Turmeric is related to ginger and is native to India. It’s used worldwide as a flavoring for curries and other Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. In recent times, claims have been made that it helps pets with a number of chronic health conditions including osteoarthritis.
There are a number of active components in the herb, but the one that’s of most interest to us is curcumin, which gives turmeric its yellow color. It appears to work in humans as an anti-inflammatory agent and that means it has potential in the management of a number of diseases. There are many human clinical trials in progress to evaluate its effectiveness.
Many people share anecdotes about how their pet has improved when given turmeric, especially in the form of “golden paste” which contains turmeric, coconut oil, pepper, and water but is this backed by science? The answer is yes and no.
In one study, scientists from Kentucky found that a blend of turmeric, green tea extract, pepper, and a number of other ingredients improved spatial awareness in thirteen dogs after three months, when compared to nine similarly aged dogs that weren’t treated with the blend. This suggested the blend could be helpful in improving motivation and attention in elderly dogs.
In another study, Iranian researchers discovered that a blend of curcumin and ghee improved wound healing after dental extractions in Beagle dogs.
However, other studies suggest turmeric has no therapeutic effect at all. British scientists evaluated an extract of Indian and Javanese turmeric in the treatment of elbow arthritis in dogs. They measured the vertical force of the sore leg using a force platform and looked at how the pet parents and scientists assessed lameness and joint pain. The results were interesting. There was no difference in the vertical force of the leg between the treated and untreated dogs. Researchers felt that the treated dogs had improved but pet parents didn’t identify any statistically significant effect of the treatment.
This makes it hard for pet parents to know whether they should give their four-legged companion turmeric. There are no studies into how much turmeric to give a pet, or how long it takes to be excreted from their body.
Generally, there’s no harm in trying turmeric on your pet, but there are suggestions that it could interact with blood thinning medication and may also cause gastrointestinal upset. It can also be poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. Other than that, side effects are rare. Pepper is thought to improve absorption, so adding that to the turmeric may be useful.
If you share your life with a cat, you may find that they’re less than impressed with the flavor of turmeric and won’t eat it. Dogs usually don’t mind it if it’s added to their dinner. Because it’s such a safe herb, there’s unlikely to be any harm in giving it to your pet to see if they respond to it. When the results of the clinical trials in people are completed, we’ll have more information on how the herb may help; this information might be useful to those who study pet health.
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