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Benefits of Curcumin for Pets

Inflammation in the body is not necessarily a bad thing. It is an important part of the immune system to attempt to heal the body from injury, defend against viruses and bacteria and to repair tissue. However, it is a mechanism that often goes awry and causes many chronic conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), arthritis, asthma, colitis, Crohn’s Disease and ulcers. In such instances, anti-inflammatory compounds such as turmeric can come to the rescue, helping decrease inflammation.

Let’s take a look at some of the many anti-inflammatory benefits of curcumin for pets.

Macrophages and Inflammation

Recently, researchers at Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College Dublin discovered that macrophage cells – which react to infection by jumpstarting inflammation and then depress it to repair the damage – switch the role of mitochondria from energy production to toxic compound production that then amplify inflammation. The scientists now hope to figure out how to suppress macrophages to an appropriate level to reduce associated tissue damage when the body’s inflammation alert status has amped up too far.[1][2]

turmeric - benefits of curcumin

However, the development and release of new medications to suppress macrophages probably will not occur for several years and we do not know the potential side effects. In the meantime, we have several options and some of them are not the best.

For instance, corticosteroids suppress the immune system to reduce inflammation. Another popular prescription or over-the-counter option is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Think Advil. Most NSAIDs inhibit inflammatory mediators from stimulating more inflammatory mediators. However, corticosteroids and NSAIDs can cause liver and kidney problems, or even other inflammations like gastritis that can lead to gastrointestinal ulcers.

So, what is the alternative I prefer? Curcumin.

What is Curcumin?

Curcumin is derived from the Indian spice, turmeric. [Note: curcumin is not in cumin, another popular spice with a similar name.] Curcumin has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for ages. It is gaining popularity and is widely studied in medicine for its anti-cancer, antioxidant, antineoplastic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Curcumin actually works similarly to NSAIDs because it also inhibits the inflammatory mediators from creating more of them without damaging the gastrointestinal area. Curcumin may in fact help heal or prevent inflammatory conditions in the gut.

For example, it is estimated that 80% of the cases of gastric ulcers are due to the use of NSAIDs.[3] One study, in particular, compared rats treated with NSAIDs to rats treated with NSAIDs and curcumin. In the NSAIDs only group, blood tests revealed that stomachs showed a mild to moderate white blood cell increase. (White blood cells are the indicators of inflammation levels in the body.) Their biopsies showed that the lesions were erosive and ulcerative.

In rats treated with both, the results were better: only a mild white blood cell increase; and, fewer erosive lesions in the stomach lining.[4] Another study indicated that curcumin actually increased the gastric wall mucus to combat NSAID inflammation.[5]

Curcumin and IBD

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a painful condition without a cure. Currently, the protocol is to avoid the foods that may cause the inflammation. However, researchers do know some of the earmarks that are associated with the disease. For instance, lipid peroxidation is the oxidation of fats in the body and has been implicated as an IBD perpetuator. Additionally, nitric oxide has been shown to be overly produced and present in people with IBD. Taking these two and other factors into account, Indian researchers induced IBD in mice and then treated them with curcumin. They concluded that curcumin demonstrates antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects because of reductions in:

  • Upregulation of pro-inflammatory Th1 cytokine response leading to the suppression of nitric oxide and a decrease of the recruitment of white blood cells.
  • Lipid peroxidation.
  • Tissue injury.

A similar and simultaneous study in Japan showed the same results.[6]

Curcumin and Osteoarthritis

What about other inflammatory conditions not around the gut? A study by Colitti et al. compared NSAIDs treatment to curcumin treatment for dogs with osteoarthritis. They wanted to find out how the two different treatments affected the gene expression of peripheral white blood cells. After 20 days of treatment, they measured their results and showed that both groups had significant decreases in the differentially expressed transcripts. Genes involved in inflammatory response and in connective tissue development and function dramatically decreased.

However, specific molecular targets of the curcumin group were not observed in the NSAID group such as:

  • Up-regulation in the tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR-1) signaling pathway.
  • Down-regulation in the role of pro-inflammatory interleukin 18 (IL-18) cytokines in mediating communication between immune cells. People with Crohn’s Disease – an inflammatory intestinal dysfunction – have an abundant amount of IL-18.
  • Fibrinolysis, which is the breakdown of the enzyme fibrin in blood clots.

Ultimately, the authors concluded that the results suggested that curcumin offers a complementary anti-inflammatory support for osteoarthritis treatment in dogs.[7]

Based on the evidence, I recommend discussing the use of curcumin in addition to or in lieu of NSAIDs with your holistic veterinarian. Curcumin provides the same beneficial anti-inflammatory effects as NSAIDs without causing any harm to the gut.

Curcumin Cautions

Of course, there can be drawbacks from curcumin use. It may increase the risk of bleeding when given in combination with some medications such as NSAIDs, blood thinners and antiplatelet drugs or when given with certain foods such as botanicals, Gingko biloba, garlic and saw palmetto. Consult with your veterinarian if your dog is on chemotherapy, as curcumin can decrease the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs.

Curcumin Dosage

Two challenges occur with curcumin: it is poorly absorbed across the GI tract and it is rapidly cleared from the blood. To overcome these hurdles, I advise giving your dog a high quality curcumin supplement in conjunction with a fatty food such as olive oil or fish oil, which can increase its absorption.

To ensure a steady supply of curcumin in the bloodstream, divide the dosage and space evenly three times throughout the day. While the exact dosing has not been determined in dogs, studies have used curcumin in doses ranging from 500 to 3,600 mg per day.

I prefer curcumin supplements made for human use and recommend Now Foods Curcumin, which does not contain any additional ingredients to which many dogs and cats are reactive. Be sure to divide the dosage in a manner appropriate for the size of your pet.

As always, I hope that you enjoyed this article on the benefits of curcumin for pets and that it helps you and your four-legged companion to enjoy many healthy, happy years together!

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  1. [1]Mills EL, Kelly B, Logan A…O’Neill LA. (2016). ‘Succinate Dehydrogenase Supports Metabolic Repurposing of Mitochondria to Drive Inflammatory Macrophages’, Cell, Retrieved from http://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(16)31162-X.
  2. [2]NutritionReview.org. (2016, Sept. 24). New Finding May Lead to Effective Therapy for Inflammatory Diseases, Nutrition Review, Retrieved from http://nutritionreview.org/2016/09/new-finding-may-lead-to-new-therapy-for-inflammatory-diseases/.
  3. [3]Kumar Yada S, Kumar Sah A, Kumar Jha R, Sah P & Kumar Shah D. (2013). ‘Turmeric (curcumin) remedies gastroprotective action’, Pharmacognosy Reviews, vol. 7, no. 13, pp.42–46.
  4. [4]Thong-Ngam D, Choochuai S, Patumraj S, Chayanupatkul M & Klaikeaw N. (2012). ‘Curcumin prevents indomethacin-induced gastropathy in rats’, World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 18, no. 13, pp. 1479–1484.
  5. [5]. Rafatullah S, Tariq M, Al-Yahya MA, Mossa JS & Ageel AM. (1990). ‘Evaluation of turmeric (Curcuma longa) for gastric and duodenal antiulcer activity in rats’, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 25-34.
  6. [6]Ukil A,
    Maity S, Karmakar S, Datta N, Vedasiromoni JR & Das PK. (2003). ‘Curcumin, the major component of food flavour turmeric, reduces mucosal injury in trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid-induced colitis’, British Journal of Pharmacology’, vol. 139, no. 2, pp. 209–218.
  7. [7]Colitti M, Gaspardo B, Della Pria A, Scaini C & Stefanon B. (2012). ‘Transcriptome modification of white blood cells after dietary administration of curcumin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in osteoarthritic affected dogs’, Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, vol. 147, nos. 3–4, pp. 136–146.

Comments

  1. Julia Mollica says:

    Thank you

  2. karen paul says:

    Since the Now Foods Curcumin is dosed for adults what would you give an 18 pound dog. Also my dog has an extremely sensitive stomach and has in the past had a few episodes of chronic pancreatitis. Would the curcumin upset her stomach in any way?

    • Hi Karen,

      Curcumin can upset the stomach or worsen GERD (acid reflux). I would begin conservatively, with about 1/4 of the NOW Foods capsule. I have seen no research that turmeric would in any way incite pancreatitis, and in fact it decreases inflammation, which would be beneficial. However, you must obviously be careful regarding using too much fat as the delivery system. In your dog’s case, I would simply sprinkle some of the turmeric into the meat portion of her meal.

      Best,

      Diana

  3. Shelly Skoog-Smith says:

    I bought curcumin & pepper capsules for myself but they don’t agree with me. Would it be OK to give these to my dog with the pepper in there? Thanks!

  4. Margot Haycook says:

    I have a 8-10 lb. 10 yr old Abyssinian cat experiencing IBD. Have had on a homemade diet (turkey recipe By Dr. Lisa Pierson DVM) since July. She’s improving but still have issues. What dosage of curcumin would you recommend?

    Thank you,
    Margot

  5. Hi Diana,

    I’m so happy to have found your website! My beloved dogs are about to turn 10 years old and I am panicking. My Bassett hound has just started walking with difficulty this last week, so I am searching high and low for foods that might help her. I started feeding her ‘golden paste’ of turmeric and coconut oil and she loves it! Would you suggest using curcumin instead of turmeric?

    Thanks again – it’s so good to know there are people out there who invest so much time and energy into learning what can help our much loved animals.

    Bonnie