PET HEALTH

Is Catnip for Dogs a Good Idea?

Four minutes
Apr 28, 2023

When most people think of catnip, they tend to think of a feline's silly reactions to the plant. While catnip for cats is usually a no-brainer for pet parents, there’s no need to panic if your dog happens upon your kitty’s catnip toys. In fact, catnip can be beneficial to dogs in some instances. So if you’re wondering, “Is catnip bad for dogs?,” the short answer is no.

Read on to learn more about catnip for dogs, how much is safe for your dog, and ways it may benefit your pup.

What Is Catnip?

Catnip is a plant in the mint family.1 For humans, the herb is often used in natural cough suppressants, teas, and bug sprays. As many know, catnip is also used in some cat toys to elicit an energetic reaction from cats that sniff it.

Is Catnip Safe for Dogs?

Yes, catnip is safe for dogs. While it acts as a stimulant for cats, it has the opposite effect on dogs. This is normal and not a cause for concern. That said, your dog might get an upset stomach if they consume a lot of a fresh catnip plant.1 Other than that, there usually aren't any issues when a dog eats or sniffs catnip.

Catnip also has some dietary benefits for your dog. The herb includes magnesium, as well as vitamins C and E, which can all help support cognitive function and joint health.

What Does Catnip Do for Dogs?

As mentioned, catnip has an opposite reaction for dogs compared to cats. This means that while your feline friend may be bouncing off the walls, your dog could be napping after a few sniffs. This is due to a compound in the plant called nepetalactone.1 This reacts with your dog’s vomeronasal organ, an organ that controls how your dog responds to pheromones through their nervous system.

The nepetalactone triggers a response in that organ which causes dogs to become mildly sedated.1 Cats react differently because the scent is comparable to a female cat in heat, which wouldn’t trigger a reaction in dogs.

However, it’s not a universal reaction for all pups. Some dogs may have no reaction at all to catnip, while others may experience drowsiness. That said, it’s best to speak to your veterinarian before adding catnip to their routine.

When Should I Give My Dog Catnip?

Catnip may be a good idea for dogs that could benefit from a natural mild sedative.1 While it shouldn’t be used all the time, and may be best used alongside training methods and guidance from your veterinarian, it can be useful in certain instances. You may want to consider giving your dog catnip if they:1

  • Experience anxiety
  • Have poor sleeping habits
  • Are joining you on a road trip
  • Have a vet appointment

There are brands of catnip that are specifically for dogs, but any dried or fresh catnip can work for your pup so long as there aren’t any unfamiliar additives.1

There are also catnip sprays that can be used on your pup as natural bug repellant. It’s not recommended to use this as a substitute for traditional flea and tick medications, but a spray can help protect your dog from some bugs if they love to play in the great outdoors.

How much catnip should I give my dog?

Experts recommend giving your dog about ½ teaspoon of catnip about 30 minutes before you’d like them to relax.1 It can be sprinkled over food or given in capsule form. It’s encouraged to consult your vet prior to giving them catnip, since it doesn’t work on every dog and other alternatives, like anti-anxiety medicine, may be more effective.1

Curious About Holistic Care? Pet Insurance Can Help

Catnip is an accessible holistic option to help treat some acute concerns your dog may face, but it’s important to remember that it may not work with every dog. To further support your pup through the ebbs and flows of life, consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance. There are policies that could help to cover holistic care and alternative therapies that may help you to manage your pet's health concerns like anxiety. Get a free quote today to see how pet insurance can fit into your lifestyle.

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1 “Is Catnip for Dogs Safe? A Vet Explains the Herb's Effects,” Daily Paws

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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