Sophie Jackson is a dog lover and trainer living in the UK. She competes in agility and obedience with her four dogs.
In recent years, the Indian spice turmeric has been recognised as having numerous health benefits for people, and it is now being recommended as a natural health supplement for pets too.
Turmeric, also known as Indian Saffron, grows in Asia and Central America and is best known by most of us as a bright yellow spice that gives colour and flavour to spicy food. The spice we consume actually comes from the ground-up root of the plant and is widely used in Asian-inspired cooking, as a dye and in teas and powders.
It has been traditionally used in Indian folk medicine for a range of health conditions, and in the last couple of decades, Western scientists have been studying turmeric to see if these supposed health benefits are genuine. They have discovered that the active ingredient curcumin in turmeric has a range of medicinal properties, including pain relief and uses as an anti-inflammatory.
With these benefits well-documented in people, it is natural for animal lovers to wonder if the same results would occur in animals. Feeding turmeric to dogs in a cooked form has become a popular choice as an alternative to traditional pain relief. So, what are the pros and cons of feeding turmeric?
The Health Benefits of Tumeric
While more studies and research are needed for some of these health benefits, the evidence so far has been promising.
A Natural Anti-Inflammatory
Numerous studies have demonstrated that curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate the symptoms of such problems as arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation recommends people take turmeric tablets as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Reduction in inflammation has an impact on the pain an individual is suffering, turmeric can therefore be considered a natural pain reliever. One study conducted in Thailand found that patients suffering from arthritis who were given turmeric as their sole pain relief improved as much as those being given ibuprofen.
Turmeric is a natural antioxidant and the potential health benefits of this are currently being investigated. It is such a strong antioxidant that it may be able to prevent damage to the liver from toxins, which would be of huge benefit to humans or pets who have to take drugs for other medical conditions that are hard on the liver.
Works Against Cancer
Turmeric has been shown to inhibit the growth of tumours, and it is being investigated whether taking turmeric regularly could actually prevent certain cancers from developing in the first place.
May Help Digestion
Turmeric is being explored as a potential treatment for chronic digestive ailments, such as IBS. It has been used as a traditional remedy for digestive complaints in India for centuries. Anecdotal evidence from patients suggests it could provide relief from digestive troubles. However, scientific evidence for this is so far inconclusive.
Potential Side Effects
In general, turmeric is considered a very safe and natural supplement, but there are side effects that have been reported and should be considered before feeding to pets.
Can Upset the Stomach
While turmeric has been suggested as a digestive aid, some sufferers of IBS have stated it has made them feel worse. Turmeric stimulates the stomach to produce more gastric acid to improve digestion but this can also have a negative effect, for instance in those suffering from pancreatitis or stomach ulcers.
If your pet already has problems with its stomach, especially if these are being treated with antacid medicines (such as Zitac), then it may be best to avoid turmeric.
Can Thin the Blood
Turmeric can thin the blood, though as yet science has not determined why it does this. This can cause patients to bleed more easily and could be a concern in those who are already on blood thinners or have a pre-existing condition such as anaemia.
May Cause Kidney Stones
It has been suggested that in dogs that are prone to kidney stones, turmeric may worsen the problem and so should be avoided.
Basic Golden Paste Recipe
To increase turmeric's health-boosting properties, it has been found that the best way to consume it is after it has been cooked. It has also been shown that combining cooked turmeric with freshly ground black pepper increases the ability of the body to absorb the curcumin in the turmeric by 2000%.
When turmeric is cooked and pepper added it is often referred to as 'Golden Paste'. You can buy golden paste online for your dogs, and you can also get tablet forms, but it is also very simple and inexpensive to make.
- 60 g or 1/2 cup turmeric
- 250 mL or 1 cup of water
- 70 mL or 1/3 cup of coconut oil (you can also use linseed oil or olive oil)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper
- Place the water and turmeric in a saucepan and heat gently for around 8-10 minutes to turn it into a thick paste. Avoid boiling. If necessary add a little more water.
- Remove from the heat and add the coconut oil and black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- Golden paste is best stored in a fridge, you can also freeze it.
Turmeric is fed based on the weight of a pet. It is best given split into two portions during the day to get the most benefit. So a 15 kg dog would have 1/4 of a teaspoon twice a day.
- Under 10 kg / 22 lbs: 1/4 teaspoon
- 11-20 kg / 22-44 lbs: 1/2 teaspoon
- 21-40 kg / 23-88 lbs: 3/4 teaspoon
- Over 40 kg / 88 lbs: 1 teaspoon
Golden Paste Treats
A basic golden paste can be added to your dog's food, but not all dogs will eat golden paste as-is. Here is a recipe to turn golden paste into a tasty treat for your dog so they will be happy to eat it. When making your golden paste for this recipe, don't add the oil as this will interfere with the setting of the gummies.
In this recipe, we are using beef gelatine as a setting agent. It contains collagen which is also good for the joints and is virtually fat-free. Goat's milk is also low fat and is better tolerated by dogs than cow's milk. Both ingredients make the gummies tasty for dogs.
- 1/2 a batch of homemade golden paste (see above)
- 125 mL or 1/2 cup whole goat's milk
- 4 tablespoons of powdered beef gelatine
- Pour the milk into a saucepan and sprinkle the gelatine over it, leave for 5 minutes to allow the gelatine to bloom.
- Heat the milk gently until the gelatine has dissolved. Do not overheat or allow to boil.
- Add the golden paste and mix. You should have a pourable mixture, if it remains too thick you can add a little more milk or water.
- Pour into silicon moulds or into a shallow plastic container. Place in the fridge to set. If using moulds, pop out the gummies after they are set. Store in a fridge. The gummies will last about a week.
- Small dogs can have 1/2 a gummy twice a day, depending on their size. Or feed a 1/4 teaspoon from the container.
- Medium dogs can have two gummies a day or 1/2 teaspoon.
- Large dogs can have 3-4 gummies a day or 3/4 to 1 teaspoon a day.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Sophie Jackson