Pomeranian with turmeric

Turmeric for Dogs: Is It Effective?

Posted by Lianne McLeod D.V.M. on

Pomeranian with turmeric

As a loving dog owner, you're always looking for safe, natural ways to support your four-legged friend's overall health. One supplemental ingredient to consider is turmeric, a plant that is widely grown in Asia and used as a spice, food coloring, and traditional medicine.

From alleviating pain and chronic inflammation to boosting cognitive function, turmeric may offer a range of therapeutic properties worth exploring for your dog’s health. In this article, we'll look in-depth at the science behind turmeric and its practical applications for improving and maintaining your pup's quality of life.
 

turmeric for dogs
 

Understanding Turmeric for Dogs

Turmeric continues to be studied for its potential benefits in preventing and alleviating symptoms of various diseases in dogs. The active compounds in turmeric, particularly curcumin, have shown promise in managing immune-inflammatory diseases of the gut, joints, brain, and body in pets.

Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs

A closer look at curcumin reveals a nutraceutical ingredient packed with therapeutic properties that may provide a wide range of health benefits for your four-legged friends.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

One of curcumin's most well-researched qualities is its ability to help manage chronic inflammation. It has been shown to help manage chronic inflammatory conditions in dogs such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The anti-inflammatory action is due to curcumin's ability to inhibit inflammatory cytokines and enzymes.

Antioxidant Protection

In addition to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, curcumin is a strong antioxidant compound. Antioxidants aid in neutralizing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress that can damage cells over time. For old dogs especially, improving their antioxidant reserves could be key to extending their life span by reducing cellular damage and deterioration from oxidative stress.

Cancer-Fighting Properties

Curcumin may help inhibit the growth and spread of certain canine cancers. It has exhibited promising results against canine osteosarcoma, one of the most common bone cancers found in dogs. Research indicates curcumin's anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions may slow tumor development and proliferation of cancer cells.

Improved Joint Health

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric can help as a natural joint supplement for dogs suffering from arthritis, hip/elbow dysplasia, and other degenerative joint conditions.  


The curcumin in turmeric helps reduce inflammation in affected joints, alleviating stiffness and discomfort while improving mobility and range of motion. These anti-inflammatory benefits may allow lower dosages or reduced dependency on joint pain medications over time. 

Cognitive Function and Brain Health

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric help support optimal brain function by reducing oxidative damage from free radicals over time. Improved circulation and neuroprotective effects may aid in preventing age-related deterioration as well. 

These  antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties may also prevent your dog’s cognitive decline from conditions like:

  • Canine Dementia/Alzheimer's 

  • Chronic Neurological Diseases

  • Brain Trauma/Concussion Effects

Digestive and Gut Health 

Turmeric's anti-inflammatory properties extend into potential digestive and gut health benefits. When dogs eat turmeric, curcumin helps reduce inflammation throughout the gastrointestinal tract, potentially providing relief from issues like:

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

  • Colitis

  • Pancreatitis

  • General Stomach Upset

Skin and Coat Support

Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, dog turmeric has also demonstrated potential benefits for promoting healthier skin and coat conditions in dogs.  

Curcumin's anti-inflammatory action may help reduce symptoms associated with allergic or environmental dermatitis reactions that cause itchy, irritated skin. Its antioxidant property can also reduce oxidative damage that accelerates skin aging.

Natural Pain Relief

Perhaps turmeric's most significant benefit for a dog’s health is its ability to provide natural, long-lasting pain relief from inflammation and injuries. Turmeric's analgesic properties may decrease inflammation and provide notable pain relief for joints, arthritis, and post-surgical pain.

The best part? Turmeric's natural origins mean fewer side effects or complications compared to long-term medication use. It's a safe, gentle way to help keep your dog comfortable while avoiding unnecessary drug interventions.

Tick Repellant

Turmeric oil can be used as a natural tick repellent, reducing the risk of tick-borne diseases.

Study shows that turmeric oil can prevent tick attachment and has a longer residual activity compared to other essential oils, making it an effective component of a tick management program for dogs.

Happy dog with turmeric
 

How to Use Turmeric for Dogs

When it comes to introducing turmeric into your dog's diet or supplement regimen, the variety of product choices can feel overwhelming at first. From basic turmeric powder stocked in supermarket spice aisles to specialized dog supplements, how do you determine the ideal turmeric form for your pup's needs?

Choosing the Right Form of Turmeric for Your Dog

The first key factor is selecting products containing standardized turmeric (ST) extracts. Unlike basic turmeric powder which can vary widely in its concentration of active curcumin compounds, ST formulas are designed to deliver consistent, potent doses for a healthy dog’s diet.

Turmeric Powder

For pet owners looking for the simplest, most cost-effective turmeric supplementation, basic turmeric powder certainly fills the bill. Most major supermarkets and health food stores have turmeric spice powders suitable for dogs.

Ideally, choose organic turmeric powders without any additives, preservatives, or potential contaminants from pesticides. These powders can be mixed into your dog's food or incorporated into homemade treat recipes.

The advantage of using turmeric powder is convenience and cost. However, the drawback is inconsistent dosing since turmeric powders can vary significantly in their potency levels between brands or production batches. Monitoring your dog's response closely is key if supplementing with loose powders.

Pre-Made Turmeric Treats and Chews

Pre-made snacks deliver turmeric's benefits in tasty, chewable forms that are more enticing to dogs than basic powders or capsules. Established pet product manufacturers include precise dosages of turmeric extract tailored for canine consumption within each treat.

The downside is these convenient turmeric bites do come at a higher price point compared to DIY powder or supplement options. However, for dogs requiring supplement "disguising," infused turmeric treats can be an ideal delivery solution. With their built-in portion control, they take the guesswork out of achieving proper turmeric serving sizes in pet foods.

Turmeric Supplements

For the utmost dosage accuracy, liquid turmeric extracts and encapsulated supplements formulated specifically for pets provide optimal control over exactly how much turmeric your dog consumes.

These dog-friendly turmeric products typically contain standardized curcumin extracts to maximize the concentration of active therapeutic compounds. Their dosages are also calibrated precisely based on weight ranges to avoid inadvertently oversupplementing smaller breeds.  

While often the most expensive turmeric option upfront, high-quality pet supplements do ensure your dog receives proper, consistent dosing without filler ingredients or impurities from human-grade turmeric products.

Dosage Recommendations

No matter which turmeric delivery method you choose for your dog, it's crucial to start supplementation using lower doses and monitor their response carefully before increasing.

According to experts, turmeric tincture is recommended at 0.05 mL per kg of complete feed for dogs. Higher doses provide no additional benefits and could lead to adverse side effects.

Most turmeric product manufacturers provide weight-based dosage guidelines to follow. However, it's always advisable to consult your veterinarian beforehand about recommended dosages based on your individual dog's age, size, and any existing health issues.

Incorporating Turmeric into Meals

For powder or liquid turmeric supplements, you may find it is easier to simply mix the recommended daily portion into your dog's regular meals or favorite wet dog food.

Be sure to evenly blend the turmeric powder or liquid thoroughly into the entire dog food portion to avoid concentrated areas of intense turmeric flavor that dogs may find unpalatable.  Powders can clump, so mixing with a small amount of oil or broth helps achieve uniform distribution.

Using Turmeric Supplements and Monitoring

If you choose encapsulated or chewable turmeric supplements, follow all label instructions carefully. Be sure to give them to your dog with sufficient food and water since larger doses of concentrated curcumin can potentially cause digestive irritation.

Watch closely for any signs of allergic reactions like vomiting, diarrhea, or skin irritations when first introducing a turmeric supplement. While rare, some dogs may exhibit turmeric sensitivities requiring discontinuation.  

Long-term monitoring is important too, especially when using turmeric alongside other medications or treatments. Regularly check in with your veterinarian to make dosage adjustments as needed based on your dog's ongoing bloodwork and condition.

Turmeric Alongside Other Therapies

In many cases, turmeric provides an excellent complementary therapy option to help reduce dependence on medications like opiates, steroids, and antidepressants for managing chronic conditions in dogs.

Its natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have demonstrated effectiveness in enhancing conventional treatments for:

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Cognitive/Dementia Issues  

  • Hip/Elbow Dysplasia

  • Allergies/Dermatitis

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease 

  • Certain Cancers

 
risks of turmeric for dogs
 

Risks and Side Effects of Turmeric for Dogs

While turmeric's natural origins and extensive use throughout history make it seem inherently safe, it's important to understand that this powerful spice does carry some potential risks and side effects for your canine companions.

Gastrointestinal Issues

One of the most commonly reported side effects of excessive turmeric or curcumin intake in dogs is gastrointestinal upset and irritation. High dosages of these compounds can potentially cause:

  • Stomach Discomfort

  • Nausea/Vomiting

  • Diarrhea  

  • Constipation

  • Loss of Appetite

Dogs with existing gastrointestinal sensitivities like inflammatory bowel disease or regular instances of vomiting may be at an elevated risk of turmeric exacerbating these issues if not dosed properly.  

It’s crucial to start supplementation slowly with small amounts and work up gradually. Sudden high doses are more likely to trigger GI distress like loose stools. It's also advisable to give turmeric with food rather than on an empty stomach to buffer its intensity and prevent potential gastric irritation or ulceration, especially in smaller dogs.

 
cancer cell proliferation in dogs turmeric
 

Cancer Cell Proliferation Concerns

In certain conditions, turmeric ethanol extract has been shown to stimulate the rapid growth and division of bone cancer cells in dogs. For pet parents whose pups face active cancers, it's critical to consult oncology veterinary specialists before considering turmeric as a supplement.

Turmeric-Drug Interactions

Because turmeric and its curcumin compounds exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and other physiological effects, they can interact with various prescription medications that your dog may be taking. Some of the most significant medication interactions with turmeric include:

  • Analgesics (Opiates)

  • Antidepressants

  • Steroids

  • Anticancer Medications

In many cases, turmeric can increase or decrease the bioavailability of these drugs, inadvertently altering their intended effects. This could lead to toxicity issues or simply prevent standard treatment from working as intended.

Liver Toxicity

Excessive, extended consumption of high turmeric doses has been associated with cases of liver inflammation, elevated liver enzymes, and potential liver damage in both humans and animals.

For most dogs following proper, recommended dosage levels, the risks of liver toxicity are minimal and outweighed by turmeric's potential therapeutic benefits. But pet owners with dogs already facing liver disease or damage should avoid turmeric as a supplement, as it could potentially further overtax this vital organ.

Monitoring is also advisable through routine bloodwork if your dog receives turmeric long-term. Any concerning patterns in liver enzyme levels can quickly be addressed by adjusting turmeric intake or discontinuation entirely if needed.

Impact on Iron Absorption

Another potential issue involves turmeric's effect on iron absorption. Iron is a crucial mineral for dogs, playing a vital role in the production of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen throughout the body. 

Turmeric may inhibit or reduce the absorption of iron from the digestive system. This could be a significant concern for dogs already struggling with iron deficiencies or anemia, as supplementing with turmeric could worsen these conditions and lead to more severe health complications.

Allergic Reactions

Some dogs may experience allergic reactions to turmeric. Signs of allergic reactions include:

  • Skin irritation such as itching, redness, rashes, or hives

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Breathing difficulties

  • Wheezing

To minimize the risk of allergic reactions, introduce new ingredients like turmeric gradually. Start with small amounts and watch for any adverse effects before increasing the dosage. If your dog has a history of allergies, consult your vet before adding turmeric to their diet.
 

the takeaway about turmeric for dogs
 

The Takeaway

While turmeric holds significant potential as a natural, therapeutic supplement for dogs, it's important to approach it with caution. Consulting your veterinarian, sourcing high-quality turmeric products, monitoring for adverse reactions, and carefully calculating ideal dosages are all crucial steps toward safely and effectively incorporating turmeric. 

Turmeric can be an outstanding addition to your dog's wellness regimen when used responsibly and under proper guidance. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may provide relief for conditions like arthritis, cognitive issues, and skin irritations. With its rich history in traditional medicine combined with modern scientific validation, this ancient root holds expansive possibilities for pets.

References

  1. Chand, N. (2019). Standardized Turmeric and Curcumin. In: Gupta, R., Srivastava, A., Lall, R. (eds) Nutraceuticals in Veterinary Medicine. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-04624-8_1

  2. Kępińska-Pacelik J, Biel W. Turmeric and Curcumin—Health-Promoting Properties in Humans versus Dogs. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2023; 24(19):14561. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms241914561

  3. Alves, N. M., Cruz, V. de S., Nepomuceno, L. L., Soares, N. P., Arnhold, E., Graziani, D., Gonçalves, P. de A. M., Badan, G. H. S., Santos, A. da M., & Araújo, E. G. de. (2022). Turmeric ethanol extract (Curcuma longa L.) reduces apoptosis and promotes canine osteosarcoma cell proliferation. Ciência Animal Brasileira, 23, e-72715. https://doi.org/10.1590/1809-6891v23e-72215e

  4. Goode, P., Ellse, L., & Wall, R. (2018). Preventing tick attachment to dogs using essential oils. Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases, 9(4). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2018.03.029

  5. Gopinath, H., & Karthikeyan, K. (2018). Turmeric: A condiment, cosmetic and cure. In Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprology (Vol. 84, Issue 1). https://doi.org/10.4103/ijdvl.IJDVL_1143_16

  6. Soleimani, V., Sahebkar, A., & Hosseinzadeh, H. (2018). Turmeric (Curcuma longa) and its major constituent (curcumin) as nontoxic and safe substances: Review. In Phytotherapy Research (Vol. 32, Issue 6). https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.6054

  7. Ganiger, S., Malleshappa, H. N., Krishnappa, H., Rajashekhar, G., Ramakrishna Rao, V., & Sullivan, F. (2007). A two generation reproductive toxicity study with curcumin, turmeric yellow, in Wistar rats. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 45(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fct.2006.07.016

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AUTHOR

Lianne McLeod, DVM, is a former writer for The Spruce Pets, contributing articles for 11 years. Before Dr. McLeod began writing about pet care, she worked several years in small animal practice. She has written extensively about the care and keeping of exotic pets and pet health care. She now researches water quality and chronic disease at the University of Saskatchewan. Lianne McLeod earned her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. She also received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Simon Fraser University. She continued her education and received a Ph.D. in Epidemiology from the University of Saskatchewan. Now, she splits her time between her family, research and writing about pet health for all the animal lovers out there.


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