A holistic approach to health is centered around natural sources of preventative care. By taking care of our bodies and being mindful about what we put into them, we become healthier, avoiding and minimizing ailments. This practice of living a holistic lifestyle can be extended to our pets. One of our family's daily staples is turmeric. It's as good for our dogs as it is for us.
what is turmeric?
Turmeric is a plant in the ginger family. It is native to southeast India and is used in powder form as a spice in Indian food and curries. It is a natural dye (you'll find it in mustard), and it's flavor is earthy and bitter. The active agent in turmeric is called "curcumin," and is a natural pain reliever.
what's the big whoop about turmeric?
Turmeric has been used for healing in Indian cultures for centuries but is only relatively recently getting a lot of buzz in western cultures as a preventative and healing substance, mainly when consumed as a supplement. Clinical trials have recently begun, but turmeric is widely thought to have many preventative and natural medicinal properties. It is used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and antiviral, and is even thought to aid in cancer prevention and treatment. Wikipedia states that:
As of December 2013, turmeric is being evaluated for its potential efficacy against several human diseases in clinical trials, including kidney and cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, several types of cancer, and irritable bowel disease. Turmeric is also being investigated for potential treatment of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and other clinical disorders."
I'm not waiting for the "official" FDA approval. Since there are no negative side effects to supplementing with turmeric (unless you are allergic or have a blood-clotting disorder), it can't do me any harm, so why not? I have been using turmeric powder in my morning drink for nearly two years and have recently started my dog, N.A.S.H.A. on a small amount. As with any preventative treatment, results can't really be pinpointed with regard to what I may have been subjected to had I not been supplementing, but I can attest to it's healing properties.
I have suffered for years from joint issues in my hand as a result of broken bones that occurred in 2007. My knuckles would be painful and difficult to bend and utilize, especially in the cold winter months. Since supplementing with turmeric, my hand has not been a source of pain. I also feel that as my workout schedule has intensified over the last year, turmeric has helped my body heal and repair itself, which is something that took much longer before I began using it. I prefer using turmeric to synthetic workout supplements. I have also noticed a drastic reduction in my environmental allergies, including hay-fever and non-lethal food allergies.
is turmeric safe for my dog?
Generally speaking, we should avoid giving spices to dogs. Turmeric is one rare exception. If proper dosage is followed, turmeric is safe for dogs.
what can turmeric do for my dog?
We've talked about the main benefits of turmeric that apply to humans and dogs alike. After looking at several sources, including healthydogclub.com and dogsnaturallymagazine.com, I've compiled what I think is a fairly decent list of the benefits turmeric brings to the canine variety (and to us):
• supports heart health (lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) levels)
• supports liver health and function
• aids in weight management
• helps with stomach issues and digestion
• prevention and control of ear infections
• prevention and control of sinus infections
• kills parasites
* prevents cararacts
• heals damage from diabetes
• aids in the treatment of epilepsy
• provides allergy relief
• treats depression
• treats diarrhea (is a binding agent)
• excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals
WHEW! That's a whole lotta good, if you ask me!
Turmeric's role in cancer prevention and treatment in humans and animals has been receiving a lot of attention lately. I won't go into detail about my political views regarding medicine, but suffice it to say that I'm anxious and eager to know what the results of recent studies are. Dogsnaturallymagazine.com cites a UCLA study that indicates that "curcumin (active in turmeric) can inhibit tumor growth and may even shrink existing tumors...(and) antioxidant properties are also helpful in reducing the negative side effects of chemotherapy."
It might be a good long wait to hear that turmeric is a preventative therapy or cure for cancer, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to give it a try in the meantime.
Dogsnaturallymagazine.com also reports that "turmeric boosts the liver's ability to metabolize fat and remove waste from the body," so it can aid in weight management. Although I have been working my butt off for the last year by working out intensely and consistently, I'm sure my use of turmeric supported my efforts at the very least. Through hard work and natural, healthy living, I've been able to shed thirty pounds. That's like three N.A.S.H.A.s! If you have an overweight pooch, this might be another benefit to consider.
how much turmeric should I give my dog?
Turmeric is available in pill and powder form, and the root can also be purchased fresh (best used in cooking). I just add it to my morning drink, which also includes apple cider vinegar, and I sprinkle it on my dog's food, so our favored form is powder. Some people and dogs don't like the taste of turmeric, so a capsule (pill) may be a better choice.
When adding it to your dog's food, it's best to start gradually, mainly so your pooch can get used to the distinct flavor. What you start with and your ideal amount will depend on the size of your dog. The amount you'll want to work up to is approximately a quarter teaspoon for every ten pounds of body weight. Start with one-eighth to one-quarter teaspoon and increase in the same increment each day until the ideal amount is achieved, then maintain that amount daily.
For example, my 11-pound dog's ideal supplement amount would be a one-quarter teaspoon. We started her out on one-eighth teaspoon and it went like this:
day one: 1/8 tsp.
day two: 1/4 tsp. Now we'll maintain that. Our pooch is pretty adaptable to my supplement shenanigans, but if your pooch is more picky, feel free to stay with 1/8 for several days.
If you have an 80-pound dog, it would go like this:
day one: 1/4 tsp.
day two: 1/2 tsp.
day three: 3/4 tsp.
day four: 1 tsp.
day five: 1 1/4 tsp.
day six: 1 1/2 tsp.
day seven: 1 3/4 tsp.
day eight: 2 tsp. (Provide daily moving forward)
FINAL DOSE: 1/4 tsp for every ten pounds of body weight.
are there any other considerations?
Eating a quality diet is the key to any holistic health plan. If you are feeding your dog a low-quality kibble, chances are the turmeric won't be able to compensate for the toxins entering the body. If you feed your dog quality kibble, homemade, raw food, or any combination thereof, the turmeric will be much more effective. The same goes for you (though I'm assuming you're not eating kibble)!
It's best to purchase high-quality, organic turmeric in order to avoid pesticides and herbicides and reap the maximum benefit.
Turmeric can stain. It does stain. Be careful of counters, kitchen towels, and the like. If you notice your white doggy has a yellow mustache, turmeric is probably to blame. I've been told on a couple of occasions to wipe my turmeric mustache (by friends whom I've turned onto the stuff...we look out for each other).
As with any new endeavor, please consult your veterinarian.
Just get started! You and your dog can do it together. And please come back and let me know your results!
This article, written by me, originally appeared on Hybrid Rasta Mama.