Animal Companions for Life

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Taste For Life proudly hosts blogs from some of the top nutritionists and life coaches in the country. Opinions expressed by the author are their own, and do not necessarily represent those of Taste For Life or its editorial staff. For questions about this blog or its content, please contact Cheryl Myers.

Not everyone sees their relationship with animals in the same light. To some, animals are workers and nothing more. To others, animals are cherished members of the family. I have had animal companions so dear to me that they were some of the most important relationships in my life. They brought me great joy, and their loss broke my heart into a million pieces.

Caring for Your Animal Companion

Having an animal companion, be it dog, cat, horse, or something else entirely—is a tremendous responsibility. And loving an animal dearly deepens this sense further still. We often feel this responsibility most keenly when our pet is suffering.

Of course, the first step in seeking care for animal companions is often to see a veterinarian, and this is important for proper diagnosis. We need to know what we are dealing with. Is our dog experiencing a little arthritis, or is it a tumor? Is her skin just dry, or does she have allergies? Is our boy suffering from muscle strain or a more serious connective tissue tear?

In almost every scenario, there is a crucial element that must be addressed: Inflammation.

Inflammation causes pain. It interferes with tissue repair. It promotes cancer and blood vessel damage and even depression. A very important step in treating almost any of the common health concerns with dogs (and other companions animals as well) is to dramatically reduce inflammation.

Natural Anti-Inflammatory Care for Dogs

The most powerful, scientifically studied natural medicine to directly combat excessive levels of inflammation is curcumin. Curcumin is extracted from the spice turmeric, but they are not the same thing. Turmeric contains only 2 percent to 5 percent curcumin, and achieving medicinal levels would require unreasonable amounts. Therefore, both doctors and scientists use curcumin for a wide variety of animal health concerns because they can deliver a medicinal dose in far fewer capsules or pellets.

Curcumin for Dogs

However, curcumin has a challenge as well, in that it is not well absorbed. Second-generation curcumin products have used various methods to enhance absorption. Some of these methods are more natural and advantageous than others.

The most clinically studied, enhanced-absorption curcumin in the world uses turmeric essential oil in a patented process to boost absorption. In fact, you would need to give your pet 200 to 500 capsules of an equal dose of turmeric to equal the amount of curcumin delivered to the bloodstream as a single capsule of curcumin with turmeric essential oils. This unique formulation has published studies in dogs, cats, and horses, demonstrating both safety and efficacy. This specific formulation has published absorption studies in dogs, too.

Curcumin has studies in human health as well, including arthritis, autoimmune diseases, skin conditions, cancer, diabetes, and mood disorders. How many times have scientists used animal models in experiments to demonstrate benefits for human health? Here is an instance where we can learn from studies in human beings how this powerful natural medicine can benefit animal health.

In several studies, curcumin is able to equal or even outperform a class of drugs commonly used in both human and animal care, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some drugs in this class are aspirin and ibuprofen (used more in humans) and carprofen (some brand names are Novox or Rimadyl), ketoprofen, and others) for dogs. The problems with these drugs is their side effects, which include vomiting, loss of appetite, depression, diarrhea, stomach or intestinal ulcers, liver failure, kidney failure, and even death. That is quite a list!

Curcumin Pet Health Products

Curcumin has side benefits instead of serious side effects. Some side benefits of curcumin (to name only a few) are helping to prevent heart disease and diabetes. Enhanced absorption, clinically studied curcumin with turmeric essential oils can make a real difference in your animal companion’s life.

There are pet health products that combine high-absorption curcumin with quality standardized boswellia (another favorite for joint pain) in a flavored, chewable format for better ease of administration. These can be used for arthritis, muscle pain, hip dysplasia.

Canine Anxiety

Another way in which our animal companions suffer is with anxiety. I had a beagle-husky mix (a combination Mother Nature never intended!) named Alex. OK—I will fess up—his full name was Alexander Graham Beagle. He was a sweet dog, but was absolutely terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. At the first sign of lightening, he was on my lap or leaning on me, panting and trembling so hard I used to joke that I could rent him out as a Magic Fingers massage machine for hotel beds. I did my best to help him cope, including taking him down to the basement, petting him for hours, and even wrapping him in blankets (this is before ThunderShirts and the like).

The options for dealing with pet anxiety have evolved greatly. Veterinarians are using standard tranquilizers, and prescribe more modern anti-anxiety medication, but it comes at a cost to the liver. Pet owners are interested in more natural ways to reduce anxiety in their dogs. It might be anxiety over going to the groomer, or fear of thunderstorms, or maybe it is every day separation anxiety.

Echinacea for Anxiety

Weird as it may sound, there are compounds in echinacea, that when extracted and concentrated, act on brain receptors to elicit a sense of calm and relaxation, without causing drowsiness. This unique echinacea extract is standardized for echinacoside and a unique, proprietary alkamide profile available in no other formula. Alkamides have similar effects as cannabinoids, attaching to cannabinoid receptors and helping to ease stress and relax muscles. The extract has been scientifically and clinically studied and shown to reduce anxiety symptoms significantly within an hour or so of use, with better results documented with ongoing use.

Hemp Oil, the Endocannabinoid System & Your Pet

Canines are “wired” very much the same way as humans when it comes to pain relief or stopping anxiety, and we typically see that studies show similar actions in both. It’s not surprising that cannabinoids from hemp would have similar effects in humans and canines. However, it is more important to deliver the entire spectrum of cannabinoids in hemp oil and not single out CBD. Studies have shown that there are more than 120 cannabinoids in hemp stalk, and only one is CBD. All these compounds are active and work together as a family, so better results are attained.

In a study of canine osteoarthritis, researchers found that an oil with CBD decreased pain. Other studies have indicated it can be used for canine seizure disorders. However, the veterinary studies were done on relatively high doses of 1.1 mg per pound of the dog’s weight. At these dosage levels, an increase in serum alkaline phosphatase was noted, which is a marker of liver health. 

It is important to only use products with less than 0.3% THC (which is much less than 1%). The reason is that though dogs appear to do well with the other cannabinoids in hemp (CBD, CBC, etc) they do NOT do well with THC, the mind-altering cannabinoid in marijuana. Dogs that have eaten marijuana or medical marijuana preparations have become quite ill, sometimes for several days, so choose carefully.

National Animal Supplement Council

The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is a nonprofit industry group dedicated to protecting and enhancing the health of companion animals and horses throughout the United States. The NASC was founded in 2001 in response to the lack of regulatory cohesion in the pet supplement industry. Looking for pet supplement companies aligned with the NASC helps better assure the supplements are of the highest quality.

“The NASC Quality Seal program was initiated as part of our ongoing effort to improve and standardize the industry. Different from the NASC logo, members must earn permission to display the Quality Seal by agreeing to adhere to NASC’s quality standards, and by submitting to an independent audit to ensure compliance with our rigorous quality system requirements. When you see the Quality Seal on a product, you can trust it comes from a reputable company that has successfully passed an independent quality audit,” their website reports.

Family Health Includes Pet Health

For many people, pets are family. Being able to use natural interventions to help alleviate suffering in our companion animals is beneficial to all concerned. There are even more natural products that can have a tremendous impact on pet health, including omega 3 fatty acids and quality probiotics, to name only a few. You may be surprised to find such a wealth of clinically validated products specifically targeting the health and well-being of our furry family.

Sources: 

“Alkamides and a neolignan from Echinacea purpurea roots and the interaction of alkamides with G-protein-coupled cannabinoid receptors” by J. Hohmann et al., Phytochemistry, 10/11

“The anxiolytic potential and psychotropic side effects of an echinacea preparation in laboratory animals and healthy volunteers” by J. Haller et al.,Phytother Res., 1/13

“Effect of citrus polyphenol- and curcumin-supplemented diet on inflammatory state in obese cats” by V. Leray et al., Br J Nutr, 10/11

“The effect of echinacea preparations in three laboratory tests of anxiety: Comparison with Chlordiazepoxide” by J. Haller, et al.,  Phytother Res., 11/10

“The effect of exercise and nutritional supplementation on proinflammatory cytokine expression in young racehorses during training" by D.W. Horohov et al., J Equine Vet Sci, 12/12

“Efficacy and safety of curcumin and its combination with boswellic acid in osteoarthritis: a comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study” by A. Haroyan, et al., BMC Complement Altern Med, 1/9/18

“Pharmacokinetics, safety, and clinical efficacy of cannabidiol treatment in osteoarthritic dogs” by L.J. Gamble et al., Front Vet Sci, 7/18

“Randomized blinded controlled clinical trial to assess the effect of oral cannabidiol administration in addition to conventional antiepileptic treatment on seizure frequency in dogs with intractable idiopathic epilepsy” by S. McGrath et al., J Am Vet Med Assoc,6/1/19

“A randomized, pilot study to assess the efficacy and safety of curcumin in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis” by B. Chandran and A. Goel,Phytother Res, 11/12

“Safety and efficacy of curcumin versus diclofenac in knee osteoarthritis: A randomized open-label parallel-arm study” by D. Shep et al., Trials, 4/11/19

“Toxicology of marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, and cannabidiol in dogs and cats” by A. Brutlag and H. Hommerding, Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract, 11/18

Contributor: 

Cheryl Myers

Cheryl Myers, RN, is an integrative health nurse, author, and expert on natural medicine. She is a nationally recognized speaker who has been interviewed by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Prevention magazine. Her articles have been published in Aesthetic Surgery Journal and Nutrition in Complementary Care, and her research on botanicals has been presented at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the North American Menopause Society. Follow Cheryl on Facebook!