Can Dogs Have Catnip?

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can dogs have catnip

When you think of catnip, you probably picture a substance that’s inside cat toys that makes cats go nutty. But can dogs enjoy a bit of ‘nip safely?

They sure can. (FYI, even humans can sip on catnip tea.) Your dog can easily enjoy several benefits of catnip, and this herb can even support your pup’s health in several ways.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What is catnip? 

Catnip is an herb that is part of the mint family. The catnip plant is hardy and drought-resistant, making it an easy-to-grow favorite for North American herb gardens. 

The pods, leaves, and coating of the catnip plant’s stem contain a chemical compound called nepetalactone. That ingredient can cause specific reactions in cats who smell or eat catnip. Cats often become either a bit excited and off-the-wall or relaxed in response to catnip. 

Is catnip bad for dogs? 

Not at all! 

While catnip may be best known for the effects it has on cats, it’s also completely safe for dogs to ingest, or to use in the form of a spray.

Catnip contains beneficial minerals, including vitamin C and vitamin E, and magnesium. It also contains essential oils. Those nutrients are not only safe for your dog, but can actually be healthy.

What are the benefits of catnip in dogs?

Catnip offers several different health benefits for your dog, minus the side effects that medications can have. 

That said, please do not substitute vet-recommended medications with catnip before consulting with your trusted veterinarian. 


While catnip often winds cats up, it tends to act as a mild relaxant in dogs. Catnip may help to calm your anxious dog down, so it can be a valuable tool to use during nail trims, trips to the vet, or other situations that often make your dog nervous or jumpy. 

Since catnip can have a mild sedative effect in dogs, it may help your dog to sleep better at night, too. 

If you know that your dog is going to experience a stressful situation and you want to use catnip to create a calming effect, then you’ll need to give catnip at least 30 minutes before the event so that it has time to take effect. 

Digestive Health

Catnip can help to support your dog’s digestive system in several ways. The herb helps to soothe the muscles of your dog’s digestive tract, so it may help to relieve mild episodes of diarrhea

It can also help to relieve digestive gas, making your dog more comfortable, and may help to reduce motion sickness during car trips.

While catnip may be helpful for the occasional bout of stomach upset, if your dog experiences frequent diarrhea or significant digestive issues, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your vet to identify the underlying cause of these issues. 

Insect Repellent 

Using catnip topically on your dog may even help to keep pests like fleas and mosquitoes away. 

  • A 2001 report published by the American Chemical Society found that nepetalactone repels mosquitoes about 10 times more effectively than DEET, the chemical that is used in most insect repellents. 
  • When applied topically, catnip may also offer protection against fleas, which can not only cause itchy skin reactions, but which can also carry tapeworm eggs or potentially cause anemia. 
  • Catnip may also repel mosquitoes, which can carry heartworm. A catnip spray can protect your dog from these pests without the harsh chemicals contained in many topical flea protectants. 

While catnip is fine as a supplement to traditional flea prevention, it should not replace  vet-recommended treatments. 

How should I give my dog catnip? 

How you give your dog catnip will depend on the specific benefits that you want to provide to your pup. 

Taking catnip orally

If you want to use catnip to soothe indigestion or encourage relaxation, then you can feed your pooch fresh catnip leaves orally. Consider adding a few catnip leaves to your dog’s food, or add some dried catnip to your dog’s drinking water.

Be sure to monitor your dog’s reaction to the catnip, since the effects of catnip will vary slightly depending on your dog. You should be able to see your dog’s response within 30 minutes of feeding the catnip, and you may need to adjust the amount that you’re feeding your dog. 

Catnip spray

If you want to use catnip as a flea and mosquito repellent, you can buy a catnip spray from a pet store. A veterinary herbalist can also help you to learn how to create your own catnip oil or spray at home. 

Catnip is easy to grow, so you can grow your own supply of catnip by using a few indoor plant pots. With a little time, you’ll have a constant supply of fresh catnip. 

Before we go… 

Catnip’s name might imply that it’s just for felines, but your dog can benefit from catnip, too. Whether you’re looking to help your dog relax or protect them from mosquitoes and fleas, this herb can be a helpful tool to support your dog’s health. 

But sometimes more substantial health issues require professional care and medications.

Pet insurance, like coverage offered by Lemonade, can help take the sting out of unexpected vet bills, plus Lemonade offers a number of preventative packages and add-ons to help cover routine care, as well as other issues that might come up. 

Applying for dog insurance is fast, and so easy that your dog might be able to do it. (Don’t let your dog do it.)

Paige Cerulli

Paige Cerulli is a lifelong animal lover and a certified equine massage therapist. She works as a copywriter and content writer, and her work has appeared on American Veterinarian, Northeast Equestrian Life Magazine, Business Insider, and more. Paige lives in Western Massachusetts where she shares her life with three cats, three horses, a flock of ducks, and several foster animals.


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