Turmeric for Dogs: Benefits and Uses
For thousands of years, turmeric has been used in India for its medicinal benefits. It also gives curry its vibrant yellow color. Curcumin, the main component in turmeric, has powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticoagulant properties. Recent studies have proven curcumin’s medicinal value for humans.
While studies haven’t been done to assess its advantages to dogs, holistic veterinarians and pet nutritionists encourage pet parents to use this healing herb to help their relieve canine chronic inflammation and pain caused by several diseases.
Read up to learn about the benefits and uses of turmeric for dogs, available formulations, and a golden paste recipe to try on your canine companions.
What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is an ancient Indian spice and medicinal herb that has been used for millennia. The healing powder, which is mostly grown and consumed in India, is prepared by crushing the dried root stalks (called rhizomes) of the flowering turmeric plant belonging to the ginger family.
The curcuminoids present in turmeric are responsible for its bright orange-yellow color and its remedial properties.
Is Turmeric Good for Dogs?
While studies have not been performed to solidify the health benefits of turmeric for dogs, it is reported to help alleviate inflammation and provide pain relief.
“Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric that has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects,” says Dr. Katie Woodley of The Natural Pet Doctor. She uses turmeric to reduce inflammation caused by diseases and conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and skin allergies. Inflammation is a body’s natural response to infection, trauma, and toxins.
“Turmeric has been reported to provide anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief for the treatment of osteoarthritis, and as a healing tool for chronic lick granulomas in dogs,” adds Dr. Jamie Richardson, medical chief of staff at Small Door Veterinary in New York City.
Turmeric can be used topically on dogs, but with caution. Woodley has used it for inflammation and cancerous lumps on dogs, but warns that due to the rich yellow pigmentation of the spice, pet parents need to be aware of staining and any messes left behind.
Richardson warns against another potential drawback associated with the use of turmeric topically. “As animals tend to lick things applied topically, it could make skin irritations worse,” she says.
Turmeric Benefits for Dogs
Turmeric is reported to provide relief in dogs from inflammation associated with diseases by inhibiting the molecules that cause it. Below is a list of potential benefits of turmeric for dogs.
Chronic Lick Granulomas and Skin Allergies – Lick granulomas are a condition in which the skin becomes irritated from persistent licking. The application of turmeric paste for dogs may potentially ease itching due to its anti-inflammatory properties, as long as it does not encourage the dog to lick at the affected area even more frequently.
Cancer – According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the curcuminoids found in turmeric have the ability to interfere with the growth of tumors and kill cancer cells. As dogs get older, they are more susceptible to cancer and could benefit from taking a turmeric supplement.
“I always put my cancer patients on it [turmeric] if there are no contraindications and their digestion is not affected by it,” says Woodley.
Heart Health – Studies have shown that curcumin has anticoagulant (blood-thinning) properties that can help decrease blood clots in the heart, making it a helpful addition to your dog’s diet for a healthier cardiovascular system.
Osteoarthritis – Senior dogs are susceptible to weak, stiff, and/or inflamed joints as a result of arthritis. These pups can benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, and research is ongoing. Supplementing your dog’s diet with turmeric can improve his mobility and provide more freedom during his golden years.
Pain Relief – Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory benefits can provide pain relief by reducing swelling and redness. In a paper published by Scientific Research, they write, “It is believed that curcumin antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and immune-suppressive activities are shared in the upgrading of symptoms to patients who have rheumatoid arthritis.”
Turmeric as a Powerful Antioxidant
Of turmeric’s many benefits, its role as a powerful antioxidant may be the most promising. Antioxidants are important because they can help fight dangerous “free radicals” in the body–often linked to heart disease, cancer, vision loss, and other chronic health conditions.
Although most studies on the antioxidant effects of turmeric have been on humans, research shows it may benefit dogs, as well. According to Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, Second Edition, turmeric demonstrated anti-cancer, anti-arthritis, and heart health-boosting properties when evaluated in animal models. And Mayo Clinic research in animals suggests curcumin (the most active ingredient in turmeric) may prevent cancer, slow its spread, make chemotherapy more effective, and protect healthy cells from radiation damage.
However, research on the full impact of turmeric on pet health is in its early stages and ongoing. So be sure to consult with your veterinarian or a holistic care veterinarian before using turmeric to treat any pet health concerns.
Types of Turmeric for Dogs
There are a few ways to give your dog turmeric: as a paste or liquid mixed with food or as supplements in the form of pills, chews, and treats. See below for different forms of turmeric available for dogs.
Turmeric powder for dogs can be mixed with either coconut or olive oil and ground pepper to create a paste that can be added to your dog’s food. It’s best to use the paste with wet food. The paste is good for up to two weeks. For large dogs, give a daily spoonful of the paste mixed with food, half a spoonful for medium-sized dogs, and 1/4th for a small dog.
Turmeric drops for dogs have the added benefit of being absorbed more quickly. Similar to the paste, the dosage of turmeric drops for dogs varies depending on the size of your pet.
Turmeric Chewable Tablets
Supplement your canine’s diet with chews and tablets with turmeric rich in curcumin. Chews come in a number of flavors, like bacon and liver, to make them more enticing. When purchasing, shop for products that are natural and organic, without added ingredients like wheat, corn, soy, or eggs.
How to Give Turmeric to Dogs
Turmeric is easy to give to your dogs, in the form of a paste or as drops added to their meals, and as a flavorful chewable capsule or treat. Pet parents can also buy treats or pet food with turmeric. However, while these treats or foods have yellow coloring, they may not have enough curcumin to provide any health benefits.
“When using the spice alone, many pets won’t eat it due to its bitter taste, which is why using curcumin in the supplement form can be more palatable to dogs,” says Woodley. She recommends adding it to food for easy ingestion.
However, curcumin is not easily absorbed without the aid of other ingredients. “Formulations need to include fats and black pepper to increase the absorption and bioavailability of turmeric in the body,” says Woodley. Pepper contains piperine, a substance that enhances the herb’s absorption within the body. A small amount of black pepper is considered safe for dogs.
When turmeric is added to food, care needs to be taken to provide the proper dosage, in proportion to your dog’s weight. “For dogs, the dosing will range between 50 – 250 mg, up to three times a day,” suggests Woodley. If you are unsure of the dosage, consult your veterinarian.
Golden Paste Recipe for Dogs
As mentioned, pet parents can make their own golden paste for dogs at home using turmeric and a few other ingredients.
Below is a dog-friendly golden paste recipe courtesy of Woodley:
- ½ cup organic turmeric powder
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup organic coconut oil (or olive oil)
- ⅓ tsp ground black pepper
Step 1: Mix 1/2 cup organic turmeric powder with 1 cup water on low heat for 7-10 minutes to make a paste.
Step 2: Add in 1/4 cup organic coconut or olive oil and mix in 1-1/4 tsp ground black pepper.
Step 3: Use the paste topically (with caution) or mix it into your dog’s food once per day at a dose of 1/4 tsp per 10 pounds of body weight.
Before giving your dog homemade golden paste or using it topically on your dog, speak to your veterinarian to make sure it is safe for your dog and that you are offering the right dose for your dog’s age and weight.
Turmeric Side Effects for Dogs
“Turmeric has a low risk for potential side effects, says Richardson. “However, at large dosages, gastrointestinal upset has been recorded.”
Other reasons to potentially avoid giving dogs turmeric or turmeric supplements, according to Richardson, include gallbladder obstruction and pets with bleeding disorders.
Since turmeric has anticoagulant properties, it can exacerbate clotting disorders. “I would recommend discussing with their veterinarian first to check there would not be any potential risks associated with trying turmeric in conjunction with western medicine options,” explains Richardson. “For example, certain liver diseases can cause clotting problems, where turmeric would be contraindicated.”
If your pet is already on an antiplatelet or anticoagulation medication, speak with your veterinarian and use caution when giving turmeric.
While golden paste can be beneficial to your pet’s health, Richardson warns that it must be used with caution. “The oil with which it is created is high in fat, and dogs can be sensitive to sudden changes in the fat content in their diet, resulting in diarrhea or even pancreatitis,” she says.
Before starting your dog on at-home golden paste or turmeric supplements, speak with your veterinarian.
When applied topically, Woodley states that some dogs could experience allergic reactions, and recommends that pet parents do a patch test on a small area to ensure that the dog does not have a reaction.
Where to Buy Turmeric for Dogs
Turmeric sold for human consumption is acceptable for dogs. It’s best to obtain organic turmeric that is free of any chemicals used to increase its shelf life. Shop at your local grocery store or health food store for the powder, and check the label to confirm it contains at least 95 percent of curcuminoid for maximum health benefits.
Turmeric chews for dogs can be purchased online or at your local pet store. Be sure to get products from reputable companies. According to Richardson, two reliable joint supplement brands for dogs are Dasuquin by Nutramaxx and Phycox by Dechra.
“They contain the active component of turmeric (curcumin) with glucosamine/chondroitin, omega fatty acids, and other antioxidants that can be useful in a multi-modal approach to canine arthritis,” she says.
For a general turmeric antioxidant to supplement your pet’s diet, Richardson recommends Curcuwin.
Before proceeding with a diet regimen supplemented with turmeric, consult your veterinarian to determine the right dosage and ensure that it doesn’t interfere with any other medications your pet is taking.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turmeric for Dogs
To help you navigate the pros, cons, and everything in between, we’ve gathered helpful answers to the most commonly asked questions about turmeric for dogs.
How much turmeric should I give my dog?
Like people, each dog is different. A dose that may work for one dog may not be suitable for another. In her book, The Natural Dog, Dr. Deva Khalsa suggests adding ¼ to ½ teaspoon to your dog’s meal. Dr. Karen Becker, the co-author of The Forever Dog, suggests starting with ¼ to ½ teaspoon depending on the size of your dog if making a golden paste.
Can too much turmeric hurt a dog?
Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Although they are not common, side effects of turmeric include upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, bruising, iron deficiency, bruising, and gallbladder issues.
The best way to avoid side effects is to dose your dog with the proper amount with your veterinarian or holistic veterinarian’s guidance.
Can turmeric upset a dog’s stomach?
Even the most seemingly safe dose of turmeric may help your dog, it can also upset his stomach and cause nausea and diarrhea. These are usually more severe side effects, especially if too high a dosage is administered.
Can I give my dog human turmeric supplements?
According to a PetCoach veterinarian, some dogs are more sensitive to turmeric than others, and they may develop gastrointestinal upset if a dose of human turmeric capsules is given.
Does turmeric interfere with my dog’s other medications?
Any type of over-the-counter supplement has the propensity to interfere with a dog’s regular medications. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about dosing, pre-existing conditions, and any concerns you may have.
Can turmeric cause health issues in my dog?
Dogs prone to kidney stones should probably avoid turmeric tablets, as it can increase urinary oxalate levels and increase the likelihood of more stones.
Does turmeric powder have a taste?
Yes, and some picky dogs may not prefer the taste of it hidden in their food. In this case, look for a turmeric product in tablet, chewable, or pill format.
Are all turmeric paste recipes safe for dogs?
Not necessarily. Some recipes may include ingredients that are safe for humans but could harm your dog. Be sure to use a dog-safe golden paste recipe, like the one above, and talk to your veterinarian with any questions.