Turmeric is having a moment — from golden milk lattes to overnight oats to traditional curries, this vibrant spice is everywhere. So, as pet owners, we wanted to know: Is turmeric just another health fad or is it here to stay? If you and your furry friend are considering jumping on the turmeric train or if your DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) recommended turmeric for dogs, get the facts first.
Turmeric is considered the “golden boy” of the health food aisle, so we dug through the research to find out why. Here's a look at the benefits of this golden spice, plus tips on feeding turmeric to dogs.
What's So Special About Turmeric?
Turmeric, which you may sometimes see under its scientific name curcuma longa, is a rhizome — a type of plant with underground stems that grow horizontally. Even if the term rhizome is unfamiliar to you, you've likely seen them in your grocery store.
With some rhizomes, like asparagus, we eat the above-ground part of the plant. With other rhizomes, like turmeric and ginger, we eat the underground stems themselves.
Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and fresh turmeric looks very similar to the fresh ginger root you see in stores. Fresh turmeric root isn't always available in grocery stores, but you can almost always find turmeric powder, the dried and ground version.
Both fresh turmeric root and dried turmeric powder contain an active ingredient that gives them superfood powers: curcumin. Curcumin is a bioactive chemical compound that occurs naturally in turmeric. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties. Essentially, these properties up the ante on turmeric's health benefits.
For humans, turmeric is one of the safest herbal supplements, and it offers many, well-documented benefits. But, can dogs have turmeric?
Is Turmeric Good for Dogs?
Turmeric is typically safe for dogs. While dogs, like humans, can develop an allergy to nearly any food, turmeric allergies are extremely rare.
Like any new food, you should start by introducing it in small quantities to avoid upsetting your dog's stomach. But as long as you don't go overboard, turmeric can actually be good for your dog's digestive tract.
There is far more scientific research on the health benefits of turmeric for humans. However, existing studies on turmeric for dogs show similar benefits for our furry friends.
What Are the Health Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs?
The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties of turmeric can help support your dog's health in a number of ways. Here are five of the most promising benefits of turmeric for dogs.
1. Promote Joint Health
The anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric can help ease joint pain in older dogs or dogs with mobility issues. In one randomized, controlled study on dogs with osteoarthritis, indicators of pain were lower in dogs fed a diet rich in curcuminoids.
Many popular therapies for dog joint health focus on rebuilding collagen with glucosamine and chondroitin supplements or with all-natural sources of collagen like bone broth or collagen-rich dog treats. Turmeric could help support these therapies by addressing a different aspect of joint pain: chronic inflammation.
2. Provide Pain Relief
Joint pain may not be the only type of pain turmeric can help address. This spice has natural anti-inflammatory properties comparable to ibuprofen. In one study that compared turmeric to ibuprofen and another that compared it to acetaminophen, the spice was found to be as effective as the over-the-counter pain medications.
These studies were both conducted in humans. But, based on the pain reduction seen in the study on dogs with osteoarthritis, a similar benefit is likely in dogs.
3. Support the Immune System
Turmeric can help support your dog's overall wellness with its powerful antioxidant properties.
In one study, a group of dogs ate a diet enriched with curcumin while a control group ate a diet without curcumin. After 42 days, the dogs who ate curcumin had increased antioxidant activity and improved red and white blood cell counts. These blood cells are essential components of our pet's immune systems, used to fight off infections.
Another canine study found that a combination of turmeric extract and rosemary leaf extract help reduce the growth of a type of cancer cell called neoplastic cells. Because of its antioxidant properties, turmeric may support the immune system in the fight against cancer.
4. Promote Digestive Health
Because of turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties, multiple studies have suggested it as a supportive treatment for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In one human trial, researchers gave turmeric and fennel supplements to patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). After two months, the patients reported an improvement in their symptoms, regardless of which symptoms they were experiencing (diarrhea, constipation, or mixed).
So, the next time your dog has an upset stomach, turmeric could offer gentle support.
5. Support the Heart
Curcumin has anti-coagulating properties, which can help prevent blood clots. Blood clots are a serious health condition on their own. Left untreated, they can contribute to more serious health issues like heart attack and stroke.
This yellow spice has blood-thinning properties that can help people, and potentially dogs, ward off issues related to blood clots.
Are There Any Side Effects of Turmeric for Dogs?
This spice sounds like everything nice, but as with most health products, there are some drawbacks.
Because of its blood-thinning properties, you shouldn't give turmeric to dogs with clotting disorders like Von Willebrand disease or thrombocytopenia. Turmeric may also react with diabetes medications or chemotherapy, so if your dog has any health conditions, talk to your vet before giving turmeric to your pet.
Feeding your dog large quantities of turmeric can lead to an upset stomach, so always start with small portions. Turmeric can also stain, so make sure to wash your hands after you handle this yellow spice, and keep it away from your clothes.
How to Give Turmeric to Dogs
Unfortunately, you can't just mix turmeric into your dog's diet and expect them to get all the benefits of this golden spice. The curcumin in fresh, and powdered turmeric has low bioavailability. This means it's difficult for your dog's body to digest and use.
To make the curcuminoids in turmeric more bioavailable, you can mix the spice with black pepper and a healthy fat like coconut oil, olive oil, or an omega oil for dogs. Black pepper contains piperine, which can increase the bioavailability of curcumin by 2,000%, according to a scientific review.
If you want to feed your dog turmeric as a whole food, try mixing one part turmeric powder with one part healthy oils to make a thick paste. Then, add a pinch of black pepper. (Be careful not to add too much pepper, because many dogs don't like the spicy taste.)
Try giving your dog 1/4 to one teaspoon of turmeric paste at a time, depending on their size (smaller dogs should get 1/4 teaspoon, medium dogs get 1/2 teaspoon, and larger dogs can have a full teaspoon of the golden paste). Stir the paste into your dog's food or dissolve it into a tasty bone broth.
Although whole food turmeric is a healthy option, your dog could also benefit from a turmeric supplement. Turmeric supplements are typically made with a turmeric extract instead of turmeric powder.
According to ConsumerLab, Turmeric powder only contains about 3% curcumin while turmeric extracts feature a concentrated dose of around 95% curcumin. So, a supplement could get your dog a bigger dose of the active ingredient in this spice.
If you do choose a supplement, look for one that's made with piperine — which you may see under the brand name BioPerine. Give the supplement before or after meals to make the curcumin more bioavailable and your dog can reap the benefits.
The turmeric trend may fade, but the benefits of this spice stand the test of time. Add it to your dog's diet to share its natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial properties.
This spice can help support your pet's joint health, immune system, digestive system, and more. But, to reap the benefits, you'll need to combine your turmeric for dogs with healthy oil and a bit of black pepper, or choose a supplement that features BioPerine and serve it alongside your dog's meals. These extra steps increase the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric — helping your dog get the most out of this golden food.
For more information on your pet's health and nutrition, check out the Native Pet blog.