Alternative Therapies: The Use of Turmeric in Dogs
Medicinal herbs may not always be the first thing we turn to when our pets are sick or in pain. However, that does not mean they cannot be complementary to medical therapies. Many medicinal herbs have not been extensively studied due to their roots in much older Eastern medicine.
Recently we are learning much more about the potential benefits to these alternative therapies and medicinal herbs.Turmeric in dogs is a good example of an age-old medicinal herb that is coming into its own in the modern research arena.
The History of Turmeric
Turmeric dates back as far as 500 BCE. This herb is widely known and plays a major important part in Ayurvedic medicine. Many might recognize turmeric as a bright yellow, ginger-like, fragrant spice. However with all of the medicinal benefits it has brought over the years it is widely known as the Golden Herb of Ayurveda. Ayurveda stands for ‘The Science of Life’.
There are two bioactive portions of the turmeric plant:
Turmeric oil –Through steam distillation, the rhizomes are extracted from the underground root of the Turmeric plant.This is the cause for the distinct woodsy smell.
Curcumin – Is the main active ingredient that is found in Turmeric. This compound is what gives the golden yellow color.
These two components have many positive effects on the body. They can quell inflammation and help to reduce pain. As we have begun to realize this in Western medicine, the study of its potential uses have exploded with over 3000 studies regarding turmeric published in the last 25 years.
The interest in turmeric has began to cross over into the veterinary world as well. We are beginning to utilize turmeric in our pet patients more and more every day.
Turmeric in dogs is relatively safe, however as with any supplement with medicinal properties, there can be side effects. An upset stomach, bruising or other clotting issues and gallbladder problems can occur if given at higher doses.
It is always recommended to consult with your local veterinarian before starting your pet on any medication or supplements. This is to ensure that the appropriate dosage and use is properly prescribed and under the supervision of a doctor.
The Promise of Turmeric in Dogs
Several studies at the cellular level in recent years have shown potential of anti-cancer effects in turmeric. It is suspected that more uses will be uncovered as the studies continue to be published. Some of the highlights include:
- A demonstrated protective effect of curcumin powder against bladder cancer in laboratory rats
- The use of curcumin to increase the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents
- Evidence that its anti-inflammatory effects can slow the spread of mammary cancer cells
- The use of curcumin to destroy and stop brain tumor formation
- A demonstrated effectiveness at decreasing inflammation and inhibiting mast cells in mast cell tumors
- A protective effect against side effects of other drugs used to treat cancer
As we learn more, it is impossible not to be excited about this impressive plant! It always instills hope in us when we have another potential tool to use in the treatment of cancer.
A board-certified veterinarian oncologist, Dr. Kendra Pope serves on American Board of Veterinary Botanical Medicine, which is a group of Veterinarians who are conducting research, holding seminars to educate on herbal medicine for animals. We are hopeful that the continuous studies of turmeric oil and curcumin along with all other traditional herbal medicines, will bring more and more knowledge what these herbs can do for our pet patients.