Your Dog Can Absolutely Have Catnip
In fact, it chills them out.
Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)
Your cat loves catnip. You love to see your cat go absolutely bonkers for the stuff. (They probably don’t know that you give it to them just so you can watch them roll around on their back with a dazed look on their face). For the dog people who think that sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday — 4/20 or not — there’s good news: Your dog can love and benefit from catnip just as much as cats. While pups don’t experience the same energizing effect as blissed-out kitties, catnip may help your dog relax, wind down, and recover from stressful experiences.
Before going catnip crazy with your pups, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the specific reactions they may have, potential contraindications, and recommended dosage. TL;DR: Most dogs can enjoy the wonder of catnip in appropriate quantities for a chillaxed good time.
Here are the health benefits of catnip.
According to veterinarian and The Wildest Collective member Dr. Lindsey Wendt, catnip is as safe for dogs as it is for felines. There have yet to be any studies revealing health benefits specifically in dogs, but broader investigations have shown that catnip can have anti-inflammatory properties; help get rid of microbes, bacteria, and parasites; and protect liver function. One study even showed that the plant can kill human lung cancer cells! Catnip essential oil has been shown to repel 13 families of insects, in some cases 10 times better than DEET.
How might catnip affect dog behavior?
Dogs experience the effects of catnip differently than cats do. Chani Ronez, founder of Merci Collective, explains that their reactions are often nearly opposites. “Catnip is an herb from the mint family that cats are particularly sensitive to,” she says. “When cats are exposed to catnip, it causes them to become more active and playful and leads them to a feeling of pure bliss and euphoria. For dogs, however, it’s totally different in that it offers a sense of relaxation and calm.”
In general, you can expect to see these results in 30 to 60 minutes. So, if there are particular situations you want to support your dog through with catnip, such as relieving anxiety at the vet, this time frame is helpful to keep in mind.
How should I give catnip to my dog?
Dr. Wendt adds that it’s important to start nice and slow. You want to be able to see how your individual dog responds to catnip and determine whether it is a good option for them. If you start with a small amount and your dog really likes it, you can consider increasing the amount slowly using the following guidelines:
1/8 tablespoon for small breed dogs
1/4 tablespoon for medium sized dogs
1/2 tablespoon for large dogs
“A little goes a long way!” Dr. Wendt says. “More is not necessarily better — consider offering it a few times a week rather than on a daily basis.”
There are lots of ways to integrate catnip into your pup’s routine. Dr. Wendt recommends sprinkling some into a snuffle mat or another engaging toy that encourages foraging. “Scentwork is a great option for dogs with mobility issues, as cognitive stimulation is just as important as physical,” she says.
Dr. Wendt cautions that you shouldn’t give your dog a toy that is made for cats — this is more likely to lead to a situation of excessive exposure and toxicity, as well as potential foreign body ingestion. We love Merci Collective’s Chouchou, a catnip-filled chew toy made for anxious pups, because it’s one of the only dog specific catnip toys on the market.
“We were very mindful of what materials we used in designing the Chouchou,” Chani says. “We went with a heavyweight canvas that is made of 100 percent cotton to ensure it’s strong, natural, and free of chemicals and harsh dyes. We use an eco-friendly stuffing that is hypoallergenic and made of recycled materials.” She adds, “Our catnip is super strong, grown in North America, and free of pesticides, and the toy is printed, cut, stuffed, and assembled in Los Angeles.”
Dr. Wendt also recommends Rx Vitamins Nutricalm for dogs and Real Mushrooms Relax Pet Chews.
What potential risks or other concerns should I know about before giving catnip to my dog?
If your dog is already taking a prescription sedative, anti-anxiety, or anti-seizure medications, be sure to check with your veterinarian before giving them catnip. Dr. Wendt says you should avoid using catnip essential oil without the direction of a veterinarian; it can cause skin irritation and is more likely to cause toxicity.
She warns that catnip is like any herb or supplement and can be harmful if ingested in excessive quantities. But keeping portions incremental and appropriate for your dog’s size should be completely safe. Soon, your best pal (and you, as a result) will be chillin’ more than ever.
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Maia is a freelance writer focused on using storytelling to help people treat our planet with more compassion. She lives in Chicago with her perfect pets, Maxx the dog and Rubie the cat. Find her on maiawelbel.com and @mwelbel.