Turmeric for Dogs

Turmeric for Dogs

Turmeric has long been used as a culinary ingredient, but more recently it has grown in popularity as a dietary supplement. Whilst numerous health benefits have been historically attributed to the consumption of turmeric, only recently have rigorous scientific investigations begun to verify these claims. So far, the results of these studies have proved very positive indeed, which has resulted in growing popularity.

Understandably a number of dog owners who have experienced benefits have also begun to give turmeric to their pets.

What is Turmeric?

Turmeric is a spice with the Latin name of Curcuma longa. It grows wild in South and Southeast Asia, but is also extensively cultivated around the world. Turmeric powder is typically produced from the rhizome - or swollen underground stem - of the plant.

The key active ingredient found in turmeric is known as curcumin, which is believed to be responsible for its main therapeutic benefits. As a result, when it comes to supplements, curcumin and turmeric are often used almost synonymously. All you need to know is that curcumin is the nutrient found in turmeric shown to have a range of health benefits.  

Health Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs

Turmeric has a long history of traditional medical use. Only in recent years, however, has the scientific community begun to verify these claims in the laboratory. Such has been the interest in curcumin that this has become a rapidly-growing field of research, with new studies being published almost daily.

It is worth pointing out that the vast majority of this research has been carried out either in people or in rodents; generally speaking only a modest amount of research has examined the effects of turmeric in dogs. Many authorities are quick to attribute benefits seen in humans to dogs, but this isn’t always the case. In this guide we’ll therefore try to separate the two out, focusing specifically on the health benefits of turmeric for dogs.

In general, the findings to date have underlined time and again that the active ingredients in turmeric have an anti-inflammatory impact. While this feature does not necessarily sound overly exciting at first glance, this property can actually positively benefit a whole range of different medical conditions. 

Let’s look a little more closely at exactly what the health benefits are of turmeric for dogs.

Turmeric for Joints

A recurring issue for both dogs and their owners are joint-related problems - most commonly different forms of arthritis. What is particularly interesting to note is that while both dogs and people are more likely to suffer from arthritis with increasing age, research suggests that dogs often develop joint issues much earlier in life than their owners. It is thought that at least one reason for this is genetic abnormalities.

While there are numerous different types of arthritis - with two of the best-known being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis - one thing that they all have in common is inflammation in the joints. It is believed by experts that joint inflammation contributes to swelling, soreness and tenderness, and therefore can reduce mobility and increase pain. In contrast, research suggests that turmeric might be an effective remedy for this problem, helping dogs that suffer from joint problems to regain their quality of life.

One wide-ranging study gathered together a vast data set from past research in order to gain a fuller understanding of exactly how turmeric seems to benefit joints. Firstly, as already stated, turmeric seems to suppress the release of chemicals in the body which lead to an inflammatory response.

Perhaps rather more excitingly the scientists found evidence that turmeric impacts the chondrocytes. Chondrocytes are specialist cells responsible for creating the collagen that forms an important part of every joint. By protecting these cells, joints remain healthier and can repair themselves more easily.

These effects have shown positive results in laboratory experiments. For example, a study on how turmeric impacts arthritis found that it was capable of improving physical pain, function and quality of life. Concluding, the scientists stated that “curcumin is a potential candidate for the treatment of osteoarthritis”.

This effect hasn’t just been observed in people; studies have also demonstrated similar results in dogs. Another study split arthritic dogs into groups, before giving each group a turmeric supplement containing varying amounts of curcumin. Unsurprisingly, they found that the version with a higher concentration of curcumin “was more potent in preventing arthritis”. This is exciting, as it indicates that turmeric may not just help to treat the symptoms of arthritis, but may even go some way to preventing joint problems when consumed in a suitable volume.

In conclusion, while the research is still in its infancy, there is a growing body of research that has demonstrated just how effective turmeric can be for dogs with arthritis or other joint-related pain. Indeed, this is probably one of the most popular reasons among our customers for choosing turmeric for their pet.

Bowel Inflammation

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common inflammatory condition with symptoms including stomach cramps, discomfort, bloating and diarrhoea. Interestingly, studies have demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin may have a significant positive effect.

One trial found that 8 weeks of treatment with a standardised turmeric extract resulted in a 22-25% reduction in abdominal discomfort. Overall, when considering all symptoms of IBS, symptoms fell by between 53% and 60%. This underlines just how effective turmeric really can be for some digestive complaints.

Other digestive conditions may also show improvements after turmeric supplementation. Inflammation of the bowel is a reasonably common problem in dogs, and can result in all manner of digestive issues. While there are a range of veterinary-approved treatments, they often involve the use of steroids like prednisolone. Of course, steroids have a huge number of potential side effects, so it is little wonder that more “natural” treatments are growing in popularity.

One group of scientists carried out a simple experiment to test whether turmeric could help inflammatory bowel conditions. Using blood samples from healthy dogs they triggered an inflammatory response in the laboratory. The blood was then treated with curcumin. After 24 hours of activity the blood samples were measured for signs of the chemical messengers known to be involved in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The results were quite clear: “curcumin...in a 10 μM concentration can attenuate inflammation”.

Just as with arthritic joint conditions, therefore, it seems that turmeric supplements may help dogs that suffer from digestive issues. By calming the inflammation typically involved, the condition can be improved.

Cognitive Function

Like people, dogs can suffer from cognitive decline as they age. There is little sadder than seeing a much-loved family pet struggling, especially when you can’t explain to them what is going on.

Interestingly, some studies on potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease have actually used dogs as subjects, because it is known that the chemical basis of cognitive decline in both man and dog is very similar. One such study took place in older beagles that were starting to show signs of age-related decline. The participants were either given a supplement that included turmeric or an identical-looking placebo.

After three months of treatment each dog underwent a spatial awareness task, designed to test their mental acuity. It was observed that the dogs taking turmeric completed the task with fewer mistakes, and in a shorter space of time, than the placebo group. This is exciting news, and a great demonstration of how reducing inflammation can have a serious impact on quality of life.

We may find that as time goes on turmeric becomes ever more accepted as a potential treatment for age-related cognitive decline.

Problems with Homemade Turmeric Treatments

Turmeric has yet to be fully embraced by the veterinary community, so sourcing high-quality turmeric supplements can be challenging. Many dog owners have taken to mixing turmeric powder intended for human consumption with pet food, or have made their own supplements from scratch. There are, however, a number of potential weaknesses of this strategy that are worth outlining…

Turmeric Vs Curcumin

First and foremost, as we have learned it is not necessarily the turmeric itself that offers health benefits. Instead, research suggests that it is the curcumin found within turmeric which has beneficial effects. Sadly, curcumin makes up just a tiny fraction of turmeric as a whole, with some authorities estimating that just 2% of turmeric powder is actually the active ingredient you’re seeking.

Giving your dog turmeric powder is therefore likely to provide only a miniscule amount of the active ingredient, which can be further reduced by bio-availability issues (see below). It is considered to be more beneficial - and cost effective - to give your pet a specialist curcumin supplement to ensure optimal dosage. 

Variable Curcumin Strength

It has been found that the volume of curcumin found in turmeric can vary considerably from one batch to another. Therefore, different preparations from different suppliers can also vary in their efficacy. The benefit of specialist curcumin supplements is that many of them use standardised extracts for uniform, reliable results every time.

Curcumin & Bio-Availability

Curcumin has famously low bio-availability, which means that no matter how much your dog consumes they can struggle to actually benefit from the active ingredients. Unlike many other nutrients curcumin is rapidly metabolised by the liver and intestinal wall before it can offer its beneficial effects.

Studies giving curcumin to both animals and people have shown that while the level of curcumin in the blood rises temporarily after consumption, this effect often only lasts for an hour or two. In some studies, no increase at all was observed, which just goes to show how poor the bio-availability of this nutrient can be. Giving your dog plain old turmeric or curcumin therefore tends to have only a modest therapeutic benefit.

Interestingly, however, scientists have discovered an elegant solution to the problem; combine curcumin with a substance known as piperine. Piperine is what gives black pepper its pungent smell and flavour, and is considered the main “bio-active” component in black pepper.

After chemical extraction it is then combined with curcumin, which has the effect of slowing down the rate at which curcumin is metabolised in the body. Depending on the species involved this combination has been shown to increase bioavailability by between 154% and 2000% - a huge difference.

Sadly, extracting piperine from black pepper can be a complex process. As a result, the common “home remedy” solution of just mixing turmeric with black pepper is unlikely to yield effective results.

Conclusion

A growing number of people are choosing to give their dog turmeric, and the current scientific research backs up a huge number of potential health benefits. Sadly, due to the low bio-availability of curcumin in the body, however, just giving your dog turmeric powder may not be the best way to give your pet a beneficial dose.

Our turmeric supplement has been carefully formulated in conjunction with animal nutritionists and some of the most advanced manufacturing processes in the industry for maximum impact. Why not try it today?