Understanding the Effects: Is It Safe to Give Your Dog Catnip?

Understanding the Effects: Is It Safe to Give Your Dog Catnip?

Ever found yourself pondering the question, “Can I give my dog catnip?” If you’re a pet parent to both cats and dogs, you’ve probably seen your feline friend go wild over this herb. But what about your canine companion? Is catnip safe for dogs?

Key Takeaways

  • Catnip, a common herb loved by cats, is safe for dogs as per animal-toxicity experts at the ASPCA. It elicits different reactions in canines, ranging from mild sedation to virtually no changes in behavior.
  • Dogs do not react with the same playful frenzy as cats upon exposure to catnip, primarily because the key compound nepetalactone does not influence dogs as it does cats.
  • While usually safe, catnip consumption can lead to mild gastrointestinal upset in dogs, shown through symptoms such as loose stools or occasional vomiting. Overindulgence may lead to nutrient deficiencies.
  • Catnip isn’t nutritional for dogs, but it may hold medicinal properties. It can ease minor stomach upsets and serve as a natural insect repellent. These benefits call for modest use under vigilant supervision.
  • Administering catnip requires careful inspection and moderation. Start with small amounts, monitor your pet’s reaction, and limit the frequency of catnip exposure to ensure your dog’s wellness.
  • Before introducing catnip into your dog’s routine, consultation with a vet is always advised. Each dog could react differently and precautionary steps should be acquainted with to safeguard their health.

While catnip is famously known for its effects on cats, its impact on dogs is considerably less dramatic, offering mild sedative benefits when consumed, which American Kennel Club details thoroughly. However, dog owners should administer catnip in moderation to avoid any potential stomach upset, as ASPCA advises caution with any plant material.

Understanding Catnip: What Is It?

Catnip, known scientifically as Nepeta cataria, from the mint family, claims numerous aliases such as catswort, field balm, and catmint. This perennial herb, native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, has been introduced to North America and is famous for its effects on our feline friends. But what exactly is this plant, and why does it catch the interest of our cats so much?

Comprised of several chemical compounds, the most potent is a volatile oil called nepetalactone. This compound, like catnip’s attractiveness to our feline companions, is concentrated in the leaves and stems of the plant. Cats detect nepetalactone through their olfactory epithelium — their scent organ — not through ingestion. Hence, the frisky and often humorous behavior observed when a cat comes in contact with this plant.

Beyond its recreational use, catnip has numerous applications in traditional human medicine. Used as a tea, an extract, or an essential oil, it’s harnessed for its sedative effects. People have turned to it for relief from conditions like insomnia, migraines, and digestive disorders. Other uses include in aromatherapy for its ability to reduce anxiety and induce a sense of calm.

However, regardless of its benefits for people and cats, the question you might still be grappling with about this minty plant is, what does catnip do to dogs? As you gradually progress through this article, you’ll gather necessary insights on whether it’s safe to share this aromatic herb with your canine companion. Remember, understanding the fundamentals of catnip sets a premise for understanding its effect on dogs.

Remember, knowing what catnip is marks the start on your journey to understanding how it can affect dogs.

Can you give dogs catnip: Fact or Fiction?

Can you give dogs catnip: Fact or Fiction?

Debating whether or not you can give your dog catnip isn’t a matter of mere speculation; it comes down to the facts.

Here’s the truth: Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is typically safe for dogs. The animal-toxicity experts at the ASPCA name catnip as non-toxic to dogs. It may intrigue you to know that dogs don’t react to catnip the same way cats do. The stimulating effects catnip has on cats, courtesy of the compound nepetalactone, largely bypass canines.

But, giving your dog catnip doesn’t come free of considerations. Dogs might exhibit a mild sedative effect in response to catnip. This might show up as increased calmness or drowsiness. A few dogs might have mild gastrointestinal upset if they ingest a large quantity of catnip. This translates into occasional loose stools or vomiting. Be sure not to confuse these side effects with an allergic reaction, which would involve symptoms like itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing.

Heading into the details, dogs often use catnip as part of their play routine. Certain toys comprise of dried catnip. Some owners even brew catnip tea as a reprieve for their canines, aiming to soothe canine ailments like stomach upsets.

It might surprise you to know, catnip also packs insect-repellent properties. Many manufacturers extract the essential oils from catnip for use in mosquito sprays. Dogs’ exposure to catnip in these forms is unlikely to harm them.

So, does this mean you can offer catnip to your dog with no second thoughts? Well, moderation holds the key when it comes to dogs and catnip. Despite it being safe, catnip isn’t nutrition for dogs. It doesn’t contribute vital nutrients that your dog’s diet should provide. Also, regular monitoring of your dog while it interacts with catnip goes a long way in ensuring safe usage.

Ultimately, the catnip debate scales more towards fact than fiction. Yes, you can give your dog catnip, but prudence and moderation are your companions when you do.

How Dog’s React to Catnip

How Dog's React to Catnip

In contrast to the stimulating effect catnip induces in cats, it affects dogs differently. Dogs present a varying series of reactions, often ranging from mild sedation to a insignificant outcome. For instance, the nepetalactone compound, responsible for feline arousal, holds virtually no sway over canine reactions.

Primarily, dogs receiving an ingestion of catnip may exhibit signs of mild sedation. These include, but aren’t limited to, decreased activity levels, reduced alertness, and lowered heart rates. Conversely, some dogs display no perceivable change in behavior.

Secondarily, catnip could, in some cases, lead to gastrointestinal upset in dogs. Symptoms typically span from mild diarrhea to occasional bouts of vomiting.

Aside from ingesting catnip, you might wonder if dogs’ responses vary when interacting with catnip-infused toys. Interestingly, while some dogs may find these toys more appealing due to the unique scent, they don’t exhibit the playful frenzy often observed in cats.

On a more beneficial note, catnip seems to hold some medicinal properties for canines. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it might offer relief from minor stomach upsets when used as a tea. Moreover, being a known deterrent to certain types of insects, it can serve as a natural bug repellent for your pooch during outdoor ventures.

Remember, as stated in the previous sections, moderation holds paramount importance when introducing catnip to dogs. Overindulgence can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Therefore, usage warrants close supervision to maintain dietary balance and overall health.

Though safe, catnip’s impact on dogs varies considerably. Be it a lulling effect or simple indifference, canine reactions remain starkly different than feline responses. With its potential medicinal benefits and repellent properties, modest catnip use might prove beneficial for your dog under vigilant supervision.

Administering Catnip to Dogs: Pros and Cons

Given the varying reactions dogs have towards catnip, it’s essential to understand the potential benefits and drawbacks before giving your dog any.

Pros of giving catnip to dogs:

  1. Gentle Sedative: Some dogs encounter a tranquilizing effect, leading to calm behavior. This can prove beneficial for dogs dealing with anxiety or restlessness. The British Journal of Pharmacology published research affirming its mild sedative impact.
  2. Digestive Aid: Subtle stomach upsets may find trouble with small amounts of catnip. Its natural compounds can aid in the smoothing of minor digestive issues.
  3. Natural Insect Repellent: Certain compounds in catnip, notably nepetalactone, are known to be effective in repelling insects. A study published in the Journal of Economic Entomology stated that it is more effective than the widely-used DEET.
  1. Gastrointestinal Upset: While it may aid subtle stomach issues, larger quantities can result in the opposite effect. Overconsumption may lead to vomiting or diarrhea in dogs.
  2. Lack of Nutritional Value: Catnip doesn’t contain essential nutrients required for a dog’s health. It is not a substitute for a balanced diet and should be given as a treat only.
  3. Addiction and Dependency: While rare, dogs may become habituated to any effects of catnip, even if it’s used in moderation.

Always consult with your vet before introducing new elements to your pet’s diet or routine. Despite its benign nature, catnip can have an adverse effect if it’s not administered in moderate and controlled amounts. This ensures that while experimenting with different stimuli to enrich your dog’s environment, you’re also keeping their health and safety a priority.

How to Safely Use Catnip with Dogs

Handling catnip safely for your dogs is crucial for their well-being. As a cautious pet owner, it’s advised to consult your vet before introducing catnip into your dog’s routine. This precaution ensures any underlying health conditions don’t complicate the situation. After obtaining the all-clear from your vet, consider the following steps to administer catnip carefully:

  1. Start with Small Amounts: Introduce catnip to your dog gradually. It can be a pinch of dried leaves mixed into their meals, or infused in their toys. This initiation period lets your pooch acclimate to the herb and reveals any adverse reactions early.
  2. Monitor Reactions: Observe your dog’s behaviors post-catnip consumption. Common reactions include relaxation, increased playful behavior, or mild stomach upset. Any drastic changes or prolonged negative effects warrant immediate vet consultation.
  3. Limit Frequency: Catnip doesn’t carry nutritional value and should function merely as an occasional treat. Remember, it’s used primarily for behavioral aspects like mild sedation or to ward off insects.
  4. Avoid Overdose: Too much catnip can cause gastrointestinal upset in your dog. If you’re using catnip oil, no more than a few drops should be used. Overconsumption presents symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive drooling.

Lastly, it’s vital to note that while catnip is generally safe for dogs, it’s not suitable for all. Dogs with certain medical conditions or those prone to allergic reactions might react negatively to catnip. Keep these tips in mind to enjoy the possible benefits of catnip while safeguarding your dog’s health.


So, can you give your dog catnip? Yes, you can. But it’s crucial to remember that moderation is key. While catnip is generally safe for dogs, it doesn’t affect them like it does cats. Your dog may experience mild sedation or even a bit of tummy trouble. It’s also worth noting that catnip isn’t a nutrient-rich supplement for your furry friend.

Before you start sprinkling catnip in your dog’s bowl, it’s a good idea to consult with your vet. Start with small doses and keep a close eye on your dog’s reaction. Not all dogs will react the same, and some may even have allergies or medical conditions that make catnip a no-go.

Used responsibly, catnip can provide benefits such as mild sedation, digestive aid, and even act as an insect repellent. But always remember, your dog’s well-being should be your top priority.

What is the primary effect of catnip on cats?

Catnip, particularly its compound nepetalactone, has a stimulating effect on cats, often resulting in playful, energetic behavior.

Can dogs have catnip?

Yes, dogs can have catnip, but their reactions differ from cats. Dogs might encounter mild sedative effects or gastrointestinal upset from catnip.

Is catnip good for dogs?

Catnip can offer benefits to dogs like mild sedation, serving as a digestive aid, and insect repellent. However, it should be used in moderation and under a vet’s supervision.

What precautions should dog owners take before giving their pets catnip?

Before giving catnip, consult a vet, start with small amounts, and monitor your dog’s reactions. Limit the frequency and dosage of catnip to prevent any potential overdose.

Are there any dogs that may not suitable to have catnip?

Yes, some dogs, particularly those with specific medical conditions or allergies, may not be suitable for catnip.

How does catnip affect dogs?

Unlike with cats, dog’s reactions to catnip vary, and can range from mild sedative effects to gastrointestinal upset.

Can catnip be an essential nutrient to dogs?

No, catnip lacks essential nutrients for dogs and should only serve as a supplemental substance rather than a replacement for a balanced diet.