Turmeric, The Spice of Life For Dogs Too

Turmeric, also called Curcuma longa, is a perennial plant in the ginger family which grows about five to six feet high, has a trumpet-shaped, dull yellow flower, tough brown skin, and a deep orange flesh. It has a fragrant aroma and a bitter, slightly sharp taste. It grows in many tropical regions but the majority is grown in India, where it is used in curry.

This spice has been a staple in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cooking for thousands of years.  I consider it a valuable staple for both myself and Kirby to ensure long, healthy lives.


Curcumin, a compound found only in turmeric, is located in the roots and bulbs which are typically boiled and then dried resulting in a yellow powder.  Did you know it’s what gives mustard its yellow color?

What Are It's Health Benefits?

Turmeric has a long history of use in herbal remedies, particularly in China, India and Indonesia. A growing body of more recent Western and holistic medicine evidence shows that turmeric is a preventive agent for a wide range of diseases thanks to its anti-inflammatory effect: Enhance antioxidant protection against free radicals, balance the digestive tract, promote healthy skin and eyes, promote healthy blood and circulation, provide and support a healthy immune system, maintain normal cholesterol levels, promote joint health, improve stress tolerance, encourage healthy liver function, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels within normal range.

The University of Maryland Medical Center states that turmeric’s powerful antioxidant properties fight cancer-causing free radicals, reducing or preventing some of the damage they can cause and early studies have indicated that curcumin may help prevent or treat several types of cancer including prostate, skin and colon.

A 2006 University of Arizona study examined the effect of turmeric on rats with injected rheumatoid arthritis discovered pre-treatment with turmeric completely inhibited the onset of rheumatoid arthritis in the rats. In addition, the study found that using turmeric for pre-existing rheumatoid arthritis resulted in a significant reduction of symptoms.

“Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a really significant potential effect against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and other chronic illnesses.”  - M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Department of Experimental Therapeutics

"… turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects. Further curcumin and/or turmeric were effective in animal models in prevention and/or treatment of colon cancer, mammary cancer, prostate cancer, and liver cancer in rats." - Ethnobotanist James Duke

“As an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antiseptic, it’s a very powerful plant. Raw is best, Sprinkling it on vegetables or mixing it into dressings is quick and effective.  If you do cook it, make sure to use a small amount of healthy fat like healthy coconut oil to maximize flavor.  I also recommends rubbing turmeric on meat and putting it into curries and soups. Adding this powerful plant to your diet is one of the best things you can do for long term health.”  Natalie Kling, a Los Angeles-based nutritionist

Kansas State University researchers discovered that adding turmeric to meat can reduce the levels of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) by up to 40 percent. HCAs form on chicken and meat when cooked over high heat, like in grilling. Consumption of HCAs is linked to higher rates of cancer.

“Most dogs and cats readily accept a little seasoning on their meals. I have also found that all my pets, including my birds, do fine with the fresh root grated over their food. If you want to increase the amount of biologically available curcumin in your pet’s diet, you’ll need to go with a supplement. I recommend you look for a high-quality, organic turmeric product and consider giving cats about 100 milligrams twice a day. Small to medium-sized dogs can be given 250 milligrams twice a day, and large to giant breeds should get 500 milligrams two to three times a day.” - Dr. Karen Becker, Holistic Veterinarian

Dr. Andrew Weil notes that people in Okinawa, the Japanese island nation with the world's longest average life span, drink turmeric tea daily. To make your own, boil four cups of water, add one teaspoon of ground turmeric, allow to simmer for 10 minutes, strain, and add ginger and/or vanilla to taste.

Dr. Doug English, a veterinarian in Australia, has revolutionized feeding turmeric to pets including dogs, cats, and horses with statistics and results to back him up. For more information be sure to visit his website, Turmeric Life and join the Tumeric User Group on Facebook..

According to Dr. English, Turmeric has a long history of use in both Indian and Chinese traditional medicine. Many of the effects are attributed to the component curcumin which is about 3 to 6% in the better varieties of Curcuma longa, but there are many other synergistic compounds in the whole rhizome that work together in metabolism, of not only mammals, but birds and reptiles like crocodiles and snakes. It is best consumed cooked with an oil like coconut, olive or butter and importantly with black pepper which slows the excretion from the system. The major limits to efficiency is poor absorption and fast excretion.

A brief mention follows in alphabetical order, of all the positive effects for all animals including humans, birds reptiles etc; able to be backed with evidence both scientific and anecdotal:

ANTICOAGULANT: allowing blood to flow correctly and inhibiting abnormal blood clot formation (thrombosis). If already on anticoagulants your clotting needs to be monitored and the dose of these reduced or stopped. Markedly improves circulation to extremities.

ARTHRITIS: Curcumin inhibits the breakdown of cartilage and has been shown in some studies to be as effective as hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone in relieving the symptoms of arthritis such as inflammation, swelling and joint stiffness. Even better, it does so without the significant side-effects of those drugs, and has been shown to be safe at very large doses.

CANCER: Curcumin defends the body against cancer via a number of actions: it detoxifies carcinogens thereby preventing the initiation of cancer cells; suppresses the progression of cancerous cells by inhibiting their proliferation while simultaneously increasing their death and removal; and inhibits the spread of cancerous cells to other areas of the body. It can also reduce the side effects of chemotherapy treatment and enhance the action of some chemotherapy agents. Various studies have demonstrated either turmeric (as a whole food) or curcumin/curcuminoids (as isolates) to have beneficial results in preventing or treating a wide range of cancers. These include skin including melanoma, ovarian, breast, lung, oral, stomach, liver, colon and prostate cancers.

CARDIOVASCULAR EFFECTS: Curcumin improves the liver’s ability to clear the body of LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), and increases the proportion of HDL (‘good’ cholesterol). In addition, it prevents the oxidation of both LDL and HDL (oxidised cholesterol leads to blood vessel damage and plaque build-up that can result in heart attack or stroke). 

COGNITION and BRAIN HEALTH: Alzheimer’s Disease In addition to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection turmeric/curcumin affords against neurodegenerative diseases, curcumin has been shown, after crossing the blood-brain barrier, to inhibit formation of the plaques between neurons (nerve cells) that disrupt brain function.

DIABETES: along with cinnamon and ginger, turmeric is effective at reducing blood sugar and increases insulin sensitivity and levels serum glucose. Enhances glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and other tissue. Need to monitor blood sugar levels and probably adjust insulin doses downwards. Improves insulin resistance condition.

DEPRESSION: mood lifting and useful antidepressant. If already on antidepressants one needs to run it past your doctor because there can be some additive effects. 

ENERGY: increases metabolic rate and normalises blood glucose and alertness. Diabetic animals fed curcumin not only had a significant reduction of blood cholesterol levels (LDL fraction) but also of blood triglycerides and phospholipids (elevated levels of both are associated with the disturbed lipid metabolism characteristic of diabetes). 

FERTILITY: improves fertility in dogs, cattle, horses and presumably humans. Chicken egg production improved by 30%.

GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT: inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori a bacterium associated with both gastric & duodenal ulcer formation and gastric & colon cancers. Other studies have indicated that turmeric (at appropriate doses) can enhance the healing of gastric ulcers via an increase in gastric wall mucus production. Further, turmeric has been shown to have an antispasmodic effect on the gastro-intestinal tract. In addition, turmeric and curcumin have been investigated and found to be protective against Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

LIVER HEALTH: Turmeric has a liver-protecting action. The levels of the potent antioxidant glutathione are increased several times. It both prevents and repairs liver damage. It protects the liver from inflammation and improves ‘the clearing function of the liver when it has been damaged and dramatically increases the clearance of alcohol from the system. Best hangover cure but even better when in the system prior to a night out. 
SKIN, nails and hair growth: Thick healthy skin is a feature of animals that have regular consumption of turmeric. Is significant reduction of itchiness in skin of humans, horses and dogs. Improves quality of fingernails and hair in humans and hooves of horses. Deepens coat colour in horses. Counteracts sunburn even after redness appears. Does this by antioxidant effect e.g. scavenges radiation induced, reactive, free radicals. I have seen strong evidence of good skin effect in my vet practice of crocodiles fed a small amount have a significantly improved skin quality and a 50 % increase in growth rate. 

WEIGHT LOSS: above effects contribute to significant weight loss.

WOUND HEALING: promotes rapid healthy healing of wounds
As well as all the above, turmeric has demonstrated the ability to suppress cataract development, and have a topical anti-fungal effect.

Warnings To Consider

Turmeric is a binding agent so make sure your dog has plenty of water to reduce the likelihood of constipation.  Yogurt can also be administered to balance out the digestive flora.  Dogs that are prone to kidney stones should not be given turmeric since it increases urinary oxalate levels.  Some dogs can be sensitive to turmeric and develop a stomach upset.  Most importantly, if your dog has a pre-existing condition, is currently on medication, has a planned surgery, or is pregnant, it’s advisable to talk to your veterinarian before feeding. 

Most seasonings found in grocery stores are mass produced and have been treated with pesticides, etc, so make sure you purchase turmeric from a reputable source. 

What To Purchase

You want to purchase USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, 100% pure turmeric powder which contains no additives, preservatives, or fillers.  The brand I use is Starwest Botanicals Organic Turmeric Root Powder which is available on Amazon.

How To Add It To Your Dog's Diet

The easiest way is to just sprinkle a dash of turmeric over their meals.  You can make a batch of Turmeric Paste to mix in. Of course you can make some of our meal recipes which use turmeric as an ingredient.

For more information on the many benefits of turmeric for humans and dogs be sure to visit The Nutri Inspector