Curcumin powder in a wooden spoon

How curcumin and boswellia can help your dog’s arthritis

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Around one in two Australians living with arthritis take a supplement to help manage the condition, and those containing turmeric and boswellia are popular choices. It turns out those herbs can benefit your dog’s joint health, too. Here’s why.

If you’re worried your dog has some degree of arthritis, there’s a good chance you’re not imagining it. One in five dogs aged over one has arthritis, and this jumps to four out of five dogs when they’re over the age of eight. And if you suspect your four-legged family member is one of them, it makes sense that you want to do everything you can to make them feel as comfortable as possible – including giving them a joint-health supplement. With herbs like curcumin and boswellia increasingly popular, here’s what you need to know.

Can you give curcumin to dogs?

“Yes, you can,” says veterinarian Dr Trish Santos-Smith. “Curcumin, which is the active component of turmeric, not only has an anti-inflammatory effect it also acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect the cells in cartilage – the tissue that cushions the joints – from being damaged,” says Trish.

As a result, the benefits of curcumin centre around the fact that it’s beneficial for joint health, particularly for dogs who have already developed some degree of arthritis, a joint disease that involves both inflammation and cartilage loss.

A 2012 study involving dogs with arthritis proved that, after 20 days of treatment with either curcumin or a common anti-inflammatory pain medication, markers of inflammation not only fell for all dogs, it was only those receiving the curcumin supplement that experienced a reduction in one specific – and important – inflammatory mediator.

So, if you’re wondering ‘can I give my dog curcumin for joint pain?’ the answer is yes – and you not only can, you should.

But does that mean simply sprinkling a bit of turmeric onto their evening meal will give them a good dose of curcumin? “No,” says Trish. “On top of the fact that you can’t be sure how much curcumin is in a serve of turmeric, when it’s given on its own, curcumin isn’t particularly well absorbed and can be eliminated quickly by the body.

“So, while curcumin for dogs with joint pain is definitely recommended, it’s important to give it as a supplement and to check that the supplement also contains a phospholipid, which will significantly increase how much curcumin is absorbed by the body.”

What’s the best boswellia for dogs?

Like any supplement you’re considering giving your dog, the type of boswellia supplement that’s best for them is one that’s designed for them.

“As well as being able to ensure you’re providing a suitable, effective dose of the active ingredients, using a supplement that’s been formulated specifically for pets also means it’s safe for them, and is free from ingredients that may be toxic for dogs,” says Trish.

But what’s so good about boswellia anyway? A resin that’s extracted from a tree by the same name, boswellia contains anti-inflammatory substances, and its value for dogs with arthritis has been proven. In one study, after taking a boswellia supplement for six weeks, the vast majority of dogs experienced a significant improvement in key measures and external signs of arthritis, including lameness when moving and after taking a long rest.

Is a curcumin and boswellia supplement right for your dog?

Trish says that if your dog is already displaying signs of arthritis or reduced mobility, then giving curcumin and boswellia in combination with some other key joint-health supplements can be very useful thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties.

“Signs of arthritis to look out for include if your dog is stiff and slow to stand up after lying down, or noticing that they’re lame or stiff, particularly in their back legs. Another sign may be that they’ve stopped doing or are reluctant to do things they used to do quite easily, such as jumping up onto the couch or climbing stairs.

“Giving your dog curcumin and boswellia as well as other supplements that have been shown to support joint health means you’re targeting the inflammation within the joint that occurs with conditions like arthritis, as much as you can.”

Which other ‘ingredients’ should you consider giving your dog as a supplement, as well as curcumin and boswellia, when your goal is to help improve their joint health? Fish oil or green lipped mussel are a great place to start because they both contain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which also have scientifically proven anti-inflammatory properties.

Green lipped mussel is also naturally rich in glucosamine and chondroitin, which are the building blocks of that all-important cartilage, as well as some vitamins and minerals that are essential for cartilage health.

Getting the dosages right

“In the appropriate doses, curcumin and boswellia are both very safe for dogs,” says Trish, “but in larger amounts, unwanted side effects of either include gastrointestinal upsets, such as nausea and diarrhoea. To avoid these, it’s important to stick to the recommended doses for dogs.”

The right curcumin dosage for dogs depends on how much they weigh, with bigger doses required for larger dogs. And as for, ‘How much boswellia should I give my dog?’, it’s the same story. The easiest way to get it right is to follow the dosage instructions for dogs on the label of the supplement you’re using.

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