Is Turmeric Good for Dogs? What the Science Says

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I’ve listened to people touting the health benefits of this golden spice for human ailments for years, but is turmeric good for dogs? We’d all love to find a natural supplement to help our dogs with joint pain and body inflammation.

As a whole, turmeric has a multitude of health benefits for dogs based on anecdotal reports. And my clients report noticeable improvements in inflammation and joint pain when they give it to their dogs. But we have limited scientific studies on its benefits in dogs and the few that are available show conflicting results.

Unfortunately, very little ingested raw turmeric is absorbed in a dog’s body. If it can’t be absorbed, it can’t impart its healing properties. Researchers use fractional compounds refined from turmeric powder and combined with other ingredients to increase absorption.

Curcumin is the concentrated active ingredient of turmeric. I recommend using a curcumin supplement with good absorbability instead of the hard-to-absorb whole root form.

I like Zesty Paws Turmeric Curcumin Soft Chews for Dogs for an easy-to-give chewable supplement that contains ingredients to increase absorption.

The two main health benefits of this golden root are its ability to act as an anti inflammatory and its anti oxidant effects.

turmeric powder on a plate
Powdered Turmeric

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

This golden powder comes from the root of the turmeric plant, Curcuma longa, which is related to ginger. The root is dried and ground to a powder that is widely used as a spice in cooking (think curry).

The dried, powdered root has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine mainly to quell acute and chronic inflammation.

Scientists tend to focus on the natural anti inflammatory properties of turmeric. Most studies use the curcumin fraction which fights inflammation by decreasing biological compounds like tumor necrosis factor and cyclo-oxygenase.

Stomach and Bowel Healing

Traditional medicine practitioners use Curcuma longa for healing stomach and bowel inflammation. Scientific research has found both anti-ulcer and ulcer-promoting effects, so the effect on the GI tract is unclear.

Researchers continue to study the use of turmeric to treat ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease in humans. When curcumin was used in conjunction with corticosteroids and sulfasalazine, patients were able to decrease their dosage of the conventional medications. 

There is little information on its use for dogs with GI problems including irritable bowel disease. However, it seems reasonable to expect dogs would experience the same benefits as  seen in humans. 

On the other hand, this natural supplement can cause GI upset in dogs, especially when it’s used at high therapeutic doses. The potential for harm must be weighed against the potential for benefit.

Improving the absorption of the active ingredients in the powder could allow smaller doses to be effective, thereby avoiding GI upset.

Is turmeric good for dogs? This greyhound thinks so.

Arthritis and Joint Pain

Probably the number one question on the topic: is turmeric good for dogs with arthritis? Poor joint health is the number one problem I’ve seen benefit from a turmeric supplement. My clients report good results when they give it to dogs experiencing arthritis and joint pain.

Studies on arthritis have found benefits from supplementation. One study found that Type II collagen was increased in cells exposed to curcumin in addition to other anti-inflammatory benefits. But that study was done on human cell cultures, not on actual humans or dogs (12).

There are few scientific studies involving turmeric for dogs, but those we have do look favorable.

A small study of 12 dogs with arthritis showed decreased inflammatory gene expression (3). This is promising, but what’s true in the laboratory does not always play out in live dogs.

To confuse things, another study showed little effect on peak vertical force, an indirect measurement of pain, in dogs with osteoarthritis (6).

That means that while turmeric reduces inflammation in a laboratory cell culture, it might not help live dogs with arthritis and joint pain as much as we’d like. It could be because the active compounds are not absorbed in a dog’s body very well.

For more ideas read my article on natural remedies for dog arthritis.

IVDD Pain and Neurological Symptoms

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common cause of pain and neurological deficits in dogs. Miniature Dachshunds are one of the commonly affected breeds, but any dog can experience IVDD.

A 2018 study looked at the use of therapeutic turmeric in 15 dogs with paresis or paralysis from IVDD. The researchers used a dose of 1g/10kg of body weight per day and saw improvements at 20-30 days of therapy (5). While the study was small, it shines a light on the possibility of using a natural anti-inflammatory to help dogs with IVDD.

Dog Skin Benefits

Traditional medicine practitioners use turmeric to treat skin allergies and eczema in humans. Studies on mice have shown that it decreases skin allergy symptoms by stopping the infiltration of inflammatory cells in the skin (13).

While we don’t have any studies looking at the compound for skin allergies in dogs, it’s possible it could help. In fact, its anti-inflammatory effects could help multiple issues in the same dog.

Antifungal, Antibacteria and Insect Repelling Properties

The antifungal properties of turmeric have been documented in multiple studies. One found that a combination of herbal extracts including turmeric was used successfully to treat dermatophytosis (ringworm infection) in dogs.

Turmeric also has antibacterial properties. It has been used traditionally to treat skin infections. Now scientists are using curcuminoids to enhance the activity of other antibiotics against resistant bacteria (1). So, it makes sense to use turmeric topically to treat a dog’s wounds.

Another interesting use of turmeric is in controlling tick infestation. A 2018 study compared topical orange oil to turmeric oil and found the latter was significantly more effective at preventing ticks from attaching to dogs (6).

Can Turmeric Get Rid of Skin Cysts in Dogs?

Epithelial cysts, sebaceous gland adenomas and other benign skin growths are common in dogs. It seems like some dog owners get worried about them and want to get rid of them without having to resort to surgery. 

There is no scientific evidence that turmeric can get rid of any kind of cyst on a dog. It’s possible that topical application could decrease inflammation of a traumatized or infected cyst. 

However, I will report that I once treated a dog with a chronic, inflamed red cyst-like growth on his leg with Jing Tang Herbal’s Golden Yellow Salve (based on Ru Yi Jin Huang San) applied daily. This herbal salve has turmeric as one of its main ingredients. The cyst gradually became smaller over a period of weeks until it finally just disappeared!

brown and white bulldog

Anti-Oxidant Effects for Dogs with Cancer

Scientists have searched for evidence that turmeric is beneficial in the fight against cancer and degenerative diseases. We don’t have strong support for using it to treat cancer and chronic disease but there are a few studies with hopeful results.

Curcumin has antioxidant effects which is a benefit in its use against cancer. Too much oxidation by free radicals causes aging, destruction of cells and even cancerous mutations.

One study showed a reduction in oxidized proteins in amyloid pathology in Alzheimer’s transgenic mice. However, other research suggests it can also have oxidative effects on cells.

Scientists developed an injectable form of curcumin for intravenous use in research settings. In a 2018 study on canine cancer, this injectable form had a positive effect stopping the growth of cancer cells in the lab. Unfortunately, the effects were not as positive when used in live dogs. (16).

Another way curcumin can help dogs with cancer is by making cancer cells more susceptible to the effects of chemotherapy (11).

 If your dog has cancer curcumin might help in multiple ways. But be sure to consult with your vet before starting any new supplements. 

Potential Side Effects

When it is used in cooking, the amount is small and is very unlikely to cause any bad side effects in dogs. Turmeric is generally regarded as safe when taken orally or used topically.

The amount of powdered spice needed to reach a therapeutic level in the body of a dog is much higher than what is used in cooking. It’s when people give dogs therapeutic amounts that we start to see problems.

Gastrointestinal Upset

Diarrhea is the most common side effect of therapeutic doses. But some dogs have no problem with it. Higher doses of the dried root may be more likely to cause loose stools than moderate doses of curcumin supplements.

This supplement can cause gastrointestinal ulcers at high dosages. Please don’t try it if your dog has a history of ulcers or stomach hyperacidity. I would also be very hesitant to use it even if your dog has a “sensitive stomach.”

Kidney and Bladder Trouble

Humans taking turmeric supplements sometimes develop high oxalate levels. This can lead to the formation of bladder and kidney stones. We don’t have information that the same applies to dogs, but if you have a dog who is at risk for forming stones, be extra cautious.

brown and white spaniel in the woods

Abnormal Blood Clotting

Blood clotting abnormalities have been documented in mice (9). Turmeric’s anti-coagulant properties could theoretically be helpful in certain diseases, but for most animals, increases in bleeding time are not helpful.

In reality, absorption is so poor that it’s unlikely you’ll see clotting abnormalities in a dog taking recommended dosages.

However, if your dog needs to have any kind of surgery, it’s a good idea to inform your vet about any supplements your dog is taking.

Allergic Reactions

Although rare, allergic reactions have been reported. Allergic reactions can happen when it is taken orally or applied to the skin.

If you notice redness or inflammation in areas of your dog’s skin where you’ve applied it, stop using it and have your vet take a look. Allergic reactions from taking the supplement orally could cause GI upset or could be more severe causing collapse and shock.

How to Give Turmeric to Your Dog

There are many ways to get turmeric into your dog. The simplest is to add the dried powder to her food. Some people prefer to make a paste with coconut oil and pepper to increase absorption.

As I mentioned earlier, I recommend using a supplement that has the refined fraction combined with ingredients to make it more absorbable.

You will find tablets, capsules and soft chews for dogs. There is something to suit just about every dogs’ preference.

turmeric infographic

Correct Dosage for Dogs

You may mix the powdered spice in your dog’s food in its whole form. Look for organic turmeric from a trusted source like this one from Starwest Botanicals.

I’m going to give you a dosing range recommended by veterinary herbalists.

It’s always a good idea to start with less than the recommended amount and work your way up.

Watch your dog’s stool and appetite and if you notice any changes, stop giving her the supplement immediately. Consult your vet if diarrhea persists for more than 24 hours or you notice more serious symptoms.

The recommended amount has a wide range, but 300 mg (about a teaspoon) per 10 pounds of body weight is a good starting place.

Researchers have used much larger amounts. But I seriously doubt any dog would be willing to eat that much mixed into his food. If he did, I bet he’d get a bad case of diarrhea!

Turmeric Dosage Chart for Dogs

Size/Weight of Dog in PoundsDose of Turmeric Powder per Day*
Small Dog 2-10 lb.1/4-1teaspoons
Medium Dog 11-40 lb.1-2 1/2 teaspoons
Large Dog 41-70 lb.2 1/2-4 teaspoons
Extra Large Dog 71-100+ lb.4-6 teaspoons
*Start with less than recommended and build up to full dose gradually.

Give your dog’s daily dose with a fresh grind or two of black pepper and make sure to combine it with fat-containing food (regular dog food is fine) for better absorption. 

Start with a tiny amount and build up to the full dose over time so your dog doesn’t get turned off by the odor and flavor. This will also allow you to gauge your dog’s GI tolerance for the supplement. 

I’ve used turmeric powder as part of my dog’s diet for years. They seem to really like it, but then they’re used to eating lots of different things so your mileage may vary.

If your dog is picky, start with a very small amount and work your way up. You could also try putting the powder into gelatin capsules to hide the flavor.

My advice? If your dog stops eating because of something you’re giving as an experiment, it’s simply not worth it. Eating nutritious food regularly is more important to your dog’s health than any supplement.

Is Turmeric Paste Any Good?

Golden Turmeric Paste is a popular internet recipe for dogs made from coconut oil, black pepper and turmeric. Although it sounds rather delicious, the amount of biologically active compounds contained in an average oral dose of “golden paste” is probably too small to really benefit your dog.

I also worry about giving a big bite of coconut oil since so many dogs are sensitive to dietary fat.

I’d rather have you mix the dried powder with black pepper and normal dog food. The fat already present in the food will help increase absorption without adding coconut oil.

However, using Golden Turmeric Paste topically on inflamed skin lesions, ruptured cysts and tumors could help speed healing. You just need to make sure your dog doesn’t lick the paste off, so use an e-collar if necessary!

If you’re able to get Jing Tang Herbal’s Golden Yellow Salve, I would recommend that over Golden Paste for topical treatment of skin wounds, inflamed cysts and tumors. Contact a veterinarian who uses Chinese herbs and ask if they can order it for you.

Better Absorption Through Science

Turmeric has tremendous potential as a therapeutic agent. The problem is that it’s unstable and very poorly absorbed in the body (10). That makes it hard to reach the concentrations in live animals needed to get the same benefits seen in laboratory cell cultures.

The best level of bioavailability is found when using an IV injection of liposomal curcumin. But studies using an injectable form found it still failed to reach a therapeutic concentration in living tissues.

Scientists are still working to figure out a way to harness the power of this traditional medicine. They want to find a way to make it more stable and more absorbable.

Combining curcumin with oils and piperine (or BioPerine) from black pepper increases absorption. Over the counter supplements often have a combination of these ingredients.

Another method to make it more absorbable is to combine it with phosphatidylcholine, a natural substance that occurs in cell membranes. The trade name for the curcumin and phosphatidyl combination is Meriva®.

Are Curcumin Supplements Better?

I recommend using a curcumin supplement instead of the whole root form. For one thing, the active ingredient is more concentrated so it may be less likely to cause diarrhea.

Another advantage is that most curcumin supplements are combined with ingredients to make them more bioavailable, as mentioned earlier.

High-quality supplements are well-standardized so you know how much of the active compound your dog is getting. I’ve heard reports from other veterinarians that some sources of dried turmeric root include other substances or don’t have the potency claimed on the label.

The drawback to using a refined supplement is that your dog may miss out on potential positive effects from other natural substances present in the whole root form.

Vet Recommended Turmeric/Curcumin Supplements for Dogs

I recommend using supplements made specifically for dogs. That way you won’t have to try to calculate dosage and if you have trouble with the product, you can consult the manufacturer. All of these supplements can be found on Amazon.com by clicking the links below.

Zesty Paws Curcumin Bites contain curcumin, coconut oil and BioPerine (the last two ingredients increase absorption). It comes in an easy to give chewable treat.

Vetriscience VetriFlex is a multi-ingredient supplement containing curcumin, Boswellia and grape seed extract. It comes in an easy to give chewable form.

RxVitamins CurcuWIN comes as a chewable tablet. It doesn’t contain other anti-inflammatories and it is much more absorbable than regular spice powder.

Is Turmeric Good for Dogs? The Bottom Line

Turmeric has potential benefits for dogs. It has been used for eons in traditional medicine to treat inflammatory conditions. We now have scientific evidence that provides support for its use in humans and animals.

The raw spice’s low absorbability is the biggest challenge to realizing therapeutic effects. Using more absorbable forms like curcumin with BioPerine will increase the health benefits for your dog.

References

  1. Betts, J. W., Sharili, A. S., La Ragione, R. M., & Wareham, D. W. (2016). In vitro antibacterial activity of curcumin–polymyxin B combinations against multidrug-resistant bacteria associated with traumatic wound infections. Journal of natural products, 79(6), 1702-1706.
  2. Chattopadhyay, I., Biswas, K., Bandyopadhyay, U., & Banerjee, R. K. (2004). Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications . CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE-, 87, 44-53.
  3. Colitti, M., Gaspardo, B., Della Pria, A., Scaini, C. & Stefanon, B. (2012) Transcriptome modification of white blood cells after dietary administration of curcumin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in osteoarthritic affected dogs . Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 147, 136-146
  4. Comblain, F., Serisier, S., Barthelemy, N., Balligand, M., & Henrotin, Y. (2016). Review of dietary supplements for the management of osteoarthritis in dogs in studies from 2004 to 2014 . Journal of veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics, 39(1), 1-15.
  5. Fernoaga, C., Dobre, I. R., Strugariu, C. M. B., Cornila, M., Gherghel, M., & Braslasu, E. D. (2018, August). The effectiveness of turmeric use in the therapy of chronic inflammation associated with paresis and paralysis in dogs. In Journal of Biotechnology (Vol. 280, pp. S80-S80). PO BOX 211, 1000 AE AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS: ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV.
  6. Goode, P., Ellse, L., & Wall, R. (2018). Preventing tick attachment to dogs using essential oils. Ticks and tick-borne diseases, 9(4), 921-926.
  7. Innes, J. F., Fuller, C. J., Grover, E. R., Kelly, A. L., & Burn, J. F. (2003). Randomised, double-blind, placebocontrolled parallel group study of P54FP for the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis. Veterinary Record, 152(15), 457-460.
  8. Kim, D. C., Ku, S. K., & Bae, J. S. (2012). Anticoagulant activities of curcumin and its derivative. In vivo, 61, 0-5c.
  9. Keihanian, F., Saeidinia, A., Bagheri, R. K., Johnston, T. P., & Sahebkar, A. (2018). Curcumin, hemostasis, thrombosis, and coagulation. Journal of cellular physiology, 233(6), 4497-4511.
  10. Limtrakul, P. (2007). Curcumin as chemosensitizer. In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease (pp. 269-300). Springer, Boston, MA.
  11. Nelson, K. M., Dahlin, J. L., Bisson, J., Graham, J., Pauli, G. F., & Walters, M. A. (2017). The essential medicinal chemistry of curcumin: miniperspective . Journal of medicinal chemistry, 60(5), 1620-1637.
  12. Shakibaei, M., John, T., Schulze-Tanzil, G., Lehmann, I. & Mobasheri, A. (2007) Suppression of NF-kappaB activation by curcumin leads to inhibition of expression of cyclo-oxygenase-2 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 in human articular chondrocytes: Implications for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Biochemical Pharmacology, 73, 1434-1445.
  13. Sharma, S., Sethi, G. S., & Naura, A. S. (2020). Curcumin ameliorates ovalbumin-induced atopic dermatitis and blocks the progression of atopic march in mice . Inflammation , 43 (1), 358-369.
  14. Taylor, R. A., & Leonard, M. C. (2011). Curcumin for inflammatory bowel disease: a review of human studies. Alternative Medicine Review, 16(2), 152.
  15. Turmeric. (n.d.). National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). March 2007. Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric
  16. Withers, S. S., York, D., Johnson, E., Al-Nadaf, S., Skorupski, K. A., Rodriguez Jr, C. O., … & Rebhun, R. B. (2018). In vitro and in vivo activity of liposome-encapsulated curcumin for naturally occurring canine cancers. Veterinary and comparative oncology, 16(4), 571-579.

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