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If you have both a cat and a dog, then you know how interesting it can be to see them getting along and playing together.
But beneath this cute association, there are some safety concerns when the two share each other’s toys or foods.
Cat toys that may capture the attention of your canine friend are those infused with catnip. Some dogs may marvel at how cats are overexcited with such toys.
Catnip is a well-known fragrant green herb that makes that has a calming effect on cats. But what about dogs? Is catnip bad for dogs?
Follow along to discover if catnip is safe for dogs, and the potential benefits, side effects, and risks of using it on your dog.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria), also known as catmint, is an herb in the mint family native to southern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and some parts of China.
Catnip has an active compound called Nepetalactone which produces a specific aroma that appeals to about 50 to 80% of cats.
Nepetalactone is found in the plant’s pods, stems, and leaves. Cats have a range of reactions to catnip varying from calmness, and moderate enrichment, to complete excitement.
Is catnip safe for dogs?
Is catnip safe for dogs? The short answer is Yes! Dogs can safely ingest both fresh and dried catnip in small amounts.
Despite the name ‘catnip’, you shouldn’t worry if your canine friend accidentally chews and swallows a tiny portion.
This refreshing herb has not been found to contain any toxic substances harmful to dogs. No dog has been diagnosed to suffer from the effects of ingesting catmint in small amounts.
Despite the harmless nature of catnip for dogs, you should be careful when introducing new herbs to your furry friend. Don’t give excess catnip to your dog. Limit the amount to a few doses once in a while.
When your furry friend eats catnip for the first time, the essential oils might cause them to feel icky, but you should not worry about it.
This effect might induce your dog into a short moment of drowsiness.
Precaution for dogs with certain conditions
It is not recommended to give catnip to a pregnant dog as it may induce subclinical uterine contractions in early labor.
Dogs with known cardiovascular or urinary issues or those under medication should not have catnip.
It’s always best to provide your recovering dog with typical dog-specific food when undergoing medication.
The Effects of Catnip on Dogs
While cats on catnip are stimulated into euphoric sensation, in canines it is actually the opposite. Dogs on catnip may show signs of sedation.
You should therefore be careful not to give your dog too much catmint, and watch out for the potential effects when doing so.
Lack of response in most dogs
Catnip is not commonly used on dogs because it produces little to no effects in most dogs. The excitement of cats playing with catmint invites most dogs to sniff and investigate the catnip-infused toys.
Many pet parents are reluctant to give their dogs catnip because it doesn’t serve the same purpose as cats, but your dog can still consume it without any harm.
Your dog may benefit from a little dose of catnip eaten in moderation. The herb contains vitamins E and A, magnesium, and a variety of antioxidants that can boost your dog’s health.
Can Dogs Get High on Catnip?
Cats are genetically inclined to react to the active compound in catnip, and this makes them high on excitement.
But dogs do not show the same reaction. This can be attributed to the difference in the physiological and genetic makeup of dogs from cats.
The vomeronasal organ in dogs does not produce similar protein tissue receptors that bind to Nepetalactone for similar high feelings in felines.
5 Benefits Of Catnip for Dogs
In addition to being safe and non-toxic for dogs, a little dose of catnip will benefit your dog in various ways, including:
1. It provides mental stimulation and enrichment
Even though catnip does not have the same enrichment for dogs as cats, it can still awaken your dog’s sensory perception.
Some dogs can be curious to discover why a simple toy makes the feline go ‘crazy’ when playing.
This curiosity will invite the dog to sniff around and investigate the catnip toys for anything interesting. The new experience will stimulate your dog’s mind and make them more engaged.
2. It promotes playfulness and exercise
Toys with catnip may encourage playfulness and physical stimulation in dogs. This will help to keep the dog active and burn excess calories to stay fit.
Such toys can also be used when inducing your cat and dog to play together.
3. It makes your dog sleep better
Catnip can be used as a mild sedative for dogs with sleeping issues. Giving your furry friend a tiny portion of catmint might help them to sleep better.
4. It has some nutritional benefits
Catnip is packed with vitamins C and E, flavonoids, tannins, and minerals such as magnesium. The nutritional profile can help improve your dog’s health when taken in small quantities.
This fragrant herb also contains essential oils, which can help to relieve mild gastrointestinal upset in dogs to maintain a healthy digestive tract.
5. It may relieve stress and nervousness
If your dog is stressed or fearful when left alone in the house, you can give them a little dose of catnip for relief.
The enriching sensation and aroma of catmint will help some dogs to calm down from nervousness and stress.
Some dogs love exploring catnip-infused toys for long periods. This might serve as a distraction during stressful moments such as vet visits or during fireworks.
Can catnip help with my dog’s anxiety?
Catnip is not a guaranteed solution for curing stress and anxiety in dogs. Speak to your vet for tailored advice on how to calm your dog in worrying situations.
If your dog is prone to intense stress and anxiety, your vet will diagnose them to find out the exact causes of the problem.
You may only use catmint as a supplemental remedy for managing mild stress and nervousness in dogs.
Introducing catnip to dogs
Before giving your dog catnip, you need to know the best way of introducing it to ensure safety and enrichment.
Choose catnip products suitable for dogs
Instead of giving cat-specific catnip to your dog, you can consider the ones that are specifically made for canines.
Such a product may be infused with alternative ingredients to give your dog a better feeling ‘something similar to what cats feel’.
Controlled exposure and monitoring
Start by giving your dog very small pieces of catnip in a controlled environment and see how they react to it.
Don’t take the dog to a catnip plant and leave them to freely interact with the herb without monitoring. Excessive consumption of plant-based materials might cause digestive upset in dogs.
Alternatives to traditional catnip products
It’s not uncommon for dogs to show no soothing response whatsoever to traditional catnip (Nepeta Cataria) products.
You might then be interested in other canine-specific products to offer similar enrichment as catnip does to felines.
Anise, or ‘dog nip’, extracted from the seeds of the Pimpinella Anisum plant, is one of the best catnip alternatives for dogs
This spice has a nice herbal aroma and licorice-like flavor. It can give your dog varying levels of stimulation when taken in moderation.
Due to the strong scent, aniseed is often used to train working dogs on scent trailing and nose work. Dogs can eat anise as whole seed, grounded, or given in the form of essential oils.
What Are the Best Catnip Products for Dogs?
The best catnip products for dogs are those made specifically for canines, and with non-toxic materials. They could be in the form of interactive toys, wall toys, dental treats, or sprays.
Every dog is an individual. What another dog likes might not necessarily be what your dog will like. You can try out different products before settling on what works for your canine friend.
What Is the Best Way to Give Catnip to My Dog?
Sprinkle half a teaspoon of grounded catnip on your dog’s wet food. Alternatively, you can add a leaf or two of fresh catnip to your dog’s drinking water for a refreshing taste.
Remember that catnip should not replace your dog’s healthy supplements or main diet. We recommend using catnip on your dog only when you need to solve an acute issue like promoting sleep.
Monitor your dog’s response to the herb and adjust accordingly for their safety.
Can Catnip Cause Allergies in Dogs
Catnip allergies to dogs are very rare, but as with any other plant, they can occur in some dogs. Dogs who are allergic to catnip and catnip-infused products will show unwanted reactions when they ingest or get exposed to allergens.
How can I tell if my dog is allergic to catnip?
The following are some of the symptoms to look out for:
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Difficulty in breathing
- Redness on the skin (when used on wounds)
These symptoms could also be indicative of other health issues in dogs. But, if you see your dog reacting negatively to immediate exposure to catnip, then you can be sure that they’re allergic to the herb.
If the allergic reaction is severe and causing respiratory distress, you should check with your vet immediately for prompt treatment.
In cases of allergies, it is best to avoid exposing your dog to catnip and catnip-infused products. Your vet will suggest alternative ways of enriching your pup based on their reactivity.
Symptoms Of Catnip Overdose in Dogs
Small amounts of catnip are safe for dogs unless they develop allergic reactions, which is very rare. But what happens if you overdose your dog on catnip?
A one-time large dose of catnip might cause severe sedation and induce your dog into immediate drowsiness. This should not cause any medical issues.
But, continual ingestion of excessive catnip might cause your pooch to diarrhea, vomit, or develop urinary issues, and heart failure in elderly dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can catnip make my dog sick?
Catnip is safe for dogs and it is highly unlikely that your dog can be sick from ingesting small doses. Some dogs may however be allergic to catnip and they may develop negative reactions on exposure.
Continual overdosing of catnip in dogs might induce mild digestive issues, diarrhea, and vomiting.
2. Can puppies have catnip?
Yes, puppies may ingest small portions of catnip a few times a week. While catnip is non-toxic to puppies, you should limit their doses to half of what you offer your adult dog.
Make sure to monitor your puppy when introducing catnip and note down any negative reactions.
3. Is it safe for dogs to eat catnip?
Yes, dogs can occasionally eat catnip in moderation. However, catnip should not form a huge part of your dog’s main diet or supplements. You should only use it with the specific directions from your vet.
It is advisable to give your dog catnip only when you need to reap some of the specific benefits like promoting healthy sleep at night.
4. How long does catnip last in dogs?
Most dogs will not get stimulated by catnip, but for the few ones who may get some enrichment, the effects would typically last for about 10 minutes.
The effects will also depend on the dosage. Small amounts of catnip will offer mild sedation to your dog while excessive amounts will make the dog too drowsy.
Is catnip bad for dogs? No! Dogs can have small amounts of catnip in their main food, and it is beneficial when used appropriately.
Small doses of catnip can promote healthy sleep, mental stimulation, playfulness, relieve stress, and can be used as an antiseptic on wounds.
While dogs may not get the same high feeling cats get when on catnip, this fragrant herb is non-toxic to dogs.
Overdosing your dog on catnip might cause several problems in dogs including diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach upset.
Although catnip is safe for dogs, it is always best to consult your vet before giving it to your furry friend.
Laura is the founder of Furs'n'Paws. She is a also a pet writer and expert with more than 20 years of experience of working with dogs and cats. She developed a very strong love for animals at a young age. Her passion led her to establish a thriving pet sitting and dog walking business in Dubai. As an expert in pet training, behavior, and nutrition, Laura is committed to helping pet owners and pet lovers by offering high-quality information on a wide range of topics.