The ‘Cure’ in Curcumin: This Spice May Be The Solution to Your Dog’s Lameness
Soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) injuries are common in active dogs. In one study of agility dogs, 87% of all injuries involved soft tissues (1). Muscles heal quickly and generally return to full function, but tendons and ligaments are notoriously difficult to heal and frequently resolve by deposition of scar tissue, which impairs function.
Another common painful condition in active dogs is osteoarthritis, which is thought to affect 1 in 5 adult dogs in North America, and almost certainly affects an even higher proportion of active dogs (2).
Anything that claims to improve the lives of dogs with tendinopathy or arthritis is definitely worth checking out, so two studies of the effects of the spice curcumin on tendon healing and arthritis caught my attention. Earlier studies had suggested that curcumin might be used to treat chronic inflammatory illnesses such as neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, neoplastic, pulmonary, metabolic and autoimmune diseases (3). So let’s check out the results of those two studies.
1. Effects of Curcumin on Tendon Healing
In this study, investigators compared effects of curcumin on the healing of tendons in rats (4). They found that, in comparison to placebo-treated rat tendons, curcumin-treated rat tendons had:
- More organized, parallel tendon collagen fibers. The placebo-treated rat tendons randomly oriented fibers, which resembled scar tissue (see Figure),
- More type I collagen, the main protein that gives tendons their strength,
- Lower levels of MDA, a marker of tissue damage, and higher levels of MnSOD, a key anti-oxidant that prevents tissue damage, and
- Higher tensile strength.
Ok, so it looks like curcumin can improve the speed and quality of tendon healing in rats. But what about dogs?
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Figure. Curcumin-treated rat tendons (right) had more organized fibers and more protein content (indicated by the deeper pink color) than the tendons of placebo-treated rats (left).
2. Effects of Curcumin on Osteoarthritis in Dogs
Before we look at this paper, we need to take a brief fantasy trip back to basic high school biology. Remember how you learned that genes are responsible for manufacturing all of the molecules in the body? Well, for these molecules to be made, genes have to be first activated or “expressed.” So one way to study the body’s reaction to a therapeutic is to measure the expression of various genes.
OK, back to curcumin. The second study compared genes that were up- or down-regulated in the white blood cells (WBC) of dogs with osteoarthritis treated either with curcumin or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (5). WBCs are important because they play an active role in inflammation and healing throughout the body.
Twelve arthritic dogs were randomly assigned to two groups. Six dogs were treated with Previcox®, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) commonly used to reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. The other six were treated with curcumin at a dose of 4 mg per kilogram twice a day. WBCs from dogs before and 20 days after treatment were examined for the level of expression of genes that are associated with inflammation.
The results showed that curcumin essentially mimicked the anti-inflammatory and immune response activity of Previcox®. Remarkably, almost every gene that was up or down regulated by Previcox® was similarly up or down regulated by curcumin.
These two studies suggest that any time one of our dogs is diagnosed with a soft tissue injury such as a sprain or strain, or with arthritis, we should consider curcumin as an adjunctive therapy. One way to administer curcumin to a dog is by making Golden Paste. The recipe is below.
And finally, I don’t know about you, but with the arthritis that’s developing in my knees, I’m off to the grocery store!
- Cullen KL, Dickey JP, Bent LR, Thomason JJ, Moens NMM. Internet-based survey of the nature and perceived causes of injury to dogs participating in agility training and competition events. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013;243:1010-1018.
- Fleming JM, Creevy KE, Promislow DEL. Mortality in North American dogs from 1984 to 2004: An investigation into age-, size- and breed-related causes of death. J Vet Intern Med 2011:25:187-198.
- Aggarwal BB. Harikumar K. Potential therapeutic effects of curcumin, the anti-inflammatory agent, against neurodegenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases. Int J Biochem Cell Biol 2009;41:40–59.
- Jiang D, Gao P, Lin H, Geng H. Curcumin improves tendon healing in rats: a histological, biochemical, and functional evaluation. Connect Tissue Res. 2016;57(1):20-7.
- Colitti M, Gaspardo B, Della Pria A, Scaini C, Stefanon B. 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 2012;147:136-146.
MANAGING ARTHRITIS IN DOGS
Strategies, including nutrition, exercise, weight, pain management and alternative treatments, for dealing with arthritis in all dogs of all breeds and ages.
- 1 cup purified water
- 1/2 cup organic turmeric powder + additional to adjust consistency
- 1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil or other fat, such as ghee or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
- Add powdered turmeric to a pan with water and reduce on low to medium-low heat until it begins to form a thick paste.
- Add in ground pepper and fat of choices and combine well, adjusting the water or turmeric qualities as needed.
- You may also choose to add in approximately 1-2 tablespoons of raw honey and about 1-2 teaspoons of other warming spices that pair well with turmeric such as nutmeg, curry powder, cinnamon, cardamom, or salt, if you wish.
- Once your paste is the consistency you desire, store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for 1-2 months.
- There are about 200 mg of curcumin in one teaspoon of turmeric, so there are about 2400 mg of curcumin in this recipe – more if you added more turmeric to adjust the consistency of this mixture.
- Calculate how much to give your dog based on a dose of 4 mg/kg body weight twice a day.
- If you are making Golden Paste for yourself, you will want to consume about 1-2 teaspoons of paste a day in warm water, juices, smoothies, teas, golden milks, nut butters and snacks, stir-fries, stews, dressings and other savory items.