I receive so many emails asking for inputs if turmeric can help in dog arthritis.
So today I am going to discuss the same. Starting with why turmeric can be of help and then move on to how much to give and some easy ways to do so.
I have divided the article in 3 broad sections:
The first section discusses which medications are used today for dog arthritis and how they work.
Second, tries to relate arthritis condition and working of medications with how turmeric works using scientific studies and research. I feel this was lacking in most turmeric for dog arthritis articles I have come across.
Lastly, some testimonials and how to use turmeric for dogs.
What is Canine arthritis
Canine arthritis is a condition that occurs in dogs and is characterized by joint pain and inflammation.
Years of repeated movement leads to degeneration and injuries in the joint areas. Cartilage (a soft tissue covering bones) is degrade thus exposing bones to inflammation.
Bones are reabsorbed from areas where they are needed and produced in places where they are not required and this adds to the pain.
Dogs tend to experience stiffness in joints, limping, discomfort in getting up or lying down and they hesitate to perform activities like jumping.
Arthritis can occur due to a variety of reasons:
- Problems in immune system
- Infections in joints
- Ligament and muscle injury
Surgery is one line of treatment. Among the non-surgical treatment, there is administration of painkillers, steroids, exercise, weight management etc.
And for those who have faith in natural and alternative remedies, we have turmeric.
Which drugs are generally recommended for canine arthritis?
Drugs prescribed by vets for canine arthritis reduce pain and inflammation. Two types of drugs are prescribed:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): They are common painkillers.
- Corticosteroids: They are a group of steroid hormones that reduce inflammation by deactivating the immune system.
As far as NSAIDs are concerned research states the vets begin treatment with aspirin and phenylbutazone and then move on to off label human drugs based on treatment response.
Carprofen is a commonly prescribed drug for canine osteoarthritis.
Other drugs include tramadol, firocoxib, etodolac, mavacoxib, meloxicam etc. Most of these drugs belong to a group called COX inhibitors which we will learn about a little later.
In a study conducted to compare the effect of mavacoxib and carprofen reported that 93.4% of mavacoxib treated dogs and 89.1% of carprofen treated dogs showed overall improvement.
Before getting into how turmeric helps in arthritis in dogs, it is important to understand the mechanism of these medications. So that we can see why turmeric can be used to replace them.
What is the mechanism of action of the drugs?
These enzymes produce chemicals called prostaglandins which further accelerate inflammation. Inhibition of these enzymes reduces pain and inflammation. Newer NSAIDs specifically inhibit COX-2 and prevent occurrence of gastrointestinal side effects.
Matrix metalloproteinases are a group of enzymes that degrade a number of proteins and bioactive molecules one of them being cartilage. Cartilage is a flexible tissue present in the ear and nose and in this case in the joints of the bones.
An experimental study demonstrated that carprofen decreased the levels of MMPs in cartilage cells and controlled inflammation. In other words it prevented degradation of cartilage which occurs in arthritis.
Another study proves that carprofen increases the rate at which cartilage is produced and inhibits the activity of pro-inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins.
- They reduce immune system’s response to inflammation.
- They prevent migration of immune cells to the site of injury and inflammation.
- They inhibit activity of pro-inflammatory chemicals like prostaglandins and interleukins.
What are possible side effects of the drugs?
A review study evaluating the efficacy and safety of NSAIDs that longer use of these medications yields better treatment response.But the study also reports that data regarding the safety of these medicines is lacking.
One study reports occurrence of adverse events like diarrhoea, vomiting and loss of appetite with firocoxib treatment.
Administration of COX inhibitors with diuretics impairs kidney function in dogs. When administered as a painkiller prior to surgery, carprofen is found to mildly affect kidney function. However some studies state that it does not cause detectable differences. So, this point is still debatable.
One experimental study reports that NSAIDs like carprofen, meloxicam and deracoxib can alter platelet function and thus should not be administered prior to surgery to avoid risk of bleeding.
How does turmeric help in canine arthritis?
Turmeric also known as Golden spice and a Miracle Herb native to Asia. It finds its use in cooking and in traditional medicine. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-allergic, anti-cancer, anti-microbial and many other pharmacological properties.
Curcuminoids are the active components of turmeric that give the spice a golden yellow hue and anti-oxidant properties.
Curcumin is the most important curcuminoid.
Turmeric oil also has fractions of therapeutic agents.
Following points suggest the ways in which turmeric could heal and help with your pet’s pain. Most of these studies are directed towards healing arthritis in humans. But that does not change the pharmacological property of turmeric which suggests that it can be used in animals too.
1. Turmeric possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic properties
- activity of COX enzyme
- synthesis of prostaglandins
- production of inflammatory chemicals like tumor necrosis factor and interleukin
- activity of the main protein that regulates inflammation- nuclear factor-kappa B
- migration of immune cells to site of injury and pain
A number of studies prove the anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effect of turmeric [4,5,6,7]. Turmeric extracts containing higher percentage of curcuminoids are extremely potent in controlling arthritis.
However curcumin free extracts of turmeric are also proven to have anti-inflammatory properties.
2. Just like NSAIDs, turmeric inhibits COX enzymes
Curcumin is proven to effectively regulate activities of cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipooxygenase (LOX) enzymes.
Regulation of both these enzymes helps in curbing inflammation and preventing spread of many diseases.
Curcumin is better than many painkillers as it can selectively inhibit COX-2 or it can inhibit COX/LOX at the same time. A research study proves that curcuminoid’s ability in reducing COX-2 enzyme is equivalent to that of painkiller, diclofenac sodium.
3. It inhibits matrix metalloproteinases and protects cartilage
4. It influences bone absorption and development
Osteoclasts are the cells that absorb old bones and osteoblasts are responsible for new bone formation. Chrondocytes are developing bone cells.
Curcumin is proven to protect chondrocytes from inflammation and damage.
Research proves that curcumin supports development of osteoblasts from stem cells (undeveloped cells).
An experimental study proves that curcumin can prevent osteoarthritis by reducing inflammation, maintaining osteoblast function and preventing development of osteoclasts.
5. It modulates immune responses like steroids
It modulates immune responses and controls inflammation by reducing production of pro-inflammatory chemicals like Interleukin and Tumor necrosis factor. It also reduces activity of immune cells. Most of these effects are mediated by curcumin, turmeric’s active constituent.
6. It possesses anti-microbial activity
Turmeric is a natural anti-microbial agent. It demonstrates anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity. Aqueous extracts of turmeric are proven to reduce and inhibit growth of E.coli, S.typhi and S.aureus.
7. It protects from gastrointestinal problems
Research conducted on 35 healthy beagle dogs demonstrated that NSAIDs like carprofen and robenacoxib damage the lining of the large intestine. But administration of herbal remedies with these medications reduced the damage.
Speaking of herbs, let’s check whether turmeric can be of help. Demethoxycurcumin obtained from turmeric suppresses inflammation and oxidative damage in the gut.
8. It can be taken with glucosamine
Glucosamine is a supplement that is being popularly used in treating arthritis in dogs. Glucosamine is obtained from the external hard covering of crabs, lobsters and prawns It acts as a chondroprotective i.e. it protects and stimulates bone cells known as chondrocytes by:
- Promoting cartilage formation
- Preventing inflammation induced cartilage degradation
Turmeric in conjunction with glucosamine can help in reducing joint pain effectively. A supplement containing glucosamine sulphate and other herbs including turmeric was found to be well tolerated in humans and it significantly reduced joint pain and stiffness.
No adverse events regarding use of the duo has been reported.
Scientific studies proving turmeric’s efficacy in treating canine arthritis
Following research studies have tested turmeric as supplements in treating arthritis in dogs.
A study was conducted wherein dogs were given NSAIDs or curcumin as a part of their diet to treat osteoarthritis. Curcumin significantly decreased expression of genes involved in inflammatory response better than NSAIDs.
Curcumin inhibited the activity of immune cells and production of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Researchers concluded that curcumin can be used as a complimentary therapy in treating osteoarthritis in dogs.
The first formula contained curcumin, devil’s claw, blackcurrant, Indian frankincense (Salai), willow bark, pineapple bromelaine and camomile and this was prepared to reduce inflammation.
The second formula contained the same ingredients and dietary supplements such as omega 3, chondroitin sulfate and glutamine. This formula was designed to help in bone remodelling.
Two weeks treatment with these formulas improved paw strength and daily activity of the dogs. The novel herbal supplement was successful in reducing clinical symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Pet stories: What do pet owners and vets have to say about turmeric?
Here are some real life stories of how turmeric has helped pet owners in relieving their pet’s pain and discomfort.
Turmeric kicks the pet’s hip pain away
A dog owner shares a story about their pet dog, Samson who had injured his right hip and had difficulty in walking or getting up. The dog struggled with his pain o the extent that he would old his right leg up.
The dog was diagnosed with inflammation and was recommended turmeric. The owner gave the dog ¼ tsp of turmeric with dog food and water every morning and within a few days the dog stopped holding his leg up. In a few weeks time he had started running.
Still the dog relapsed and started limping again and was kept on painkillers.
Gradually the owner took the dog off meds and started him with turmeric again. The dog recovered again and his gait became normal. The owner concluded that it was turmeric that helped control his pet’s inflammation.
Read full blog post here>
Testimonials from some of FB users who have used turmeric
By Danie: my 12 yr old staffy has arthritis, she was on Metacalm but i started her on the mix, i dont cook it i mix it in an old yoghurt pot, 2 or 3 heaped spoons of turmeric, oil loads of pepper then i give her a half heaped teaspoon 3 times a day in a piece of cold meat, started off on quarter teaspoon, she is off the metacalm and walking really well, gets off and on the sofa ok too, it works a treat
By Elizabeth – My Staffy has arthritis in her back legs plus a swollen hock. She was on anti-inflamitory tablets but they did not take the swelling down but she is on tramadol for pain relief. I give her 1 teaspoonful of golden paste twice a day. In the morning she gets it in her sardines.
In the evening she gets it mixed into 3 teaspoonful of strawberry yoghurt. I have had no problems with her eating the golden paste. She has been on it now for about 3 weeks and she gets up and walks around more it still slow but more active in her walking and does not sleep her life away as she did before she started taking the paste.
Her disposition is a lot more cheerful as she always look depressed before the paste now she is my smiley wee girl again.
By Shelly – I hv a 75 kilo senior great dane. He gets a tablespoon of golden paste, which is put in a cup of boiling water and then soaked over his kibble am and pm.
His walking is greatly improved and manages the stairs much better. Most dane owners i know use golden paste on their dogs.
Turmeric Dosage for Dogs
Many vets across the world are using and recommending turmeric as part of diet for dogs. They are also using turmeric for treatment of arthritis in dogs too.
They are using turmeric to treat inflammation and pain in allergic conditions, infections, and arthritis and age degeneration. And yes even dogs have benefited from this treatment.
Turmeric is also been used to replace or reduce doses of painkillers and steroids.
The dosage of turmeric recommended for dogs varies from experts to experts.
I was lucky to get in touch with Karen Rosenfeld, a dog behaviourist and canine wellness adviser. She has been taking care of her own pets (presently 11 dogs and 2 cats) and advising other dog owners for over 3 decades.
If you are a dog lover you should definitely visit her blog>
Karen has experimented with dosage based on type of turmeric (powder, oil, tincture, etc.) and weight of dog and has come up with an elaborate table for the dosage. I am publishing details regarding turmeric powder and pills below.
Source: Karen Rosenfeld’s Blog
How to add turmeric to Dog’s diet
So, now we know how much, we should discuss how to give turmeric to dogs. Here are some ways to do so:
Turmeric with oil paste
Based on the above table, take required amount of turmeric powder. For every tsp of turmeric powder to 5-10ml of coconut, olive or linseed oil and add 6-10 grinds of pepper from pepper grinder to it.
Start with lower dosages and gradually reach the max dosage based on the weight of your dog.
Dana Scott, Editor-in-Chief of Dogs Naturally Magazine and owner of Labrador Retrievers also recommends turmeric. She firmly supports use of natural remedies for pets as well as humans.
Add ½ cup of turmeric powder and one cup of water to a pan and stir gently over low flame to form a paste. This can take around 7-10 minutes. Add more water if required. Add 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground pepper and 70 ml coconut or olive oil.
It can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Small doses (based on the table above) of this paste daily will benefit your pet.
Add a teaspoon or less of turmeric powder, a dash of ground pepper and 1-2 tablespoon of olive or coconut oil to a cup. Add hot boiling water to this till the content is 1/3 of the cup volume. Top your dog food with this gravy once a day (based on his weight)
Add turmeric powder to your dog treats while baking them. Ascertain the dose of turmeric to suit your dog’s weight. Use the table above to find out how much you can add and then give to your dog.
This is a great way especially if your dog does not like the taste of plain turmeric.
It is important to start with very small dosage and observe how well your dog is taking it. Stop if you see adverse effects.
Some dog owners give dogs turmeric only with black pepper (no oil). Karen Rosenfeld believes coconut oil is better alternative than black pepper for dogs as according to her black pepper can irritate your dog’s stomach and GI tract.
On the other hand I have observed many dog owners giving black pepper safely.
So, please decide yourself will you want turmeric to be given with black pepper or coconut oil or both. If your dog seems to dislike black pepper shift to coconut oil and see if that works.
Do not overdose especially for a long time. It is good to keep a decent dose.
It helps to give turmeric as part of diet along with fats and pepper rather than just as paste. Many dogs would not like plain turmeric but will happily eat treats or other foods with turmeric.
Before starting this article, I was really skeptic whether I would find enough scientific evidence to prove if turmeric could be helpful for dogs. The results amazed me!
Also real life experiences of pet owners strengthened my belief that turmeric can work miracles for pets just like it does in humans. I hope this article helps relieve your pet’s pain.
What do you think? Do share your pet stories related turmeric with us! Would love to hear ..