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Catnip For Dogs: Is it Safe For Your Dog?

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As dog owners, the world can seem much more dangerous than our pre-dog days. Those flowers and plants in the garden, now we question if they pose a risk. The household cleaners we use, are they ok for dogs? What diet is the best for him? How much exercise is too much, or not enough? The questions never stop coming. In today’s post, I will be looking at catnip and how safe it is when it comes to our dogs.

If you’re a cat owner, as well as a dog owner, you may have been regularly giving catnip to your pet cat. Catnip is an ingredient found dried in many cat treats, in natural form for toys, and cat-specific supplements. Owners give their cats catnip as it is said to target their happy brain receptors and bring them a lot of joy. 

Catnip is a natural and safe plant containing nepetalactone, an essential oil known to trigger euphoric feelings in our feline pets. But, what does it do for dogs? And, is it safe? I will explore this in this post and look at some alternatives too. First, however, let’s look into what catnip actually is. 

What Is Catnip?

Catnip

Catnip is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family. The term ‘catnip’ is presumed to come from how cats respond to the plant. Some cats have overwhelming feelings of happiness and joy after consuming catnip and have even been thought to experience euphoric hallucinations. 

For other cats, there are no evident effects, and for some, the consequences can be the opposite of extreme happiness, and they can zone out, become extremely mellow, or very sleepy. It is stated, however, that three out of four cats will have positive bursts of happiness, following the consumption of catnip – often known as Cat Crack!

So, is Catnip Safe For Dogs?

In short, yes. Catnip is totally safe and non-toxic for dogs. However, it has the polar opposite effect on canines as it does on felines. Cats are highly stimulated by catnip, but dogs experience more of a sedative state after consuming catnip.

What Are The Benefits of Catnip for Dogs?

For dogs who suffer from anxiety, catnip can be used as a natural remedy to combat this. Catnip can also improve a dog’s sleep and be used as a natural antiseptic treatment too. The minerals in catnip can help keep a dog’s digestive system healthy and help to provide relief naturally for sensitive stomachs.

What are the Dangers of Catnip for Dogs and Cats?

Catnip is non-toxic, and although if a cat or dog were to consume it in excessive doses, this would lead to the terminology of ‘poisoning,’ in actual fact, the reality would be very mild symptoms that consisted of nausea and possible diarrhea. Neither of which would be nice for a pet, but nor would they cause lasting damage. 

Cats shouldn’t be given catnip while pregnant however, as it could bring on early labour.

Although catnip is non-addictive, it isn’t recommended to be given every day. 

A danger catnip poses to dogs is purely in how it is given to them. Catnip is often put inside specialized cat toys, providing a slow-release and a game in itself for the cat to get the treat. It cannot be the same for dogs, as cat toys are too small and have too many small attachments, such as feathers and bells, that could cause internal blockages in a dog if consumed.

However, dogs can be given the same treatment with a stronger, more durable toy like a Kong, filled with tasty treats. 

How to Give Catnip to a Dog

If your dog has a minor scrape or cut, catnip acts as a natural antiseptic due to its healing and antibacterial properties. You can put catnip directly onto the external wound and monitor the healing process. If the injury isn’t improving within a day or two, then I would advise speaking to your veterinarian. Herbal remedies can often only do so much. 

If you want to try catnip as a natural sedative for a dog with anxiety, low mood, or who has extreme hyperactivity, then you can add it directly to their food. Dog owners can purchase dried catnip to sprinkle on their dog’s food – the recommended amount is ⅛ to ½ of a teaspoon, under a veterinarian’s guidance. 

Another option would be to add a few fresh catnip leaves into your dog’s drinking bowl. You can purchase catnip seeds online or buy live plants from your local garden center. Often catnip will be found growing naturally in your garden, and if this is the case, it would be best to cover the plant or restrict the area, to stop cats and dogs from consuming too much of it. 

There are plenty of catnip-infused treats and toys available to buy, but it is essential to consult your vet before trying any natural fixes for your dog. It could be that your dog suffers from a medical condition or allergy that could be aggravated by non-prescribed, herbal remedies. 

What are the Alternatives to Catnip?

If you believe or have been professionally advised that your dog has anxiety, there are many products available to help to treat this. There are also a number of things you could try at home, which we have covered here

If you’re looking for herbal remedies to combat anxiety in your dog, then the following alternatives to catnip have a proven track record in being effective. As mentioned above, you should always consult your veterinarian before trying to tackle any behavioral issue alone. 

Chamomile

Chamomile

Chamomile is a gentle herb and a well-known natural sedative for humans. Chamomile can also help to reduce a dog’s anxiety and curb stomach issues. Chamomile supplements can be given to a dog to soothe his nerves when traveling and naturally tackle travel sickness. 

You will often find chamomile as the main ingredient in calming shampoos and other grooming products. 

Valerian

Valerian

Valerian is one of the most globally recognized natural sedatives. It is gentle and a safe way to calm nerves and promote the physical relaxation we all so often crave. Dogs can benefit from consuming Valerian before stressful events if they’re prone to becoming overexcited or hysterical. 

St John’s Wort

St John's Wort

St John’s Wort is a natural alternative to prescribed antidepressant medications. It is safe and known to be effective for both humans and dogs. Dogs who have intense fear-based anxiety, such as when being separated from their owners or during thunderstorms or fireworks, have been found to notably improve their happiness level after consuming St John’s Wort.

Cannabidiol 

Cannabidiol

Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, comes in specialized pet-friendly formats. It is still a highly controversial subject and illegal for a veterinarian to prescribe – or even advise – in some states. Still, owners are looking for CBD oil to treat anxiety, aggression, arthritis, and pain in their dogs. 

I would like to stress that minimal research has been done on this taboo subject, but studies do exist with promising results. Please see here and here

Oat

Oat

Oat is an excellent example of a herb that has nerve-calming results, plus in addition, it is highly nutritious too. Oat tops, the seed of the plant, or oat straw, which is the stem or leaves, are what goes into making oat-infused nourishing teas. Another way to provide this herb is to cook oatmeal and add it to the dog’s food. 

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha
Image: 1mg.com

Ashwagandha is a herb that works synergistically with a number of other herbs to combat anxiety, nervous exhaustion, fatigue, and pain. It is regularly added into dog supplements that support the immune system and help to reduce the symptoms of illnesses like Cushing’s Disease. 

Lavender 

Lavender

Lavender shouldn’t be consumed by dogs to aid their anxiety, but its aroma has been proven to have a highly positive effect on reducing stress and anxiety in dogs. You could rub lavender into your dog’s coat during a calming massage or opt for lavender-scented plug-ins for the home. Many dog shampoos have lavender as a main ingredient, for its soothing properties and its beautiful, floral scent. 

Further Reading Regarding Anxiety in Dogs 

Many dog behaviorists feel that rather than treating the emotional condition, it is wiser to deal with the cause, much like bolting the stable door before the horse escapes. Catnip is used for dogs primarily to treat anxiety or hyperactivity, but in the majority, these conditions have two root causes – lifestyle and breed

Anxiety is unfortunately very common, with over 70% of domestic dogs experiencing anxiety of some form during their lives. Hyperactivity in dogs is also alarmingly common. Both of these conditions can make dog ownership difficult, but once you get past them, the reward is enormous. Look past the behavior to the cause, if nothing else it will likely change your mindset which can be the start of the domino effect. 

Sadly, anxiety and hyperactivity are often the results of an unhappy hound. But, the good news is that there are several quick and easy ways that you can improve your dog’s happiness. Even older dogs with anxiety can beat the condition with help, understanding, and patience from their owner. 

It can seem like you have a problematic dog on your hands, and it’s not unusual for owners to feel like they simply won’t form a bond with their dog. The truth is that he is likely feeling the exact same way as you are. Once you reach an understanding, and find a way to manage your issues, you will have a happy dog and a happy home. 

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