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Does Catnip Work For Dogs? The Pros and Cons of Catnip For Dogs

does catnip work for dogs

We all know what happens to cats on catnip, but does Catnip work for dogs too? Catnip is a herb in the mint family that stimulates cats, causing them to be anything from mellow to hyperactive. The herb has the opposite effect on dogs by creating a calm, almost sedative effect.

Anxious or dogs with insomnia can benefit from a pinch of catnip and a calming bed to snooze away their troubles. However, the herb is not all good, as there are a few downsides, particularly in the case of an overdose. We cover the advantages, dangers, and dosage of catnip in dogs to help you decide whether to try it on your dog.

Does Catnip Work For Dogs?

Catnip is safe for dogs and sometimes provides calming, digestive, and antiseptic benefits. Catnip contains a chemical called nepetalactone that acts as a relaxant with calming, sedative properties, but this does not always affect dogs.

The same chemical works on cats, making them pleasantly frenzied, especially if bored or having them act “high.”

Catnip is more common for cats, such that we can even see cat toys containing catnip, but dogs can also enjoy the benefits. Still, it is more of a short-term solution for any behavioral issues like anxiety or digestive difficulties, but any recurrent issues warrant veterinary attention.

There isn’t much study backing up exactly how catnip affects canines. Catnip may appear not to have any effect on some dogs whatsoever. But both cats and dogs have vomeronasal organs or Jacobson’s associated with pheromones, responsible for cats’ nutty response to catnip.

The important difference is that the pheromones from catnip are similar to a female cat being in heat. And since this pheromone is meaningless to dogs, this is probably why there is usually no real catnip effect on dogs.

So, dogs don’t respond the same way to the pheromone-like compound in catnip, explaining why some dogs don’t experience any catnip effects at all. Those that do exhibit catnip effects don’t show excitement like the felines.

Is it okay for dogs to eat catnip?

When it comes to dogs eating catnip, it’s not clear whether it’s safe or at what dosage. Because catnip is in the mint family, we need to be careful, as mint is toxic to dogs in large doses. But as far as we know, dogs can ingest a small amount of catnip safely.

So there is no reason to worry if your dog got into your kittens catnip toys and confused them for dog treats.

What is catnip?

Catnip is a herb and a member of the mint family with distinctive heart-shaped leaves. The chemical nepetalactone coats the stem, leaves, and pods of this perennial plant and is the herb’s active ingredient. Other names include; catmint, catwort, and field balm.

Historically, the herb was used for thousands of years as a medical remedy. We see a carryover of the remedy function of the herb in dogs today as it’s used as an antiseptic. Humans also use catnip as a popular base for tea for calming effects.

Catnip Health Benefits For Dogs

Catnip could potentially offer several benefits to dogs, such as reduced anxiety, relieving stomach issues, promoting better sleep, and reduced nausea. But this home remedy requires proper dosing since excess consumption has downsides.

In theory, catnip promotes canine wellness by being calming and relaxing, but note that there is still a lack of research to support the use of catnip on dogs, what it does to them, or even to answer the questions “how long does catnip last on dogs?”

Nevertheless, let’s look at what catnip may be able to do.

1. Catnip to calm nervous dogs

The active ingredient in catnip, nepetalactone, reacts positively with canines and relaxes their nerves. You can crush dried catnip to pet food about 30 minutes before events that cause anxiety to your dog, like vet visits. Other anxiety-inducing situations include loud thunder and fireworks, to which dogs respond better after eating catnip.

According to holistic veterinarian Dr. Randy Kidd, some dogs don’t respond to catnip, but some do become calmer and more relaxed. Herbs like catnip are only temporary solutions, and dogs with extreme anxiety benefit from medical intervention.

These dogs show signs like:

  • breathing fast,
  • pacing,
  • increased vocalization,
  • depression,
  • and urinating in the house.

These dogs with extreme, prolonged anxiety may require antianxiety medication and behavior therapy instead of herbs. Anxiety can also explain why dogs, like some Chihuahuas, are so mean. Aggression is a way dogs cope with anxiety by scaring off triggers.

2. Motion sickness

Dogs that don’t do too well in car rides due to car sickness can benefit from some catnip before the journey. You can try the herb a few times and observe if it makes a difference. If not, consider other solutions like not feeding your do before the journey and anti-nausea medication.

3. Mild tummy issues

Catnip can improve digestion in canines and reduce stomach discomfort in your dog. Members of the mint family are generally known for their digestive aid, even in humans. Whether it’s a gassy stomach or a case of indigestion, catnip can come in handy for your do.

The herb also contains vitamins C and E, flavonoids (phytonutrients), tannins, and magnesium. These nutrients provide added benefits to your dog’s overall health. But remember that essential oils are likely toxic to dogs, and some nutrients in plants, like tannins, are what we call antinutrients. They bind with other nutrients in the gut like iron and prevent them from being absorbed.

4. Catnip can help with sleep

Catnip can help your dog sleep better if they experience bouts of insomnia. The relaxing quality of the herb allows a dog unable to sleep due to anxiety to feel better and induces sleep as a result.

5. A natural antiseptic

This herb has healing properties and is a natural antiseptic. You can make a paste with catnip and water and apply it to a minor scrape if your dog has been slightly injured. Its antibacterial and antifungal qualities ensure safe wound healing free of infections.

6. Natural pest repellant

When used topically, catnip can effectively repel mosquitos and fleas. The herb repels a characteristically strong odor that may even be more effective than some commercial insect repellants. Planting catnip around your yard can also keep pests out of your environment.

As with any other herb, it’s best to consult your vet before administering topically or ingesting through food and water. The vet will determine if you can use the herb without any harmful effects on your dog and give you the correct measurements.

Dangers of Catnip in Dogs: Is Catnip Bad For dogs?

Catnip is generally safe for dogs in small amounts. This herb’s dangers emerge when your dog gobbles too much of it and is often not too severe. However, if they too ingest too much they may suffer from:

1. Stomach discomfort

Dogs can feel a bit sickened by consuming herbs in plant form. This symptom wanes after some time and is nothing to worry about too much. You may see signs of nausea, like drooling and heavy panting, or vomiting.

2. Diarrhea

Even if catnip reduces stomach issues, too much of it can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues. The upset stomach will subside after removing catnip from your dog’s water, treats, or food. But be wary; if the diarrhea does not go away or the symptoms worsen, see a vet.

3. Vomiting

Catnip shouldn’t be used as a regular supplement but once in a while to avoid catnip poisoning. This issue can cause vomiting in your dog, which won’t be too severe.

How to give dogs Catnip: Catnip Overdose in Dogs

Proper dosage is the most important aspect of giving your dog catnip and reaping its benefits. About ¼ to ½ a teaspoon of catnip in your dog’s food or water bowl is sufficient. Your dog should ingest the herb infrequently in case of anxiety or stomach issues instead of as a daily supplement.

Always consult your vet before giving your dog catnip in case they have a condition that can be aggravated by catnip. If you stick to moderate amounts of the herb and not every day, catnip will not harm your dog.

Does Catnip Get Dogs High?

Dogs don’t get same the buzz that cats portray from catnip, which almost looks like they’re high. Dogs may instead get more relaxed and calmer if the herb affects them at all. Dogs and cats respond to nepetalactone differently because of how their brains are wired.

For cats, nepetalactone triggers their vomeronasal organs located in the back of their nose. The catnip compound is like pheromones released by females in heat and causes a frenzy in cats. Dogs don’t respond to the pheromone-like nepetalactone compounds like cats, despite having vomeronasal organs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

How much Catnip is too much for my dog?

More than half a teaspoon of catnip is too much for a dog. For this herb, less is better, and dogs can reap its benefits with as little as a quarter of a teaspoon. Additionally, don’t give your dog catnip every day but instead when your dog is nervous or showing signs of an upset stomach.

Is it safe to give my dog catnip?

Catnip is safe for dogs and may be beneficial. The herb has relaxing qualities, is an antiseptic, reduces mild tummy issues, and repels insects. Stick to the recommended ¼ to ½ of a teaspoon of catnip for the best results

What is the best catnip for my dog?

Dogs can have both dry, crushed catnip to the food and fresh leaves added to the water. Both catnip forms are safe and effective to administer to dogs. You can also spray catnip on your dog to repel insect pests.

How long does catnip work on dogs?

The strongest effect of catnip lasts for about 15 minutes in dogs. They will still enjoy the relaxing effect after the 15 minutes but at a gradually declining rate. Catnip takes about 30 minutes to kick in in dogs, which is when you should administer the herb before stressful situations.

Final Thoughts

Catnip is beneficial to dogs due to its relaxing effect. The herb also improves digestion, acts as an antiseptic, and repels insects. Give your dog ½ a teaspoon of the herb for the safest and most effective results. Excessive catnip will cause stomach upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. The herb shouldn’t be used daily as a supplement.


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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