pet parents can add the golden paste directly into their dog's meals. Here's the recommended guideline for dosages:
- Small dogs - start with about 1/4 teaspoon per day
- Medium dogs - start with 1/2 teaspoon per day
- Large dogs - start with 3/4 teaspoon per day
- Giant dogs - start with 1 teaspoon per day
Again, we always recommend starting off slowly, there's no need to rush the process.
Next up: turmeric gravy by Dr. Doug English!
- Place 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric powder into a cup
- Next, add boiled water to the cup until it is approximately 1/3 full
- Then, add approximately 16 grinds of black pepper and a dessert spoonful of olive oil
- Add the gravy mixture to your dog's food and let it soak in
Finally, turmeric oil!
- First, start off with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder and place it in a cup
- Next, add oil - We recommend coconut oil or olive oil (approximately 2–5 ml)
- Then, add 6–8 grinds of ground black pepper
- Mix the oil concoction together and add on top of your dog's food
Where to Buy Turmeric
When it comes to new advancements in holistic wellness, there is a lot of good news, but also some bad news. The good news is that with the growing conversation around alternative healing (e.g., turmeric and CBD) you can easily find whatever product you are looking for. The bad news is that with increasing popularity, comes products that may not be exactly how they seem. There are a lot of copycats, or companies that claim to sell top-notch products, which will certainly fall short.
When purchasing turmeric, it is always best to buy organic. We recommend purchasing from your local health food store or co-op. Avoid buying from mainstream grocery stores, as their turmeric often contains a fraction (sometimes only 2%–4%) of curcumin by weight. Furthermore, you'll want to stay far away from turmeric that has been treated with any kind of pesticides or chemicals.
Finally, when shopping for turmeric, look for products with 95% curcuminoids. This will help ensure that Fido is getting all the health benefits the turmeric root has to offer.
Speaking of reaping all the benefits of turmeric leads us to the topic of bioavailability. As we mentioned earlier, turmeric doesn't have the best absorption rate when taken on its own. That's why we included the recipes above. Simply sprinkling the powder into your dog's food bowl won't do the trick, there has to be some kind of base (typically an oil).
Additionally, there are other ways to increase Fido's ability to absorb the turmeric supplement.
You may have noticed that all the recipes we included above contain black pepper. There's a good reason for that! Dr. Michael Greger found that a phytochemical in black pepper (called piperine) can increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2,000%. Black pepper also has antibacterial, as well as antioxidant properties.
Add Healthy Fat
You may have also noticed that it's important to add a healthy fat such as coconut oil.
Add Some Heat
The final way to increase absorption is using a bit of heat. By warming up the oil, you are increasing bioavailability and ensuring Fido is able to reap all the awesome benefits of turmeric.
We don't have to tell you that no two dogs are exactly alike. For this reason, it is always important to keep a close eye on Fido when introducing a new supplement. While most dogs do not experience any side effects with turmeric, it's always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to Fido.
According to Dogs Naturally Magazine, “the recommended dose of turmeric for dogs is 15 mg – 20 mg per pound of body weight per day, or more simply put, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp per day for every 10 lbs in weight.”
Experts also state that turmeric tends to leave the body fairly quickly. Therefore, it is recommended to add small amounts to your dog's diet with every meal throughout the day.
Turmeric Side Effects
Because turmeric is all natural, it is generally regarded as very safe. However, there are a few potential side effects that we want you to be aware of.
First, turmeric is a blood thinner, making it a powerful agent to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. However, if your dog is already on another medication that is also a blood thinner, this could present some problems.
Additionally, turmeric is a binding agent, making it a great remedy for dogs with diarrhea. However, if your dog is dehydrated, it could pose other issues and lead to constipation.
In humans, a few issues have been reported, when too much turmeric is added to the diet. These adverse reactions include:
- Gallbladder contractions
- Increased risk of bruising
- Decreased blood sugar
- Interference with iron absorption
Again, these reactions have been found in humans and have only occurred when too much turmeric was added to the diet. In the vast majority of cases, no adverse reactions have been reported in dogs.
As with many other matters in life, it is possible to give your dog too much of a good thing. Because turmeric for dogs has so many wonderful qualities, you may think it's best to load up Fido with all the goodness it has to offer. Please don't do this! Turmeric is great when used appropriately. Too much turmeric can lead to your dog’s inability to absorb the herb. Always consult with your holistic vet regarding the appropriate dosage for your dog's individual needs. We recommend starting off slowly. There's no need to rush the process.
What's That Smell?!
As strange as it sounds, some pet owners report that their dog smells like cat urine after taking turmeric. While this certainly isn't a hazardous side effect, we understand that it can be unpleasant. We recommend adding cinnamon to the turmeric supplement to counteract the smell. Cinnamon is another great anti-inflammatory agent.
Warning for the Warming Spice
Finally, turmeric is a warming spice. Therefore, if you live in a very hot climate and your dog is always seeking cooler ground to lay on, turmeric may not be the best supplement.
Turmeric and CBD
By now you've probably heard of the incredible herb, cannabidiol (CBD). CBD is making substantial and vital strides in the world of holistic wellness. From promoting relaxation to supporting healthy bone and joint function, CBD is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Another great fact about CBD is that it works wonderfully when paired with other supplements, such as turmeric. CBD and turmeric work hand in hand to support healthy bones, joint stiffness from daily activity, among many other things.
With our Relief CBD Dog Treats, pet owners have the ability to get both CBD and turmeric in one delicious treat that Fido is sure to love!
Turmeric for Dogs: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, your dog's health is incredibly important. Since Fido isn't able to tell you exactly what is wrong at any given time, you must be keenly aware of the warning signs and act appropriately when necessary. However, a simple trip to the vet is not where your responsibilities end. Being able to recognize that conventional medications come with a slew of potential consequences is also incredibly important. Always do your homework and know the side effects of any new drug before administering it to Fido.
Whenever possible (the majority of the time), we recommend finding an all-natural, non-toxic alternative to conventional medications. Supplements such as turmeric and CBD are two powerful and effective options - but there are so many available. Speak with a holistic vet and find a natural treatment plan that will work best for your dog. Trust us, your dog will thank you for it!
Petal Smart is a veterinarian who, after a brief stint in clinical practice, has been a medical, veterinary, and science editor for the past four years. She has edited hundreds of research studies that have been published in various academic journals, and more recently, she has been editing blog articles on pet health. She holds a DVM (Hons) from the University of the West Indies - St. Augustine. Her pets in the past have included dogs, fish, birds, and a turtle. At times, she also likes to think of herself as a horse whisperer. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.*This article has been edited and updated for publication by Petal Smart, DVM.