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What You Need to Know About Turmeric for Dogs

 

To many people, myself included, dogs are truly the best of friends! And sure, they may look different with their four legs, floppy ears, and tail, but their bodies behave in very similar ways to humans. We both need to eat, drink, exercise, and spend time with those who love us. As people, we can eat fruits and vegetables, take daily vitamins, and adopt other practices to keep our brains and bodies healthy. Luckily, we can also do things as pet owners to ensure that our best friends stay nourished and free of pain. Even better, keeping them happy and comfortable can be as easy as adding some turmeric to their diet.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice grown in Asian countries that have been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries [1]. Its main active phytochemical is curcumin, and it has a yellow color that you've probably seen in curry dishes. Despite its delicious flavor, turmeric has many medicinal purposes that continue to be popular natural remedies today. Turmeric is a non-invasive therapeutic agent. Scientists have studied turmeric curcumin for wound healing, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, psoriasis, arthritis, and many other inflammatory disorders [2].

Can turmeric also benefit dogs?

To answer this question, let's first look at how turmeric affects the immune system. One of turmeric's active phytochemicals, curcumin, has as many as 33 proteins that help cells communicate with each other, tell damaged cells when to die, and stop cells from growing too quickly [3]. NK-κB is one of the transcription factors that curcumin acts on and is a big part of our immune system. NK-κB regulates inflammation and apoptosis, which are essential factors in preventing viruses and cancer and keeping the immune system balanced [3]. Although some inflammation is a healthy response to an injury, prolonged inflammation can lead to chronic pain. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, is also a normal part of the immune system, but problems arise when it's not happening enough or when it's happening too much. A lack of apoptosis characterizes health complications like cancer. Scientists have found that NK-κB is overexpressed in human cancer cells in culture, mouse mammary tumors, and biopsies from cancer patients confirming its relationship to cancer growth in humans and animals. Additional studies have concluded that turmeric inhibits NK-κB, which activates apoptosis while stopping inflammation, suggesting that it has anti-cancer properties [3].

Can turmeric prevent cancer in dogs?

Research has found that turmeric is a natural functional food that can fight off aging-related health issues in dogs and help minimize urinary tract infections. Turmeric curcumin may decrease cysts' size and be used as an antibacterial cream for wound care when applied topically [4]! One study published in 2004 showed that turmeric was among the most potent anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative agents. In this experiment, cells were treated with common nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as turmeric's active component curcumin and steroid-based drugs. The cells were then tested to see how well they stopped the activity of NK-κB, which we know is correlated with inflammation and cancer. The results showed that aspirin and ibuprofen were the least powerful in preventing NK-κB and therefore, inflammation and cancer.

In contrast, curcumin and tamoxifen, a steroid-based drug currently used to treat cancer, was most powerful [5]. Another study determined that people who have 100-200 mg per day of curcumin over long periods have lower rates of certain breast cancers, bowel cancers, stomach cancers, and skin cancers. Treatment with turmeric worked better than chemotherapy alone [6]. Two benefits to giving dogs turmeric instead of toxic chemotherapy drugs are that curcumin targets tumor cells by targeting the NF-kB expressed in them while leaving normal cells unaffected. Turmeric is also less expensive than chemotherapy drugs. This hybrid healthcare approach leads to less harmful side effects since chemotherapy drugs target and destroys all cells, not just cancer cells [3].

How does turmeric help with arthritis?

Outside of the lab, turmeric has also been shown to help with osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in humans and animals [1]. Osteoarthritis is a chronic condition caused by joint inflammation, and there is no current treatment other than reducing this inflammation and associated joint pain. Long-term use of NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen is not recommended because of how harmful they can be on body systems so alternative, less invasive options like turmeric are becoming more and more popular. When 1,000 mg of turmeric was taken per day for eight to twelve weeks, people reported reduced arthritis symptoms like pain and inflammation similar to taking ibuprofen for the same amount of time but without the adverse effects on cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems [1]. Another evaluation of turmeric and osteoarthritis concluded that people had less stiffness and abdominal discomfort after four weeks than those taking ibuprofen [7]. Similarly, arthritis-induced rats were studied for 21 days and were seen to have less joint swelling, fewer white blood cells (which are a sign of inflammation), and more anti-arthritic activity when turmeric was introduced to their treatment [8].

A double-blind, placebo-controlled turmeric dog study published in 2017 also suggests that turmeric is good for dogs' joints and will result in less pain and inflammation in dogs with arthritis. This study looked at 42 dogs with osteoarthritis, which is found in 20% of canines over one year old [9], and gave them either a mixture of curcumin, collagen, and green tea (CCOT) over three months or placed them in a control group. Although there weren't statistical differences between the groups after three months, there was a "significant reduction of pain at manipulation in the CCOT group, but not in the control group" [9]. This analysis also stated that "pain severity score worsened in the control group but remained stable in CCOT group" [9] and that dogs given the curcumin mixture had less pain when standing up or lying down. These conclusions suggest that turmeric can help lessen pain and inflammation associated with arthritis in both people and dogs if given in the correct dosages.

How much turmeric can you give dogs?

If you have a senior dog, or a dog with arthritis, cancer, allergies, or cysts, you might be wondering how much turmeric would be beneficial to introduce to their diet. Turmeric is safe in small amounts. Dr. RuthAnn Lobos, a certified canine rehabilitation therapist, confirms that turmeric is a healthy medicinal alternative for dogs even though it hasn't been studied extensively [10]. You might even see it listed as an ingredient already in your dog's kibble! The recommended dosage for small and medium dogs is 250 mg of turmeric two or three times per day, while large dogs can take up to 500 mg two or three times per day. More specifically, dogs should take 15 to 20 mg of turmeric per pound of body weight per day [4], which is estimated to be between 1/16 and 1/8 teaspoon per day for every ten pounds of body weight [10]. While the benefits of turmeric in dogs can be numerous, possible side effects of too much turmeric include stomach and gallbladder disturbances, nausea, dizziness, iron deficiencies, and bruising [4]. It's also important to speak to a vet about adding turmeric to your dog's diet if your dog has liver issues or other health problems or if they're currently taking any other medication.

How do I give my dog turmeric?

Even if the dosing above seems straightforward, turmeric is not as simple as going into your kitchen and sprinkling turmeric on your dog's food every day. It's a good idea to mix it with healthy fats or black pepper to maximize the curcumin absorption or create a turmeric paste to easily feed your dog doses or use as an antimicrobial agent on the skin. One quick recipe suggests you mix ½ cup of turmeric powder, 1 cup of water, 1.5 tsp of freshly ground pepper, and 70 mL of coconut or olive oil over low heat, and store it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks of advantages [10]. Or, you can try Superfood Science’s new convenient and mouth-watering organic turmeric chicken dog treats! These semi-moist organic chicken dog treats with organic turmeric are perfect for training and add an essential healthy ingredient to your best furry friend's diet.

 

Resources

  1. Daily J, Yang M, Park S. Efficacy of Turmeric Extracts and Curcumin for Alleviating the Symptoms of Joint Arthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials. Journal of Medicinal Food. 1, August 2016.
  1. Goel A, Kunnumakkara A, Aggarwal B. Curcumin as "Curecumin": from kitchen to clinic. PubMed.gov. 15, February 2008.
  1. Ravindran J, Prasad S, Aggarwal B. Curcumin and cancer cells: How many ways can curry kill tumor cells selectively? American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Journal. 11, September 2009 
  1. Price, Annie. "Turmeric for Dogs: Top 5 Benefits, Including for Cancer and Arthritis." Dr. Axe, 1 October 2019.
  1. Takada Y, Bhardwaj A, Potdar P, Aggarwal B. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-kappaB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. National Center For Biotechnology Information. 9, December 2004.
  1. Turmeric. Cancer Research UK. 24, October 2018.
  1. Kuptniratsaikul V, Dajpratham P, Taechaarpornkul W, Buntragulpoontawee M, Lukkanapichonchut P, Chootip C, Saengsuwan J, Tantayakom K, Laongpech S. Efficacy and safety of curcuma domestica extracts compared with ibuprofen in patients with knee osteoarthritis: a multicenter study. National Center For Biotechnology Information. 20, March 2014.
  1. Kuncha M, Naidu V, Sahu B, Gadepalli S, Sistla R. Curcumin potentiates the anti‐arthritic effect of prednisolone in Freund's complete adjuvant‐induced arthritic rats. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 21, October 2013.
  1. Comblain, Fanny et al. "A randomized, double-blind, prospective, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy of a diet supplemented with curcuminoids extract, hydrolyzed collagen and green tea extract in owner's dogs with osteoarthritis." BMC veterinary research vol. 13,1 395. 20 December 2017.
  1. Bowman, Molly. "Turmeric Dosage for Dogs: Guide of Using Turmeric for Dogs 2020." SitStay, 14 May 2019.