Catnip Affects Dogs, but Not How You'd Think

While catnip sends our feline friends into a frenzy of fun, catnip has some great benefits for dogs as well.

Published January 3, 2024
Boston Terrier dog with head cocked

Catnip, traditionally a feline favorite, is making its way into the canine realm! That's right — more and more pet parents are discovering that catnip can have some pretty surprising and beneficial effects on dogs, too. It's not just about the giggles and zoomies for cats anymore; this humble herb is showing its versatility by helping dogs in unexpected ways.

Is Catnip Bad for Dogs?

Catnip is not only safe for dogs but also nutritionally beneficial. It's packed with essential vitamins like C and E, known for their antioxidant properties, and magnesium, crucial for nerve and muscle function. Additionally, catnip contains flavonoids and tannins, which offer anti-inflammatory and digestive health benefits. 

Need to Know

If your dog has any health conditions, give your veterinarian a call to make sure it's okay for them to try catnip. 

What Does Catnip Do to Dogs?

Catnip has many benefits for dogs in addition to its nutritional benefits. According to the Animal Care Veterinary Clinic in Junction City, KS, the benefits of catnip for dogs include:

Reducing Anxiety

If your dog tends to get anxious or jittery before visits to the groomer or veterinarian, using catnip might be a helpful strategy. Catnip, known for its calming properties, can be an effective way to soothe your dog's nerves. The herb's essential oils, particularly nepetalactone, provide a calming effect.

Better Sleep

Weimaraner puppy sleeps on a soft bed indoors.

If your dog struggles with settling down for sleep at night, consider trying catnip as a natural aid. It has mild sedative properties, making it a potentially effective way to help relax your canine friend and promote better sleep. 

Insect Repellant

The natural oils found in catnip are known to be unappealing to fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, thus providing a layer of protection for your pets. According to research published in Molecules, "The free catnip essential oils repelled 88% of tested ticks 1 h post application, and the repellent effect slightly decreased overtime, still repelling 84% of ticks after 2 h." 

It's a safe and natural alternative to chemical repellents and can be particularly useful during warmer months when these insects are more prevalent. You can use catnip in various forms, such as in toys, sprays, or even growing the plant in areas where your pets frequently spend time.

Natural Antiseptic

Healthy Paws Pet Insurance notes that catnip also has some natural healing properties that may help your dogs heal from a cut or wound, but it's always best to discuss any plan of care before giving your dog catnip or applying it in ointment in any way.

Does Long Does Catnip for Dogs Last? 

Although there is no definitive answer to how long catnip will last in your dog's system, there is an estimation of when to provide it to them. Animal Care Clinic advises, "About 30 minutes beforehand, give your dog a little bit of catnip to help him or her calm down."

Giving Your Dog Catnip 

"If you think that your dog could benefit from catnip, consider sprinkling just a half-teaspoon of catnip on his or her food. Or, you can add a few fresh catnip leaves directly to his or her drinking water," suggests Animal Care Clinic. But others recommend starting smaller, with as little as 1/8 of a teaspoon sprinkled on your dog's food, as noted by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.

The bottom line is to talk to your veterinarian about what's right for your dog before trying it.

Go Slow

Offering catnip in small amounts is a smart way to go, as it allows you to gauge your dog's reaction without overwhelming them. Remember, even though catnip can be beneficial, overdoing it isn't advisable. Too much of it can lead to an unexpected or excessive response, which might not be enjoyable for your furry friend. So, take it slow, observe how your dog reacts, and you can gradually adjust the amount based on their behavior.

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Catnip Affects Dogs, but Not How You'd Think