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Ginger

By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

Medications

What is ginger?

Ginger is a well-known tropical plant (Zingiber officinale) whose root is used in both Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Herbal Medicine. The most common use is as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting supplement, but it has also been used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, and for cognitive support. For this reason, it is used for motion sickness, side effects of cancer treatment and chemotherapy, memory problems, and osteoarthritis. There was also a study that found it may be effective at reducing heartworm microfilaria in the blood, but this use is not widely known (it does not cure heartworm disease, however).

"The most common use is as an anti-nausea and anti-vomiting supplement, but it has also been used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, circulatory stimulant, and for cognitive support."

Dietary supplements are substances that can be used to supplement the diet, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, botanicals, enzymes, and probiotics. While many supplements are sold over the counter, they still contain ingredients that have biological effects that should be managed by your veterinarian. Follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

There are differences in how countries regulate supplements. In the United States, these substances are not as vigorously regulated by the FDA as other medications, which means they can be sold without the manufacturer proving their effectiveness, safety, and without a guarantee of consistent or accurately reported ingredients. In Canada, products that have been evaluated for quality, safety, and effectiveness by Health Canada and authorized for sale will have a license number on the label.

How effective is ginger?

Limited studies in animals have been performed, but there is anecdotal evidence that ginger works to treat nausea and vomiting. The clinical evidence available in human studies suggests that ginger is an effective gastroprotective agent, but studies are limited analyzing its other potential benefits.

How is ginger given?

Ginger is given by mouth in the form of a powder, tablet, liquid tincture, capsule, or as the fresh root. It may be given with or without food; however, if vomiting occurs on an empty stomach, give future doses with a small amount of food. Measure liquid forms carefully.

What if I miss giving my pet the supplement?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding side effects is also limited. In general, ginger root is considered safe with few side effects. Sensitivity/allergic reactions are possible upon skin contact, and may include skin redness, itchiness, or hives. Other uncommon side effects may include stomach pain, heartburn, diarrhea, and gas.

Are there any risk factors for this supplement?

Studies are limited for this supplement and therefore information regarding risk factors is also limited. Ginger should not be used in pets that are known to be allergic to it, or in pets with a known bleeding disorder. It should be used cautiously in pets with gallbladder disease and in pregnant or nursing animals, as safety has not been established.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with ginger: anti-coagulants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Vitamins, herbal therapies, and supplements have the potential to interact with each other, as well as with prescription and over the counter medications. It is important to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including all vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this supplement?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working.

How do I store ginger?

In general, store this supplement in a cool place, protected from light and moisture. There are many different manufacturers and formulations of this supplement, so always follow the storage instructions on the label.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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