Also known as the "golden spice," turmeric is an age-old herb that's gained popularity as a pet supplement. We've seen turmeric recommended for inflammation, joint pain, heart health, and other conditions.
Unfortunately, if you've explored adding turmeric to your dog's diet, you've likely also read some conflicting information! With so many articles online, it can be hard to tell which sites are trustworthy and which have your wallet, not your dog's health, in mind.
What do we know about turmeric for dogs? Read on to find out where turmeric comes from, what the latest research says about turmeric and curcumin, the potential side effects of turmeric in dogs, and more.
What Is Turmeric?
The turmeric plant, or Curcuma longa, is a member of the ginger family native to Southeast Asia. Farmers harvest the turmeric plant's underground stem, or rhizome, and grind it up to produce the fine, golden turmeric powder you see in grocery stores.
Turmeric powder is known for its culinary role as a curry spice. However, turmeric also appears in Ayurveda and other traditional medicine systems. These traditions encourage using turmeric for inflammation, skin conditions, and other ailments.
But what is turmeric, exactly? Unlike a drug from the pharmacy, turmeric is a plant product that contains a mix of different compounds.
When it comes to your dog, the turmeric powder ingredient you've probably read about is curcumin. Curcumin gives turmeric its yellow color. It's also considered the "active ingredient" in turmeric powder.
Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs: Fact and Fiction
The crucial question about turmeric for pet parents is: does it work?
We wish we could say for sure that turmeric is good for dogs or that it helps treat a health condition.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of solid clinical evidence for the health benefits of turmeric powder and curcumin (1).
Researchers have studied turmeric for decades. Still, most high-quality sources (research centers and veterinary associations) say the proof is not strong enough to say much for sure (2). This news may surprise you when many sites praise turmeric's benefits for dogs!
Indeed, we can't say that turmeric is never helpful. Some dog owners swear by it, and limited data shows that turmeric may support joint health (3).
With that in mind, why are we hesitant to recommend turmeric for everyone's pup?
- Poor absorption. In pill form, the effectiveness of a supplement depends on whether your dog's body can absorb it. This rule also applies to powders or pastes added to your dog's food. Research shows that little of the turmeric your dog eats will reach their bloodstream.
- Unstable. Some supplements contain more curcumin, turmeric's "active ingredient," to make up for poor absorption. Unfortunately, this method doesn't solve the problem. Curcumin has a short shelf-life: it quickly becomes inactive, especially when exposed to light (4).
- Lack of veterinary studies. Some websites write about the benefits of turmeric based on research studies using people, mice, or even cells in a dish. While these study types are helpful, they don't directly apply to your pet. Dogs can be more sensitive to supplements or experience more side effects than people.
- Hard to measure. Scientists use sensitive machines to determine how, when, and why medicines work. Turmeric ingredients like curcumin have chemical properties that interfere with these critical measurements. They can lead to false or difficult-to-interpret results when studying turmeric.
- A "universal cure." With so many competing sources online, turmeric can start to sound like a universal fix for your dog's health. Popular websites are not necessarily reliable. Supplements can be valuable for your pet, but use caution around any product that claims to "do it all."
Is Turmeric Safe for Dogs?
Say your dog has a persistent health problems like allergies or arthritis. You'd do anything to help your friend feel better.
In that case, maybe you'd still like to try turmeric powder or curcumin supplements along with medicines from your vet. Fortunately, turmeric is safe to try for most dogs. Turmeric is generally considered safe when ingested with food, taken as a capsule, or applied to the skin.
Still, always consult your veterinarian when incorporating supplements into your dog's daily health regimen. At-home remedies can support treatments from your vet, but they can't replace them.
Side Effects of Turmeric in Dogs
Even though they're usually safe, your dog may experience side effects when taking turmeric or curcumin (5). The amount of turmeric used in cooking isn't enough to cause problems, but supplements contain much higher concentrations.
Potential side effects of turmeric in dogs include:
- Diarrhea. Stomach upset is the most common side effect of turmeric for dogs. Some dogs handle it well, while others don't. Starting with a lower-dose supplement can help your dog's stomach get used to turmeric. Curcumin supplements may be gentler than raw turmeric powder for some dogs.
- Stomach ulcers. At high doses, turmeric supplements may damage your dog's stomach lining. Avoid turmeric if your dog has a history of ulcers or a "sensitive stomach." Stomach bleeding is dangerous to your dog's health.
- Allergic reactions. Like people, dogs can be allergic to foods and skincare products. Allergy severity can range from mild to deadly. Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately if they collapse, have trouble breathing, or go to the bathroom uncontrollably after taking turmeric. Also, stop using turmeric on your dog's skin if they develop a worsening rash or redness. Lastly, quit giving oral turmeric or curcumin supplements if your dog has diarrhea or stomach upset.
So, What's The Verdict on Turmeric?
In the end, there is conflicting information on the Internet about turmeric and curcumin for dogs. Most scientists and health providers agree that turmeric has not been shown to treat any health condition in people or pets.
Still, some pet owners online say that turmeric helps their dogs feel better. Turmeric is generally safe to try. Your veterinarian can help you incorporate turmeric into your dog's health plan, monitor for side effects, and keep your dog feeling great.