What Are the Effects of Catnip on Dogs?

L. Baran

The herb catnip, or catmint, is widely used amongst cat owners to provide their feline friends with a harmless euphoric sensation that is both entertaining for the owner and enjoyable for the cat. The herb is less widely used for dogs because it is often ineffective, and people are afraid of potential side effects. The effects of catnip on dogs are generally fairly mild and certainly not as dramatic as with cats, but the herb can be beneficial for the dog's digestion, mental health and minor wounds, as an antiseptic treatment.

The catnip herb might relieve indigestion in some dogs.
The catnip herb might relieve indigestion in some dogs.

Many dogs suffer from anxiety when being left alone at home, riding in the car, or going to the vet. Catnip can be used to calm dogs in this situation and help them feel more at ease. The calming effect of catnip on dogs is quite the opposite of its excitatory effect on cats. The easiest way to give an anxious dog the herb is to crush it into the animal's food, but the whole leaves can also be left to moisten in a water bowl or fed directly to the animal in a more potent liquid dose. For dogs suffering from chronic anxiety, catnip can be given daily as a behavioral control method.

A pet owner should consult a vet before giving their dog large amounts of catnip.
A pet owner should consult a vet before giving their dog large amounts of catnip.

Catnip for dogs is also beneficial for the occasional bout of digestive upset. The herb is effective at relieving digestive gasses and can also calm the muscles of the digestive tract to prevent them from passing waste matter too quickly. The effect of catnip for diarrhea is quite mild, and thus it should not be used for major digestive upsets or in cases where there is blood in the stool or associated vomiting. Catnip should also not be used over long periods to treat canine diarrhea, as the underlying cause must be investigated by a veterinarian.

Catnip typically has a calming effect on dogs.
Catnip typically has a calming effect on dogs.

The final use for catnip is very beneficial when a dog experiences a minor injury or infection. The antiseptic effect of catnip on dogs has been recognized for many years, and it is quite simple to create the antiseptic treatment with catnip and a small amount of warm water. The ointment is rubbed into the wound or infection site at regular intervals throughout the day until the area has cleared up. For best results, the site should be covered with gauze or bandaging to prevent the catnip from rubbing off.

Derived from the mint family, catnip is a herb that returns year after year. When using catnip on dogs, owners should be aware that many dog breeds do not seem to show any response at all to the herb. This may be a result of size, constitution or other factors. Before giving large amounts of catnip to a dog, the pet owner should seek the advice of a veterinarian.

Catnip can be crushed into a dog's food in order to feed it to the animal.
Catnip can be crushed into a dog's food in order to feed it to the animal.

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Discussion Comments


Catnip is not supposed to have any effect on dogs. My friend claims that it works on her dog though. She has a Shiba and she told me that Shiba is the only breed affected by catnip. I personally doubt it.


@fBoyle-- I would like to know if catnip works for your dog's vet anxiety as well. I'm looking for something natural I can give my dog before vet visits.

I didn't think about catnip because when I had a cat, she didn't react to catnip at all. She was completely immune to its effects. So I just assumed that it won't work for dogs either.

I think I will buy some fresh catnip and put it in my dog's food. A toy is a good idea but the dog might just be happy to have a new toy. So I might get a better idea if I add some to his food.


Yesterday, my dog got a hold of my cat's catnip toy. I didn't think that he would be interested in it but he loved it. He kept chewing on it and rolling around on the floor. He wasn't very excited as my cat usually is when she gets catnip. But he was very happy and eventually fell asleep with it. So I think that catnip does have a relaxing, positive effect on dogs. I'm going to give him a catnip toy the next time we make a car trip to the vet and see if it works then.

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