I am skeptical by nature, especially when it comes to supplements. It’s not that I don’t believe that alternative treatments work — my dog benefited greatly from acupuncture — but I am hesitant to give my dog a supplement that hasn’t been backed up by research. I worry about side effects, medication interactions and plain old effectiveness. If it doesn’t work, I don’t see the point.
So when a friend suggested that I try turmeric for my dog’s arthritis, I tried not to roll my eyes. I wanted to help my dog’s arthritis, not season her with a cooking spice. To my surprise, a little research revealed that there might be something to my friend’s suggestion after all.
The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. It is what makes the spice yellow and also what gives the tasty spice its health benefits. Curcumin has the potential to combat a variety of health issues. So far, studies have mostly been in vitro, aka in a petri dish, which means that a lot more research needs to be done before we can conclusively say that it works. But people (and now people's pets) aren't waiting for studies to tell them what they already know is true — turmeric helps ease the symptoms of a lot of health issues.
Turns out, there are quite a few ways.
Curcumin is not absorbed very well by human and animal bodies, which means that you would need to give your dog a relatively high dosage of curcumin for it to have an effect. Pairing it with piperine, a black pepper extract, can help increase the absorption, but I was worried about the dosage level and what effects that might have on my dog.
There isn't a lot of information available about turmeric's side effects, but it can be assumed that dogs may experience some of the same side effects that people taking turmeric supplements may experience. Turmeric could possibly cause stomach upset, blood thinning and diarrhea, and it could potentially cause a drug interaction with other herbs or medications.
Sprinkling turmeric on your dog’s food is probably not the best way to go. If you want to try giving turmeric as a supplement for your dog, put down the spice jar and pick up the phone. Talk to your vet or find a holistic vet who can help you find the right dosage and supplement brand for your dog, and make sure that your dog actually has a condition like osteoarthritis before you start treating them on your own.
So will I try turmeric for my dog? I haven't decided, but I plan to bring it up with my vet at my dog's next visit. Since I am not a vet, here is my turmeric disclaimer: Supplements like turmeric might help your dog, but they are not a replacement for veterinary care. Your dog is like curry — a little turmeric adds flavor, but the curry needs a lot more than spice to make it tasty.
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