Can My Dog Have Catnip?

Not just for cats? 🤔

dog licking nose with catnip

Cats go crazy for catnip. But have you ever wondered if dogs can have catnip? And if catnip is bad for dogs to consume?

Even though the name “catnip” literally has the word cat in it, you might be surprised to find out that dogs can have catnip, too.

“Catnip is nontoxic to dogs, so you don’t have to worry about having it laying around in a multi-pet household,” Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and a veterinary consultant for FiveBarks, told The Dodo.

We spoke to some experts to find out how catnip affects dogs and how you can safely give it to your pup. Here’s what you need to know.

What is catnip?

“It is actually an herb from the mint family,” Dr. Simon said. “Its scientific name is Nepeta cataria. It contains an ingredient called nepetalactone, which is appealing to cats and causes short-lived behavioral changes. Cats may become hyper or mellow and can roll around and drool.”

What effect does catnip have on dogs?

Some cats are obsessed with catnip, but when it comes to dogs, they don't love it the same way that cats do.

“Dogs, on the other hand, do not seem to experience the same effects as cats,” Dr. Simon said. “They aren’t generally attracted to catnip and won’t seek it out in toys like a cat will.”

Catnip also appears to have an opposite effect on dogs compared to cats. While it makes cats excited, it actually calms dogs down. (Although it doesn’t affect all dogs, just like it doesn’t affect all cats.)

“It is the opposite of how it affects cats,” Dr. Sarah Wooten, a veterinarian with Pumpkin Pet Insurance, told The Dodo. “In dogs, catnip acts as a mild sedative and anxiolytic (reduces anxiety), making it possibly helpful in stressful situations, like grooming or vet visits.”

Is catnip bad for dogs?

Not at all! Catnip actually has a number of health benefits for dogs.

“Catnip has several nutritional benefits, including vitamin E, vitamin C and other phytonutrients (nutrients found in plants),” Dr. Wooten said.

So letting your dog eat a little catnip every now and then is kind of like giving him a multivitamin.

And since catnip has a calming effect on dogs, it can even help dogs get more sleep. (Not to mention, you’ll probably sleep better without your pup up all night, too).

“In dogs, catnip has a mild sedative effect and can help pets who have trouble sleeping at night,” Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian from Safe Hounds Pet Insurance, told The Dodo.

Keep in mind, though, that if your dog doesn’t have anxiety and is getting enough exercise during the day but is still having trouble sleeping, it could be a sign of another illness. So you should look out for any other symptoms and talk to your vet to find out what the cause might be.

How can I give my dog catnip?

It’s best to give your dog catnip to help him relax, and not as a daily treat.

“Catnip shouldn’t be a daily supplement,” Dr. Wooten said. “It is better used for specific stressful events.”

For example, if your pup gets super anxious on car rides or going to the vet, you can give him a little bit of catnip right before you leave.

“Catnip can be used in dogs before a stressful event, including veterinary examinations or grooming appointments,” Dr. Burch said. “When catnip is given to a pet 30 to 60 minutes before an appointment, your dog’s stress level can be decreased.”

Dr. Burch recommends mixing some catnip into your dog’s food. You can try giving your pup dehydrated catnip, like Yeowww! organic catnip from Chewy for $7.

And how much catnip should you give your dog at a time? “One-eighth teaspoon for small dogs, and one-fourth to a half teaspoon for larger dogs,” Dr. Wooten said.

Catnip can even be used as a mosquito repellent if your dog tends to attract lots of bugs. (It’s also effective at repelling fleas, but with so many super effective flea and tick products on the market, you don’t need to use it for that.)

“The essential oil nepetalactone found in catnip is a more effective mosquito repellant compared to DEET,” Dr. Burch said. “Catnip would need to be rubbed topically on your pet to see the benefit, but it can be helpful.”

You can get this KONG Naturals catnip oil from Chewy for $7.

If your pup’s feeling anxious, you can even put catnip on a snuffle mat to try to calm him down.

“You can try using catnip on a snuffle mat as a form of enrichment to help them relax,” Dr. Nold, a veterinarian at Trupanion, told The Dodo.

You can get this snuffle mat from Amazon for $34.

If you give your pup a catnip toy, make sure it’s one that’s super sturdy. Cat toys obviously aren’t made for dogs, and they can be easy for dogs to tear apart, which means that little pieces can get stuck in your pup’s stomach and cause an obstruction, or they can cause him to choke.

“Be careful about just offering a catnip-containing cat toy to your dog, particularly if they like to tear apart or eat toys,” Dr. Nold said. “If your dog eats a catnip-containing toy, you should contact your veterinarian, as there is risk of GI obstruction.”

So believe it or not, you can give your dog catnip, and it can be good for him. Just save it for an occasional treat to keep him calm if he freaks out before vet visits or needs some help sleeping from time to time.

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