6 Ways Turmeric Can Help Your Dog’s Health

Not only is turmeric tasty, it also has properties that can complement veterinary care.

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Do you enjoy cooking? Adore Indian food? Then maybe you’re already familiar with turmeric. This distinctive-tasting spice is native to Southeast Asia and the Middle East, where it’s been used as a culinary ingredient for thousands of years. You can still find turmeric taking center stage in numerous curry dishes, plus various Persian and Thai favorites. Got a jar of yellow mustard on hand? Check the label. Surprise! It’s in there, too.

Rich in both vitamins and minerals, turmeric is actually a member of the ginger family — and that deep golden hue may not be such a coincidence. Because, in addition to its co-starring role in a range of tasty recipes and natural dyes, it’s also worth its weight in gold when it comes to wellness. And here’s the best news of all: It’s beneficial to humans and our pets.

Turmeric has been a staple of Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. A traditional Ayurvedic approach looks beyond suppressing symptoms with medication. The fundamental philosophy involves treatment and prevention of underlying illness or imbalance. So elements such as nutrition, exercise, and targeted lifestyle adjustments are combined to re-balance the body naturally.

According to Ayurvedic medicine — and a growing group of holistic wellness practitioners — turmeric is almost literally the “spice of life.” The bio-active compound responsible for most of turmeric’s healing properties is known as curcumin. This key component gives turmeric that vibrant goldenrod color … yet it also does a great deal more. In various contexts, it’s been shown to help disinfect wounds, aid digestion, purify the blood and liver, relieve pain, soothe inflammation, eradicate certain fungal infections, and generally assist with whole-body detoxification.

Recent University of Arizona studies found that turmeric decreased symptoms of pain, swelling and joint damage associated with rheumatoid arthritis; and also appears to soothe symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease. Additionally, a research team spearheaded by Dr. Ajay Goel at Baylor University Medical Center discovered that combining curcumin with a standard rheumatoid arthritis drug seemed to improve symptom reduction over use of the pharmaceutical by itself.

So how can turmeric be used to help support the wellness of our canines (and cats)? Here are just a few possibilities.

1. Oral health

Dog mouth by Shutterstock.
Dog mouth by Shutterstock.

Try this at home:  Wet your pup’s toothbrush, sprinkle a little turmeric powder on top, and brush away. The natural abrasiveness helps polish teeth; the anti-inflammatory properties help soothe gums. Just keep a wet rag handy to wipe off any bright yellow fur residue, or your best furry friend will look like a screaming neon sign.

2. Heart health

Just like humans, our pets are susceptible to blood clots and a harmful overabundance of cholesterol. But according to several studies published in the journal Atherosclerosis, turmeric is thought to help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. It’s also a known blood thinner, which can help minimize the possibility of clots that contribute to heart attacks and strokes. However, because of these blood thinning properties, it’s important to be careful with dosing (see below).

3. Liver function

A pup’s natural environment can be pretty toxic. Consider the additives often used in commercial treats and kibble; monthly application of various flea/tick preventives; and routine vaccination schedules. The liver helps neutralize these harmful toxins and plays a crucial role in digestion — which includes metabolizing vitamins and synthesizing bile so that fats are efficiently broken down. Curcumin is thought to help stimulate healthy bile production.

4. Inflammation reduction

Studies like those mentioned above continue to confirm turmeric’s status as one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatories around. Since inflammation can be a sinister precursor to multiple health issues, controlling it is vital to your pet’s well-being. Unlike long-term use with certain pharmaceuticals, turmeric’s reported side effects are comparatively minimal when given in appropriate doses (again, see below).

5. Topical healing

Turmeric is a healing antidote for scrapes, scratches, and wounds. Besides its anti-inflammatory properties, it’s also a natural antibacterial and antiseptic agent — i.e., a potent one-two-three punch. Consider creating a one-to-one mixture of turmeric powder and natural aloe vera gel before applying. Some pets (including mine) find the taste of this topical combo fairly yucky, which discourages constant licking.

6. Cancer support

Research appears to suggest that regular turmeric consumption may help to inhibit formation of certain types of cancer. Anticancer Research, an international journal of cancer research and treatment, recounts multiple studies indicating that the primary polyphenol in turmeric may not only inhibit cancer cell formation; but may actually have the ability to selectively target malignant stem cells in certain cases. This is certainly NOT to suggest that turmeric should replace existing treatment protocols. However, it does show promise as a supportive treatment component.

As always, it’s important to check with your vet before trying out any new supplement. My own vet generally recommends feeding  1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon daily for every 10 pounds of dog weight — simply sprinkle it onto food. However, recognize that factors like age and pre-existing health conditions may impact this recommended dosage. Have you tried turmeric with your own lucky puppy? Share your insights below!

Top photo: Turmeric by Shutterstock.

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Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, and her rescue dogs Grant and Maizy — all of them Heinz 57 mixed-breed types. A freelance writer and marketing consultant, she’s been rehabilitating severely abused rescues for over two decades. She’s currently working toward specialized certifications in animal nutrition counseling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her family Instagram feed.

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