People experiment with alternative health treatments for their dog, such as golden paste, for a variety of reasons. Some are simply unsatisfied with the answers and advice provided by their vet, while others are seeking ways to avoid the high costs often associated with conventional medications and veterinary care.
While there is nothing categorically wrong with seeking alternative treatments, careful consideration is imperative. After all, many alternative therapies become popular long before sufficient empirical testing and analysis by competent researchers, scientists and vets can take place. You don’t want to find that your dog has a bad reaction to one of these alternative options.
Golden paste is a good example of a popular alternative treatment therapy that many dog owners consider offering to their pet. Anecdotal accounts of the benefits it provides abound, but it is important to dig a little deeper and critically examine the issue before whipping up a batch of your own.
Golden paste is a homemade food supplement, which is purported to provide an incredibly broad set of health benefits for dogs (as well as humans, cats, horses and other animals). It is made with only a few common ingredients and takes only a few minutes to cook up. Once made, you’ll mix in a small amount of the paste with your pet’s food on a daily basis.
Turmeric – the primary ingredient in golden paste – is a spice derived from the turmeric plant, which is native to Southeast Asia. Often described as having a bitter, earthy flavor, turmeric is used in a variety of culinary contexts, such as the making of curries. It is also used as a dye, thanks to its rich yellow-brown to orange coloration.
There are many different recipes for golden paste, but most are essentially similar. A half-cup of turmeric is mixed in with a cup or two of water and then reduced over medium-low heat until it attains a paste-like consistency. The concoction is then removed from the heat and allowed to cool. One-third to one-half a cup of a plant-based oil is mixed into the paste, along with a few teaspoons of fresh, cracked pepper.
The paste can then be transferred to a sterilized glass jar for storage. If refrigerated, the paste will keep for up to two weeks. However, it can also be frozen for long-term storage.
Turmeric has been used for centuries by traditional medical practitioners in Southeast Asia. It is heralded as a miracle cure for ailments ranging from arthritis to inflammatory bowel disease to chronic itching; to hear advocates explain it, there aren’t many conditions the supplement doesn’t treat. These results are suspected to be provided by a chemical called curcumin – the primary active ingredient in turmeric.
Some research has suggested that curcumin has important anti-inflammatory and cancer-fighting properties, and that it may be helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, arthritis and cardiopulmonary disease. However, virtually all of these studies have been conducted on cells in test tubes and petri dishes – not on living animals.
In fact, very few of these health benefits have been verified when studied in vivo (on a living animal, as opposed to isolated cells).
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states that:
“There is little reliable evidence to support the use of turmeric for any health condition because few clinical trials have been conducted.”
Further, as explained by a 2017 study, published in Journal of Medicinal Chemistry:
“No double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial of curcumin has been successful.”
This characterization was the result of a review of more than 120 independent studies, which investigated curcumin’s ability to treat a wide variety of ailments. In fact, additional studies cited in the same paper (as well as others) demonstrate that the human body doesn’t absorb curcumin readily – the researchers characterized the ability to absorb the compound as “negligible.”
In an effort to improve the absorption of curcumin, pepper is often mixed in with golden paste recipes. Pepper contains a chemical called piperine, which is thought to help improve the amount of curcumin absorbed into the bloodstream. In contrast to studies validating curcumin’s medicinal benefits, there is some empirical evidence supporting this contention.
So, humans and rats appear to absorb curcumin when administered along with piperine. But what about dogs? Do dogs absorb and benefit from curcumin?
The answers for this are not entirely clear. Relatively little research has been conducted on the efficacy of curcumin for dogs. Most of the research that has been conducted has shown no statistically significant benefits provided by the compound. This includes a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study investigating the efficacy of P54FP (a turmeric-based extract) on osteoarthritis – one of the conditions the compound is most commonly used to treat.
Accordingly, it is clear that more research is needed on turmeric before it is considered a reliable treatment for any of the ailments it is commonly used to treat. Turmeric may very well prove helpful for treating some conditions, but this remains speculative in the absence of more studies.
Turmeric is generally considered safe in moderate doses for humans. Side effects have been reported with long-term use or when administered in “high doses.” However, these side effects are generally limited to gastrointestinal upset. Turmeric has, however, been recalled more than once for contamination concerns.
No major published studies specifically examine the safety of turmeric for dogs, but it appears that it is likely safe in moderate doses, and it does not appear on any credible toxic ingredient lists. However, golden paste is not appropriate for all dogs, as it may cause harmful side effects when administered to dogs taking some medications or suffering from some health conditions.
For example, turmeric is thought to inhibit clotting, and it may worsen gallbladder or kidney problems. This means caution should be used when considering administering turmeric-containing supplements to dogs with kidney or gallbladder problems, as well as those slated for surgery or taking NSAIDs (which also inhibit clotting).
Just because turmeric has not yet been proven effective in vivo, doesn’t mean it doesn’t provide health benefits. Many owners report significant health improvements after using golden paste for dogs. It just means that you shouldn’t avoid proven medical treatments in favor of golden paste, until (and if) it is eventually shown to cause the desired effects.
Discuss your dog’s health ailments with your vet, and ask his or her opinion about using the supplement with your dog. With your vet’s blessing, it is probably safe to start your dog on a regular golden paste regimen. It may not provide the type of health improvements you desire, but it is probably not dangerous either.
Have you ever administered golden paste to your dog? Did it appear to help your canine feel better? What types of conditions did you use it to treat? Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below.