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.
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.
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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.
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.