I love cooking with spices so much that my collection of aromatic little bottles has overtaken an entire shelf in my kitchen pantry. In addition to supplying unique flavors and aromas to my dishes, I love that spices may contain medicinal properties. Traditional HomeMedicine has harnessed the healing power of plants for thousands of years — an entire aspect of home remedies is based on using spices and herbs to treat a wide variety of health conditions. For advice on safely using spices to boost your dog’s health, I turned to Josie Beug, DVM, a Miami-based holistic veterinarian. Here are her tips on spices for dogs.
The definition of herbs and spices differs whether you are talking about them from a TCM perspective or a cooking perspective, according to Dr. Beug. “In TCM, herbalists use formulations from all parts of the plant to create herbal therapies,” she says. “However, in cooking, herbs come from the leaves of plants, while spices come from the other parts, such as roots, flowers, stems, fruit, bark or seeds.” Some plants produce both cooking herbs and spices. For example, cilantro is an herb, and coriander is a spice, but both come from the same plant. To complicate matters, some herbs, such as basil, parsley, oregano and thyme, are dried and sold as “spices.” And other ingredients we think of as spices are neither spices nor herbs. Garlic, for example, is a bulb also found in the form of garlic powder.
For this list, consider any dried form of the plant used for cooking as a “spice” — mainly because this is how we think of them in daily life.Basil for DogsAntibacterialAnti-cancerFights free radicalsHelps prevent diabetesProtects the liverReduces pain and inflammationTip: Add basil to help reduce pain and inflammation in dogs with arthritis.Coriander for dogsAlleviates nauseaAnti-diarrhealEases intestinal gasAnti-parasiticHelps detoxify the bodyIncreases milk flowCaution: Avoid giving coriander to pregnant animals, as it may stimulate uterine contractions.Cinnamon for dogsAnti-inflammatoryDisplays anti-cancer propertiesRegulates blood sugarCombats free radicalsProtects against heart diseaseMay lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in humans and similar conditions in dogsTip: Opt for Ceylon cinnamon over the more common Cassia variety, as it is much lower in the blood-thinning compound coumarin.Dill for dogsAnti-inflammatoryAntimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterialImproves digestionLowers blood sugarRegulates menstruationRelieves diarrheaCaution: Avoid giving dill to pregnant dogs, as it may induce menstruation and cause miscarriage.Fennel for dogsActs as a diuretic to remove toxinsAids digestionAlleviates constipation, diarrhea and intestinal gasBenefits brain function Y Contains anti-cancer propertiesIncreases milk production during lactationCaution: Excessive fennel intake can cause health issues, including difficulty breathing and heart palpitation.Ginger for dogsAnti-inflammatoryEases nausea and upset stomachHelps boost cognitive functionHelps regulate blood-sugar levelsMay block growth of cancerous tumorsReduces pain associated with osteoarthritisTip: Giving ginger to senior dogs may help boost cognitive function and decrease age-related joint pain.Peppermint for dogsAlleviates spasms in the colonImproves signs of irritable bowel syndromeReduces intestinal gasRelieves indigestionSoothes upset stomachTreats diarrheaCaution: Avoid giving to dogs with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). May cause hypoglycemia in diabetics.Oregano for dogsAntibacterialAntifungalAnti-inflammatoryContains cancer-fighting polyphenolsRelieves indigestion and diarrheaRich in antioxidants to combat free radicalsCaution: Oregano may increase the risk of bleeding in dogs with bleeding disorders. Use cautiously with diabetic dogs, as oregano can lower blood sugar.Parsley for dogsAntibacterialAnti-inflammatoryMay help protect against urinary tract infections, kidney stones and gallbladder stonesNatural diureticRich in antioxidantsCaution: Avoid giving to dogs prone to calcium oxalate stones, as parsley is high in oxalates.Turmeric for dogsAnti-cancerAnti-inflammatoryFights free radicalsHelps heal the gutImproves brain functionReduces symptoms of arthritisCaution: Turmeric acts as a blood thinner and may increase risk of bleeding in association with some medications and botanicals, like NSAIDs, garlic and Gingko biloba. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Beug recommends a ¼ teaspoon for small dogs, ½ teaspoon for medium dogs and 1 teaspoon for large dogs per day, mixed into food. “The key is to remember that more is not better,” she says. “Besides, a heavy spice aroma may turn dogs off from the food.”Unsafe spices for dogsDr. Beug advises avoiding the following spices:Garlic (dehydrated or powder): “Giving dogs small amounts of fresh garlic is safe and beneficial,” Dr. Beug says. She advises avoiding the powdered form, however, due to its increased concentration and potency.Onion powder: Thiosulphate, a compound in onions, can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs, a condition in which the red blood cells burst. “Play it safe, and avoid it an any form,” Dr. Beug says.Pepper: Black pepper is a popular component of golden paste (a mixture of turmeric powder, water, oil and black pepper that’s taken orally for its anti-inflammatory and other healing properties) to help increase the absorption of curcumin in turmeric. Dr. Beug recommends skipping it, however, as piperine in black pepper also enhances absorption of prescription medications, increasing the chance of accidental overdose.Nutmeg: Nutmeg contains myristicin, which is toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms ranging from disorientation to seizures. ROSEMARY “Rosemary is generally safe; however, avoid giving it to dogs prone to seizures, as it can worsen this condition,”