Top Five Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs by Dr Tom Shurlock of The Golden Paste Company
The rhizome of turmeric contains many bioactive compounds, including ranges of terpenoids, curcuminoids, curcumoids and pectic polysaccharides, all of which may impact on dog vitality. Although curcumin is often quoted as being the most important component, its antioxidative properties are complemented and enhanced by over 230 bioactive compounds. Turmeric is known to be safe for dogs and, when its absorption and bioavailability is stabilised has positive benefits over a number of situations.
Skin & Coat Health
The most obvious sign of a healthy dog is a shiny coat. However, the actual mechanisms providing this are complex and dependent on the status of the skin. Although the skin is regarded as a physical barrier of dead cells, it is actually a dynamic active system that combats all manners of attack from biological, chemical, physical and environmental factors. The initial impact of these attacks invokes a localised inflammatory response releasing oxidative cues.
Turmeric contains a range of antioxidative bioactive materials, including curcuminoids and terpenes that interact within the oxidation/inflammation cycles, helping to reduce the generation of inflammatory cytokines, maintaining the integrity of the skin’s barrier function. At the same time turmeric’s essential oils (actually terpenoids), secreted with the body’s sebum help provide a protective layer over the skin and coat. The terpenoids also have the function of reducing the ability of ectoparasites, such as ticks, to attach to the hairs and so help reduce infestations. Likewise, they also function to reduce fungal attachments. In short dietary turmeric supports the skin’s ability to protect the dog from external stresses.
Bone problems, especially in the articular and hip joints, are a major cause of premature terminations in dogs. An otherwise healthy dog can suffer from joint pain and immobility, which needs medication or euthanasia. A major pathway of joint degeneration is through oxidative stress. Wear and tear leads to inflammation, causing the suppression of antioxidative enzymes and the stimulation of oxidative enzymes, leading to the suppression of collagen synthesis – a key component of the cartilage coating bones. At the same time inflammatory cues and oxidative stress act directly to breakdown collagen resulting in cartilage damage, which in turn leads to osteoarthritis. The key components of turmeric, especially curcumin, have been shown to have various functions. Curcumin supports the synthesis of the antioxidative enzymes SOD & GTP, whilst reducing the oxidative NOS, those enzymes that are involved in collagen stasis. It also acts as a free radical scavenger, and reduces lipid peroxidation, both systems that are involved in collagen breakdown. As such, curcumin can help support the maintenance of cartilage, a key element in joint health.
What people tend not to realise is that hard exercise is not only damaging to joints but also can impact directly on the muscles involved. And, of course, dogs love to run; and various types of exercise can impact on muscle integrity. We know that exercise can lead to aching muscles and a feeling of weakness, and there is a twofold reason for this.
Firstly, hard exercise can lead to the build-up of lactic acid – this is a result of burning energy as glucose where there is insufficient oxygen to progress down the main energic pathway. This gives aches. Secondly, exercise dissolves the protein in the muscle which needs time to recover; this is the weakness. Both mechanisms, although perfectly natural, and only require time for recovery generate inflammation. As a bonus, in the older animal there is a general “inflamm-aging” – a term used for inflammation due just to living longer!
Regular activity may cause a build-up of inflammatory cues. Inflammation is a natural defence mechanism in the body, protecting and ring-fencing vulnerable systems or areas until repair or maintenance is achieved. Where the system may fail is if chronic inflammation occurs and the cycle never reaches the anti-inflammatory phase.
Turmeric, with its terpenoids (essential oils) and curcuminoids can support the cycle in the anti-inflammatory phase and so help the body control inflammation more efficiently. In the case of activity this leads to less inflammatory dysfunction around activity, improved recovery times and, in the case of energy release, supports insulin sensitivity.
In Eastern folk medicine turmeric was used as a digestive product to keep the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) healthy and running efficiently. The GIT is an amazingly complex and complicated organ, interacting with a varied microbial population (the microbiotica) along its entire and changing length. The whole system is known as the microbiome. Problems are derived from what the dog eats – leading to possible ulceration, constipation or diarrhoea, to ingestion of pathogens and toxins; any of these will cause disruption to the microbiotica and this can cause illness. Across the plant kingdom phenolics are part of their mechanism to protect themselves against bacteria. Curcumin appears particularly effective against many pathogens, as well as E. coli, clostridia and listeria. Linked with the ability of turmeric’s pectic component to help stimulate the protective mucus lining of the gut, its antioxidative property interacts with prostaglandin production that helps reduce ulcerogenic agents in the duodenum; turmeric has a positive impact on the microbiome. Finally, curcumin has been shown to help maintain tight junctions in the gut wall, which is important in reducing the absorption of complex toxin structures.
Certain aspects of wellbeing have been touched upon; the gut is the major immune system of the dog. Areas, such as Peyer’s Patches house immunological mechanisms that are the first line of defence against any perceived threat. These may be allergens, toxins, pathogens, some waste products from the microbiotica, and even cancer cells. Peyer’s Patches release macrophages that engulf these alien “invaders” whilst releasing inflammatory cytokines. As with these situations turmeric components interact within the oxidative/inflammatory cues that help support the immunomodulatory mechanisms that counteract attacks against the body.
Further, throughout the body turmeric components, acting as antioxidants help maintain normal metabolic function against the negative effects of inefficient biochemical reactions. In short, turmeric supports wellbeing by helping the body achieve optimum function.
Turmeric contains components that have a wide variety of metabolic actions but, in simple terms, help the body’s natural support and repair mechanisms. As such, turmeric is an ideal supplement for any life situation for dogs.