Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Turmeric and Curcumin - Good for Your Dog’s and Cat's Health

Adding Turmeric (Curcuma longa) to your dog’s, cat's daily diet can provide your dog and cat with a vast array of health benefits. 

In this article...
1. Turmeric and Curcumin - a Brief Overview
2. Health Benefits of Turmeric
3. Health Benefits of Curcumin
4. The Dog Food Industry and Turmeric
5. Adding Turmeric or Curcumin to Your Dog's, Cat's Daily Diet
6. Choosing an Appropriate Product - what type of turmeric to use
7. How to Store Turmeric and Curcumin 
8. Cautions and Drug Interactions
9. Additional Information on Herbs and Spices For Your Dog, Cat
10. General Guide to Daily Intake of Herbs and Spices

1. Turmeric, Curcumin - a Brief Overview

Turmeric, a spice is derived from the root of the Curcuma longa (also known as Indian Saffron), a perennial plant of the ginger family. The exact genesis of the plant is not known as the plant’s original origins are lost in the history of ancient trade; however it is likely that the plant originated in South East Asia or South Asia. 

The Curcuma longa’s root system includes oblong tubers - similar to those of the ginger plant. The tubers are boiled or steamed, dried, and then ground. The resulting powder has a pungent slightly bitter flavour.   

Although dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans - a dog’s noise has a minimum of 300 million olfactory sensors to our paltry 3 million, the dog’s sense of taste is less than ours (a dog averages 1700 taste buds whereas a human has 9000 taste buds). This means that the slightly bitter taste of turmeric is not off-putting for the majority of dogs. My dogs and cats have turmeric mixed into their food daily.

The scent of turmeric is reminiscent of oranges and ginger. Once it is dried and ground into a powder the scent is slightly bitter and medicinal.

Turmeric is a deep, warm yellow-orange color. The rich colour of turmeric comes from a naturally occurring pigment in the Curcuma longa tuber – the pigment is called Curcumin. Curry gets its colour from curcumin and some of its flavour from turmeric. Turmeric is a mainstay of India dishes and is also used as a substitute for saffron. 

This revered spice has been used as a dye, flavouring and medicine since 600 BC. Turmeric is a very important spice in India – its use dates back 4000 years to the Vedic culture. India is the main source of the world’s supply of Turmeric, China and Indonesia also grow and produce the spice.

2. Health Benefits of Turmeric

Curcumin is thought to be the principal pharmacological agent in turmeric. As an ancient medication turmeric was used in traditional Asian medicine as a blood purifier, liver ailment mediator, for the healing of skin diseases and sores and wounds and as a stomach tonic. In Thailand turmeric was used as an astringent, anti-diarrheal agent, appetite stimulant, as a carminative, to treat dizziness, gonorrhoea, peptic ulcers and as a topical treatment to stop bleeding, treat insect bites, treat teeth and gums, eradicate ringworms and heal wounds.

Today, turmeric is one of the most extensively researched herb-spices for pharmacological use. It is favored for its potentially beneficial use in treating and/or reducing symptoms linked to an extensive range of health conditions due to its excellent qualities as an:

  • Analgesic (pain fighting);
  • Antibacterial;
  • Anti-inflammatory;
  • Anti-oxidant;
  • Antiseptic;
  •  Anti-tumour agent (anti-carcinogen);
  • Neuroprotector.

Turmeric has been shown to be effective in preventing and/or treating:
  • Aids in fat metabolism and weight management;
  • Allergic respiratory disorders - Ashthma;
  • Arthritis;
  • Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties relieves aches and pains associated with arthritis (see additional information under curcumin below);
  • Beneficial for trauma from accidents as it helps lower serum levels which would otherwise cause massive inflammation leading to the shutdown of the heart and other organs;
  • Brain Health;
  • Artherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries – heart disease) by lowering bad LDL cholesterol;
  • Bacterial infections – the volatile oil is an external broad spectrum antibiotic which acts to prevent bacterial infection in wounds;
  • Blood purifier – beneficial in the treatment of skin disorders;
  • Cancer inhibitor;
  • Cardiovascular conditions;
  • Chemotherapy – reduces the negative side-effects of chemotherapy;
  • Detoxifier – turmeric is a natural liver detoxifier;
  • Disinfectant for wounds and burns (antiseptic and antibacterial);
  • Digestive disorders;
  • Turmeric induces the flow of bile which acts to breakdown fat;
  • Protects against injuries caused by some medications;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • Helps prevent gas/bloating;
  • Inflammation (turmeric’s anti-inflammatory quality has been compared to topical hydrocortisone);
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD;
  • Memory disorders;
  • Neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve)
  • Peptic ulcers;
  • Skin disorders;
  • Strengthens ligaments.

Other Health Benefits of Turmeric
  • High in fiber;
  • Rich in vitamins (high in vitamin B6 and potassium) and minerals (high in iron and manganese);
  • Excellent for metabolism health and a natural weight-loss aid.
  • Turmeric is even more powerful as a cancer inhibitor when teamed up with cauliflower…of particular importance to prevent prostate cancer. 
  • This dog-food recipe includes both turmeric and cauliflower.

3. Health Benefits of Curcumin

  • Anti-oxidant (anti-aging);
  • Anti-Angiogenic (tumour preventing);
  • Anti-Carcinogenic;
  • Anti-Diabetic;
  • Anti-Inflammatory;
  • Anti-Apoptotic (preventing cell death i.e. from radiation);
  • Anti-Metastatic (inhibits the over-growth of cells);
  • Cardiovascular Protection;
  • Lower LDL (bad) Cholesterol;
  • Detoxer;
  • Imuno-modulatory (immune system enhancing);
  • Neuro-Protective (protects the Central Nervous System – CNS).

Anti-Inflammatory - curcumin has been shown in numerous studies, to be comparable to the potent conventional medicines hydrocortisone, phenylbutazone as well as over-the counter anti-inflammatory agents. But unlike these conventional mendicants curcumin does not have toxic side-effects.

Cancer Inhibitor - due to its powerful antioxidant properties. Curcumin is effective in protecting colon cells from free radicals that can cause damage to healthy cell DNA – of particular importance as cell growth in the colon is particularly rapid. Curcumin also helps the body destroy mutated cancer cells thereby stopping the spread of cancer throughout the body. Curcumin enhances liver function – the liver is a primary toxin filter for the body, so enhancing its function supports health in many ways. Curcumin is also considered to inhibit the growth of the protein that is thought to be instrumental in triggering tumour formation. Curcumin has been shown to inhibit transcription factors (the ‘master switch’ that regulates genes required for tumor formulation).

Lower Bad Cholesterol and support Heart Health – Curcumin is a messaging molecule that communicates with genes in live cells. This active agent of turmeric directs cells to increase the production of messenger proteins that in turn direct the creation of receptors for LDL (Bad) cholesterol. An increase of LDL-receptors enables the liver to clear more LDL from the body.

Preventing Toxic Loading and Liver Damage – The liver plays a huge role in detoxifying the body. As dogs are exposed to ever increasing amounts of toxins in their diet (i.e. as found in many commercially produced dog foods and treats, dental care products – dental chews and toothpaste) and their environment (i.e. household cleaners, road salt, grass, shampoo etc.) the incidence of liver damage and liver failure is exponentially increasing. Turmeric boosts the ability of the liver to de-toxify.

Rheumatoid Arthritis - clinical studies have proven that curcumin provides highly powerful antioxidant effects as its ability to neutralize free radicals is substantial. Free radicals cause the painful inflammation and eventual damage to joints.

Defence Against Neurological Diseases of Old-Age – as curcumin is able to turn on gene codes for the production of antioxidant proteins it provides enhanced protection against some neurological diseases brought on by old age - i.e. canine dementia.

Weight and Metabolism Management –If your dog is overweight you might want to try adding either turmeric or curcumin to his/her daily research by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has confirmed that curcumin helps to speed up metabolism.

4. The Dog Food Industry and Turmeric

Many commercial dog food manufacturers are now putting turmeric in their dog kibble. But please don’t be fooled by advertising - the inclusion of turmeric in commercially prepared dog kibble is not an indication that the kibble is a nutritionally balanced quality product. 

The quantity and quality of the turmeric included in the food may be insufficient to have any positive effect on your dog’s health and worse – the turmeric may be of poor quality (i.e. grown with pesticides). 

Turmeric is becoming a ‘hot word’ in the pet food manufacturing sector, just as ‘omega’ and ‘probiotic’. As the pet food industry – at least in North America) is unregulated pertaining to their use of terms vs. factual substantiation of actual quality/ratio of ingredient. 

Manufactures rely on the ignorance of the consumer – profit before ethics. I have yet to see a commercially prepared dog kibble that includes the appropriate ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. Adding ‘probiotics’ to commercially prepared dog kibble is a ridiculous conceit as the heat required during processing of the kibble kills the probiotic microorganisms, thus rendering them useless. 

So just as with omega fatty acids and probiotics – your best bet is to add turmeric directly to your dog’s diet – do not expect the trace amounts included in some dog foods to benefit your dog’s health.

5. Adding Turmeric,Curcumin to Your Dog’s, Cat's Daily Diet
  • Mix turmeric in with your dog’s or cat's dry or wet food,
    • To increase the bio-availability of Turmeric, when adding turmeric to your dog's food in the bowl also add coconut oil (see this article)and a little fresh ground organic black pepper - i.e. 1 tsp per 1/4 cup of turmeric powder.
  • If you home-cook your dog’s or cat's food you can add turmeric to your dog/cat food recipe;
  • My dogs get turmeric Golden Paste on a daily basis in their homemade dog food. You can also add turmeric to other fresh food, herbs and spices.
  • Turmeric or Golden Paste can be added to treats - 
  • Egg, meat and turmeric spice treats, recipe here.
  • Blueberry, coconut oil, spice treats, recipe here
  • Coconut, turmeric spice drops, recipe here.

6.What Type of Turmeric (or Curcumin) is Best…

You can use powder (most commonly available), crushed or fresh root. I use the powder form (ground turmeric). The quality of turmeric varies vastly. Turmeric sold is in the typical grocery store and bulk food store is mass produced, grown with pesticides and herbicides and is, as a result low in beneficial potency. For maximum benefit it is best to purchase turmeric from a reputable supplier of high-quality organic turmeric.

7.0 How To Store Turmeric or Curcumin

  • Fresh turmeric rhizome should be kept in the refrigerator;
  • Turmeric and/or curcumin powder should be stored in a tightly sealed, container and kept in a cool, dark, dry location.

8. Cautions, Drug Interactions, Contradictions

Turmeric and Curcumin are Natural Dyes
  • Turmeric and curcumin contain strong pigments that make both spices a natural dye;
  • When feeding your dog turmeric powder on top of food, just make sure you don’t place your dog’s and cat's food bowl on a surface such as a cherished carpet as the deep yellow-gold colour of the spice can stain the surface it falls on. 
Pregnant Dogs and Cats
  • If your dog or cat is pregnant there is a chance that turmeric might stimulate the uterus.
  • Turmeric might slow blood clotting so stop using turmeric two weeks before surgery.

Drugs that Slow Blood Clotting (blood thinning medications)
  • If your dog or cat is on an anticoagulant / anti-platelet drugs use caution as turmeric may strengthen the effects of blood thinning medications thereby increasing the risk of bleeding. 
  • For example warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin and other blood-thinning medications;
  • If adding turmeric to the diet you may have to make some adjustments to medications.

Drugs that Lower Blood Pressure
  • For example drugs to treat diabetes;
  • Turmeric may increase the effect of blood pressure lowering drugs thereby increasing the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar);
  • If adding turmeric to the diet you may have to make some adjustments to medications
.Drugs that Reduce Stomach Acid. 
  • Turmeric is a natural treatment for increasing stomach acid and related conditions such as  Acid Reflux - GERD;
  • Turmeric may interfere with the effects of drugs that reduce stomach acid;
  • If adding turmeric to the diet you may have to make some adjustments to medications.
Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), Steroidal Drugs
Turmeric Sensitivity
  • Some dogs and cats have a sensitivity to turmeric, leading to intolerance or allergy to the spice. If, after starting use of turmeric your animal's breath, urine, or fur develops an odorous smell (i.e. pungent smell like cat urine), your animal has a sensitivity to turmeric. Stop use if any of the above occurs. Turmeric is also warming and drying, which is beneficial to some individuals, but is contradicted for others, see just below.
  • Intolerance can also result in other side effects such as constipation and other gastronintestinal disturbances including diarrhea, nausea, reflux, stomach pain, and vomiting.

A Warming, Drying Herb
  • Turmeric is rich in tannins. These tannins are responsible for the excellent astringent properties in turmeric, resulting in the overall drying effect, and warming effect of this spice on the body. If you have a cat or dog with a health condition, body type that requires cooling rather than heating and drying, turmeric is contridicted. Signs that this spice does not suit your animal's constitution - excessive, unusual thirst after starting turmeric, excessive, unusual heating - i.e. panting, seeking cool places - after starting turmeric. Discontinue use.
9. Additional Information on Herbs, Spices for Dogs Cats

You can read this article for:
  • A list of Herbs and Spices that Are Good for Dogs;
    • Benefits and Uses of many Herbs and Spices for Dogs;
    • List of Herbs and Spices that Are Not Good for Dogs; 
    • When Should Herbs & Spices Not be Introduced to Your Dog’s Diet;

10. General Guideline for Daily Intake of Herbs and Spices

Dog’s, Cat’s Weight
Dry Powder
Tea or Infusion
Tablet, Pill
pounds (lbs)
1-10 lbs
1/16 –
1/8 tsp

1/8 cup
1x to 3x
1x to 3x
1 -
1x to 3x
10-20 lbs
1/8 tsp -
1/4 tsp

1/4 cup
1x to 3x
1/2 -
1x to 3x
3 -
1x to 3x
20-50 lbs
1/4 tsp -
1 tsp

1/4 cup -
1/2 cup
1x to 3x
1 –
1x to 3x
5 -
1x to 3x
50-100 lbs
1 tsp -
2 tsp

1/2 cup –
1 cup
1x to 3x
1 –
1x to 3x
1x to 3x
+100 lbs
2 tsp -

1 tbs
1 cup
1x to 3x
1x to 3x
1x to 3x
tsp = teaspoon     tbs = tablespoon    times/day = times per day    x = times per day

11.0 Holistic Support

Holistic Wellness Services and Holistic Behaviorist Services 

Holistic Wellness and Behaviorist Services

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld