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Turmeric has been used as a powerful preventive and healing agent in traditional Asian medicine for centuries.
More recently it seems everyone is talking about it - from the American Arthritis Foundation to the National Cancer Institute to naturopathic physicians and integrative/holistic vets.
Why? What can turmeric do for your dog?
The simple answer is turmeric is a multi-tasking powerhouse in its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, wound healing, and anti-cancer activities. Turmeric has been shown to help fight diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cancer, liver disease, gastrointestinal issues, and more.
Inflammation and weakened immune systems are at the root of so many issues from allergies to arthritis to cancer. We're often too quick to treat only the surface symptoms without addressing the deeper, ongoing causes.
Personal story on turmeric for dogs
I learned this the hard way for myself and for my dog, Ezra. Not too long ago I suffered from Lyme disease, and Ezra had inflammation issues just as I did. It took six doctors until I was finally diagnosed and treated. At times I was given high doses of steroids that just prolonged the negative cycle. Finally, I found my naturopathic physician who changed my life - and in turn, Ezra's.
Initially, Ezra's vets said she would be on Apoquel, an immunosuppressant like steroids, for the rest of her life, and she had medicated shampoos and creams and sprays and all the things to try to keep her inflammation at bay. But once I changed her diet and used functional herbs, I was able to relieve her of all the medications and toxins within a couple months and we never looked back.
Herbs are powerful and healing for your dog's health
Herbs work with the natural rhythms within our and our dog's bodies to maintain a holistic and harmonic balance. It doesn’t matter whether you are feeding kibble, raw, or a cooked diet, your dog can benefit enormously from a variety of herbs.
One of the herbs that helped both Ezra and me combat our inflammation was turmeric, which is a strong anti-inflammatory and can in many cases replace steroids. The primary bioactive ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, which has numerous health benefits.
Turmeric is a great herb to use to maintain joint health, among many other things, since it is an anti-inflammatory and it increases mobility and reduces pain.
What is turmeric?
Turmeric is an herb that has been used as a culinary spice as well as a medicinal herb for almost 4,000 years. Turmeric powder comes from the ground root of the herb (which happens to be part of the ginger family). It's also readily available in powdered form at most grocery stores or health food stores.
The primary bioactive ingredient in turmeric responsible for all its strong immune-boosting, disease-preventing properties is curcumin, the principal curcuminoid in turmeric.
How turmeric works in our dogs' bodies
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of turmeric are probably its greatest claims to fame and what makes it so impactful on so many aspects of your dog's health.
Turmeric for dogs as an antioxidant...
Free radicals react with organic substances in the body causing oxidative damage, one of the mechanisms responsible for aging and many diseases. The curcumin in turmeric makes it a powerful antioxidant that protects from free radicals by neutralizing them. Turmeric also stimulates antioxidant mechanisms in the body to gradually increase antioxidants present throughout the body.
Turmeric for dogs as an anti-inflammatory...
Turmeric also functions as an inflammation blocker, reducing inflammation by acting as a block on two enzymes that cause inflammatory reactions. Like oxidative stress, chronic inflammation is behind so many diseases and unhealthy conditions from arthritis to cancer to cognitive decline.
Health benefits of turmeric for dogs (and us!)
For your dog, turmeric is an effective and safe way to treat and prevent inflammation and boost your pup's immune system (rather than just suppress symptoms with medications like steroids with potentially concerning side effects).
Inflammation is the key driver of most diseases in the body, and turmeric is one of the best natural anti-inflammatories either nature or medicine has to offer. Turmeric contributes in multiple roles to your dog's overall wellness - and is a valuable support for some of the most problematic health issues you face with your dog.
How turmeric supports a few key health issues for dogs...
Turmeric for dogs for joint health, arthritis & mobility
Turmeric can be used therapeutically and as a preventive measure to maintain joint health by increasing mobility and reducing pain. Many dogs are on steroids for joint pain as well as allergies – but some studies show curcumin is just as effective, while noting the lack of side effects is an advantage of curcumin over steroids. (Another study showed that combining curcumin with a steroid reduced the side effects of the steroid medication.)
Overall, turmeric for dogs can be an effective, safe and natural way to combat inflammation, pain, and mobility issues in your pup. Making turmeric a part of your dog's daily routine is an easy way to support joint health throughout each life stage.
Turmeric for dogs with gastrointestinal disorders including IBD
Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects can also be helpful in treating Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) as well as other gastrointestinal disorders.
Its antibacterial properties can help our dogs maintain gut health by addressing bad bacteria while allowing good bacteria to flourish. Taking turmeric may also support probiotics, increasing the function of the probiotic bacteria in the gut by acting as a prebiotic. (Prebiotics are complementary to probiotics, fueling the good probiotic bacteria.)
Turmeric for dogs with cancer
Inflammation is linked to cancer as it is with so many diseases. Heartbreakingly, current statistics tell us that almost half of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer.
Turmeric is being explored as a cancer treatment/preventive in part by renowned medical institutions for humans (such as the Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering) because of the role inflammation appears to play in cancer. Laboratory research suggests that curcumin may prevent cancer, slow the spread of cancer, make chemotherapy more effective, and protect healthy cells from damage by radiation therapy.
Research is ongoing but early findings suggest that curcuminoids interfere with multiple cell signaling pathways, supporting the potential role of curcumin in modulating cancer development and progression.
A few key takeaways to keep in mind on turmeric and cancer:
- Turmeric is an herb that may have cancer-fighting properties.
- Turmeric has been shown to help with side effects of cancer treatment.
- You should always check with your veterinarian before using turmeric if your dog is being treated for cancer since it can impede some kinds of chemotherapy.
How to make turmeric part of your dog's diet easily
To take advantage of turmeric for dogs, we want to introduce turmeric into your dog's diet in small amounts. This can be done by adding turmeric to food, making turmeric treats, or giving turmeric supplements.
If you are introducing turmeric into your dog's diet for the first time, start with small doses and slowly increase how much turmeric you feed your pup over time if necessary.
Note: It is always best to consult a veterinarian before starting any new treatment regimen. Check with your vet for any possible interaction with any current medications or special conditions. Also, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, turmeric is a warming herb so you'll want to keep that in mind if you have a dog who tends to "run hot."
Pro tip: boost turmeric/curcumin absorption 2000% with pepper
One shortcoming of turmeric/curcumin is that it’s not well absorbed in the body - for both dogs and humans. Enter black pepper to save the day with many positive properties of its own, the most significant that the peperine in black pepper increases the absorption of curcumin up to 2000%! That's why when you're adding turmeric powder or "Golden Paste" to your dog's food, you always want to include ground black pepper in the mix.
In order to increase absorption and digestion of curcumin even more so the body can get maximum benefit, you also want to include a healthy oil/fat. Turmeric is fat soluble, meaning it dissolves in fats, making it more easily digestible and usable when it's delivered with a good fat (coconut oil, olive oil, etc).
"Golden Paste" recipe
This turmeric paste recipe is called "Golden Paste" and is well known and loved in the canine nutrition world as a simple way to include highly absorbable turmeric benefits in your dog's food. It's a simple 3-ingredient recipe, and I also like to include some Ceylon cinnamon for its numerous health properties as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, natural immune system booster, regulator of blood sugar levels, and its role in helping the body repair tissue damage and fight infection.
Note: if you'd rather skip the prep...
Here's an organic liquid turmeric I recommend that's formulated to be easily absorbed and bioavailable for dogs. (You'll find dosage by your dog's weight on the bottle.)
How to make Golden Paste...
- Mix ½ cup organic turmeric powder and 1 cup water into a pan on medium heat for 5-7 minutes continuously stirring
- Add 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil
- Add 1.5 tsp ground black pepper
- Add ¼ tsp Ceylon cinnamon (optional)
- Add 1 spoonful of natural peanut butter to the mix to mask the taste (optional if your dog needs it)
You can store this concoction in a mason jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Freeze the rest in silicon molds with fun, small shapes and store in a freezer-safe container for long-term use as a food topper or for frozen homemade turmeric dog treats!
¼ tsp for every 10 pounds of your dog’s body weight. Start slowly and work up to this amount as needed.
Discover the incredible benefits of turmeric for dogs and learn how to incorporate this versatile herb into your dog's diet in this video.
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Next up in the Herbs Channel on Dogly
Now that you know how why and how to give your dog turmeric, learn about the best herb to help with bug bites and stings in the next step-by-step guide.
Or hop over to the Herbs Channel if you'd like to ask a question in the Community discussion and start any of the other step-by-step guides in Healing Herbs.
If you ever need more personalized nutrition guidance, please reach out!