Ginger for Animals

When I hear the word ginger, I automatically think of gingersnaps and gingerbread houses.  But there is far more to ginger that simply using it as a spice.  Ginger may be used to treat nausea and promote digestion.  It is thought to act by reducing stimulation within the gastrointestinal tract thereby blocking nausea signals to the brain.  I recommend it for dogs who suffer from motion sickness when their owners want an alternative therapy.  I know an avian veterinarian who uses it to treat motion sickness in parrots.

Beside treating nausea, ginger extract is being studied as a treatment for gastric ulcers. In the past, the effects of ginger were limited because it transverses the stomach quickly, limiting contact time with stomach ulcers.  In a study conducted by Dr. Singh, ginger extract and probiotics were loaded into floating beads that attach to the mucosa of the stomach.  The beads stay in the stomach for approximately ten hours to increase exposure.  So far, the results look promising but more research is needed to verify this study.

Another potential use of ginger is to treat anemia.  Inadequate red blood cell production is a problem in mammals of all kinds.  The most common cause of chronic anemia I deal with is anemia secondary to kidney failure in cats.  When the kidneys fail, they stop producing an important hormone called erythropoietin.  A synthetic form of it is available but not without problems.  Erythropoietin is expensive, must be injected and the patient may develop resistance over time.  In 2012, Dr. Ferri-Langeau led a team of researchers who studied the effect of ginger in zebrafish embryos.  Ginger and the active ingredient, 10-gingerol, stimulated maturation of red blood cells,  They hope that their “results will provide the basis for future research into the effect of ginger during mammalian hematopoiesis to develop novel erythropoiesis promoting agents.”     

Before giving ginger or any other nutraceutical to your pet, please check with your veterinarian.  High doses should not be used during pregnancy or in patients on anticoagulants.   

-Ferri-Lagneau, K. F. et al, Ginger stimulates hematopoiesis via Bmp pathway in zebrafish. PLoS ONE. Jan. 2012;7(6):e39327.
-Mowrey, D. et al, Motion sickness, ginger and pyschophysics.  Lancet. 1982;1(8273):655-657.
-Orosz, S. Common Herbs and Their Use in Avian Practice (670) AAV. 2006.
– Singh, P. K., et al, Synbiotic (probiotic and ginger extract) loaded floating beads: a novel therapeutic option in an experimental paradigm of gastric ulcer.  J. Pharm Pharmacol. Feb. 2012; 64(2)207-17. 
-Warren, A. Nutraceuticals, VIN, April 4, 2007

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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