The spice of life...
agility owners, we are especially tuned in to our dogs’ healthcare needs and are
always on the lookout for the very best ways to ensure we are meeting those
needs and promoting their health and well-being. Whether it’s providing the best
nutrition we can afford to maintain optimum health, avoiding, as far as
possible, any issues that may impact their day to day wellbeing, or simply
supporting our beloved dogs as they age, agility people are very adept at
researching, sharing information and even producing new products for the benefit
of our dogs. As such, a large number of us have recently discovered turmeric and
its apparently miraculous healing abilities and lots of us are asking, 'Is it
too good to be true?' Carol Hunkin, a former agility competitor who lives with
two elderly agility dogs who have benefited from taking turmeric, explains why the golden
paste is taking the agility community by storm.
I started making Green Dog Deli's 'TLC' Turmeric Paste especially
for our old dog Spike, using the best ingredients I could identify and find, and
hoping that this would help to keep him well for as long as possible. Even with
a steadfast belief in the power of good nutrition and the use of herbs for
health, I could never have predicted the results we have seen.
We are all familiar with turmeric and its common
culinary use as an ingredient of curry powder, but its wider uses are not new.
longa (turmeric root to us) has been a staple of traditional Indian - and
Chinese - medicine for thousands of years. These ancient forms of medicine
follow a holistic approach, prioritising a good understanding of the causes of
disease and focusing on prevention by paying attention to nutrition and
lifestyle, including exercise. How remarkably similar that is to what we as a
community are already doing for our dogs. No wonder turmeric is proving such a
hit with animal guardians everywhere!
uses for turmeric root include:-
This spice boosts the body’s ability to
metabolise fats and contains a host of vitamins and minerals. It has also been
used as a dye. We will come back to this later!
Modern Western medicine has provided
significant research into the composition, safety and effects of turmeric and
its constituent ingredients and, as more and more benefits are being discovered,
this research is continuing. The whole root is now known to contain several
active substances with therapeutic benefits specifically pigments (including
curcumin – noted particularly for its anti-arthritic effects), volatile oils and
These active substances are being used to prevent and even treat
various cancers, to combat the inflammation associated with degenerative and
rheumatoid arthritis, IBD and surgical procedures, to reduce the build-up of
unhealthy cholesterol, preventing arteriosclerosis and to prevent and treat both
chronic and acute liver disease.
Some of its protective and therapeutic mechanisms are already
understood such as the various ways it protects us from damage that could be
caused by reactive molecules and poisonous chemicals. It also has the
therapeutic effects of slowing progression of tumours by inhibiting the
production of enzymes and shutting down blood flow to tumour cells. In addition,
it boosts a specific action of the immune system and has incredible natural
Further clinical trials are underway to determine the safety and
efficacy of various doses, administration routes and isolated chemicals derived
from the natural root.
use for our dogs
It is the anti-inflammatory effects that
make turmeric particularly of interest to the agility community. In our canine
athletes - as in all active bodies - accidental injuries and wear and tear take
their toll on muscles, joints and associated tissues and the resulting
inflammation can lead to loss of function, restriction, discomfort and lasting
pain. Finding a conveniently available, apparently very safe, potent natural
anti-inflammatory that comes with such a wide variety of other great benefits
might just seem too good to be true – and it almost is!
So what is the downside?
While the active
ingredients in turmeric do indeed offer all these fabulous effects, turmeric is
not well absorbed by the human or the canine body.
In addition, if we do find a safe way to get it into our blood
stream, our liver, as part of its role in detoxification, will mark it for
immediate dispatch and it will soon be eliminated again!
So how do you feed it?
However, all is not lost and there are various things we can do
to make sure we are getting the full benefit from eating our turmeric. And let’s
face it, as those of you who have tried it will know, it tastes pretty awful if
not part of a delicious, indulgent takeaway.
To ensure a high curcumin content, use a good quality, preferably
organic, turmeric root powder. As turmeric is fat soluble, the powder will not
dissolve well in water and this is one of the factors limiting its potential for
absorption. Before it became so popular as part of a homemade nutritional
supplement, those in the know used lecithin as a fat to make a slurry-like paste
and thus aid digestibility. Now, if you intend to make (or buy) your own
turmeric paste to promote health, it is commonly taken with a good quality,
healthy and nutritious oil – such as coconut oil, linseed oil or olive oil.
There may be reasons why one or other of these will be more
suitable for you or your dog, but, as far as turmeric efficacy goes, taking the
powdered root with any one of these oils will overcome the first hurdle to
next thing you can do to make sure you get the maximum benefit from consuming
turmeric is to take it alongside freshly ground black pepper. It is important to
use a good quality, preferably organic, black pepper, stored as whole corns and
freshly ground when needed. This is because piperine, an active ingredient in
black pepper, will lose its potency fairly rapidly once the pepper is ground and
it is this substance that is effective in preventing the liver accelerating the
removal of the turmeric from the body. Indeed, including piperine when taking
turmeric has been found to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to
Of course it is true that a good curry will probably include
turmeric, oil and pepper, but, unfortunately, even when all these boxes are
ticked the turmeric will still leave our bodies fairly rapidly, taking all its
benefits along with it, and for that reason it is best to take small amounts at
several intervals throughout the day.
For our dogs, this means either adding the individual ingredients
(or a readymade mix) to their meals or, if your dog will tolerate it, offering
the mixture direct from a spoon several times daily.
At this stage it is very important to revisit one of the
traditional uses of turmeric: its role as a vegetable dye. Unless you want to
have vibrantly yellow hands for a very long time, wear gloves when mixing it.
Unless you have a very effective power washer (or a very licky dog) don’t feed
it on a pristine patio and NEVER place a bowl containing turmeric paste on a
pale coloured carpet… you have been warned!
How much to give?
Start with a ¼ to ½ teaspoon and work up to a
maximum of 4 level teaspoons/one tablespoon a day if feeding the popular paste
made from tumeric, water, oil and pepper or up to 1.5 – 4g a day of the
things to consider
As with any food supplement used for therapeutic dosing or any herbal
remedy, do keep an eye out for any adverse reactions (e.g. allergies or
digestive upset) and ALWAYS talk it through with your vet if your dog is being
treated for pre-existing conditions.
plenty of fresh drinking water is available for your dog at all times.
Turmeric itself is contra-indicated where there
is a gallbladder or bile duct obstruction - as one of its effects is to increase
the production of bile in the liver - and should be used with caution in acute
liver disease, for the same reason. Using piperine to increase bioavailability
will also potentially effect absorption of other drugs and even toxins, so keep
this in mind and talk it over with your prescribing veterinary surgeon.
It is also very important to bear in mind, in
keeping with the holistic approach to health, that inflammation itself is often
a symptom and not a cause of disease. Inflammation is an important part of the
recovery process when tissues are damaged, and for this reason turmeric is often
used alongside other herbs and spices that promote healthy blood flow and
promote tissue healing.
If your dog is suffering from recurrent injury or
joint degeneration that cannot be attributed to a simple accident or the aging
process then management changes are also likely to be needed. Good nutrition,
appropriate exercise and mental stimulation will also ensure your dog retains
optimum health as he or she ages - dealing with symptoms alone is not enough.
A holistic veterinarian, veterinary herbalist or
canine nutritionist may be able to offer additional advice in all these areas.
Spikey is our 11 year old rescue dog (second from left
in picture below.) He had a troubled start in life and was already the veteran
of two homes and three different rescue centres before he came to us at three
months. Despite numerous empty threats to return him to the Blue Cross, we made
it through the challenging early days and he became the centre of our family and
beloved by all with the possible exception of the neighbours who were attempting
to make a film of their daughter's prom, but that's another story...
During his eleven years, Spikey has worked as a PAT dog and
trained and competed in agility with my elder daughter Ceri. This gave us many
years of happy weekends spent together, and for this I will always be most
Over the last two or three years our little comfort seeker became
less and less likely to leave his bean bag. He sometimes looked as though he was
struggling to get up and we noticed his shape was changing as he was
compensating for some obvious discomfort. He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis
and, although he remained well and happy, it looked as though his rabbit chasing
days were over. Good nutrition, close attention to his weight and regular
physical and laser therapy from an holistic vet were keeping Spikey comfortable
most of the time but his muscles were wasting and his hips were starting to
'click' when he moved faster than a walk.
Spikey now accompanies us on all the family walks and outings -
often for hours over the fields at a time. He is no longer having
the manipulations or laser therapy and is symmetrical again with good muscle
tone. A couple of nights ago he ended a three hour foray over the horse paddocks
with a sudden burst of energy after a rather foolish rabbit! He suffered no ill
effects the next day and was even able to leap off his beanbag to greet my elder
son who came to visit. We definitely have our old Spikey back, and we are all
absolutely over the moon. We're planning a camping trip to Cornwall for later
this summer and taking ALL the dogs with us. I didn't think this would be
possible again and firmly believe I have the effects of the turmeric paste to
thank. It's truly amazing.
I will just add that it is thanks to Spikey that I am aware of
the potential for staining when using the paste! He is a very reluctant subject
and has it smeared on his tongue each day. Never one to make things easy is our
Spike but we're looking forward to many more challenging years ahead!
Carol Hunkin is a complementary therapist and canine nutritionist who has been working in the
pet food industry for eight years. She is the founder and director of Green Dog
Deli, a consultant nutritionist and has recently opened Raw Planet, an
eco-friendly dog deli dedicated to providing top class nutrition and holistic
healthcare in an ethical and sustainable manner.
Visit Raw Planet at 9 & 10 Cornmarket, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 7HH or buy
Green Dog Deli’s readymade turmeric paste online on
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