Catnip for Dogs: Everything You Need to Know

Golden retriever curiously sniffing at catnip leaves on a sunny suburban porch.

Key Highlights

  • Catnip is safe for dogs and can have various health benefits for them
  • Catnip acts as a mild sedative for dogs and can help with issues like nerves, stomach troubles, sleep, and skin health
  • It can also act as a natural pest repellent for both fleas and mosquitos
  • Catnip can be given to dogs in different forms like dried, fresh, or as a spray, oil, or gel
  • It is important to use catnip in moderation and consult with a vet before using it
  • There are alternatives to catnip for dogs that provide similar calming effects


If you have both cats and dogs in your household, you may have wondered whether catnip, often found in kitty toys, is safe for dogs. The good news is that catnip is not only safe for dogs but can also provide various health benefits for them. Catnip is an herb in the mint family that contains a chemical called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its effects on cats. While most cats experience a happy and mellow buzz from catnip, some may become overexcited. Surprisingly, catnip has a similar effect on big cats like leopards and tigers in the wild.

Catnip has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy for various ailments in humans. It was once popular as a tea, claimed to have a calming effect. Additionally, catnip has been found to act as a natural insect repellent, with studies showing its effectiveness against mosquitos. It contains vitamins C and E, magnesium, flavonoids, tannins, and essential oils. These beneficial components make catnip a safe and healthy addition to a dog’s diet.

Understanding Catnip and Its Effects

Catnip belongs to the mint family and contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its effects on cats. While most cats experience a happy and mellow buzz from catnip, some may become overexcited. Surprisingly, catnip has a similar effect on big cats like leopards and tigers in the wild. However, around 40% of cats are not affected by catnip at all. For dogs, catnip has the opposite effect and acts as a mild sedative.

Why does Catnip have a calming effect on dogs?

The reason for its calming effect on dogs has remained a fascination. The active ingredient of catnip, Nepeta cataria, is Nepetalactone, it provides this relaxing feeling for your dogs. The science behind this is still under investigation. Scientists are however making their investigations based on the following:

Catnip’s interaction with a dog’s olfactory system. The olfactory system is the bodily structure that serves the sense of smell, also known as the chemosensory system. The nepetalactone found in catnip interacts with your dog’s olfactory system and triggers the brain to release calming chemicals/signals.
●  Catnip’s relation with limbic behaviour. The limbic system in a dog is responsible for the memory function of a dog’s brain. It controls emotions and behaviours. Catnip influences the limbic system and aids in reducing anxiety in dogs.
●  Genetic predisposition of the dogs. Do all dogs respond to Catnip? Unfortunately, not all dogs do. These different responses might be linked to genetics, which causes some breeds to respond to catnip and others don’t.

●  Catnip effects on canine anxiety. Researchers are studying the optimal dosage for catnip and its long-term effects and how well it can combat anxiety management in dogs.

By understanding the science behind Catnip and using it responsibly, catnip can become a valuable tool in your pet’s wellness toolkit, but keep in mind that your vet knows best! Always consult your veterinarian before incorporating new routines for your dog, be it nutritional or behavioural.

Health Benefits of Catnip for Dogs

Catnip offers several health benefits for dogs. It can help with various digestive issues, including indigestion and tummy troubles, similar to how mint tea is beneficial for humans. Additionally, catnip acts as a natural antiseptic due to its antibacterial and healing properties. It can be used to soothe minor cuts or scrapes on dogs. The mild sedative properties of catnip also provide a calming effect for dogs, making it useful for situations like vet visits or bedtime routines. Here are the top benefits of catnips for dogs

Easing Digestive Issues: Catnip can be a natural remedy for dogs experiencing digestive issues. Similar to how mint tea is used to soothe indigestion in humans, catnip can have a calming effect on a dog’s upset stomach. It can help relieve symptoms like bloating, gas, and indigestion. Adding a small amount of dried catnip to a dog’s food or giving them some fresh catnip leaves in their drinking water can help ease their digestive troubles. However, it is important to use catnip in moderation and consult with a veterinarian if the digestive issues persist.

Promoting Relaxation and Reducing Anxiety: One of the significant benefits of catnip for dogs is its mild sedative properties. For dogs that experience anxiety or restlessness, catnip can help promote relaxation. Giving a dog some catnip before a stressful event like a vet visit or during bedtime can help them feel calmer and more at ease. The calming effect of catnip can also aid in regulating sleep patterns, making it beneficial for dogs that have trouble sleeping through the night. However, it is important to use catnip in moderation and not rely solely on it for managing anxiety or sleep issues in dogs.

Supporting Skin Health through Antiseptic Properties: Catnip’s natural antiseptic properties make it beneficial for promoting skin health in dogs. The antibacterial and healing properties of catnip can help soothe minor cuts, scrapes, or irritations on a dog’s skin. Rubbing fresh catnip leaves on the affected area can provide relief and aid in the healing process. However, it is important to note that catnip should not be used as a substitute for proper veterinary care in case of more serious injuries or infections. It is always best to consult with a veterinarian for proper treatment and advice.

Safe Practices When Offering Catnip to Dogs

While catnip is safe for dogs, it should be used in moderation and with caution. It is not meant to be a daily supplement but rather an occasional aid for specific situations. When offering catnip to dogs, it is important to consider the form in which it is given. Dried catnip can be sprinkled onto a dog’s food, while fresh catnip leaves can be added to their drinking water. However, it is important to avoid using catnip essential oils, as some oils can be toxic to dogs. Always consult with a veterinarian before using any form of catnip on your dog.

Giving The Right Dosage

There is always that lingering question what is the right dosage and what happens when too much catnip is ingested giving the right amount of catnip is very important. However, there is no fixed ideal amount or frequency for giving catnip to dogs. It is important to use it in moderation and monitor the dog’s response. Generally, a small amount, such as half a teaspoon of dried catnip, is sufficient. Fresh catnip leaves can also be given in small quantities. It is important to consider the size and weight of the dog when determining the amount of catnip to give. While it is important to note that catnip should not be relied upon as a substitute for essential nutrients in a dog’s diet. While catnip contains vitamins C & E and magnesium, it should not be considered a primary source of these nutrients. A balanced and nutritious diet is essential for a dog’s overall health and well-being.

Best Forms of Catnip for Dogs: Fresh, Dried, or Oil

Catnip is available in various forms, each with its own benefits and considerations. Fresh catnip leaves can be beneficial for dogs, as they retain the natural oils and aroma of the plant. Dried catnip is another option and can be easily sprinkled onto a dog’s food or used in homemade treats. Catnip oil or sprays can be used topically for flea prevention or added to a dog’s bedding for a calming effect. However, it is important to note that not all commercial catnip products are safe for dogs, as some may contain additional ingredients that can be harmful. Always choose dog-friendly and non-toxic catnip products or consult with a veterinarian for recommendations.

Form of CatnipBenefitsConsiderations
Fresh Catnip LeavesRetains natural oils and aromaCan be messy or perishable
Dried CatnipConvenient to use and storeMay lose some potency over time
Catnip Oil or SprayTopical use for flea prevention or calming effectCheck for dog-friendly and non-toxic products

DIY Catnip Recipes for Dogs

If you prefer to make your own catnip products for your dog, there are several DIY options available. Homemade catnip biscuits can be made using fresh or dried catnip, providing a tasty treat with the added benefits of catnip. Simply mix catnip into a basic biscuit recipe and bake according to the instructions. Another option is to create catnip-infused toys for your dog. This can be done by adding fresh catnip or a few drops of catnip essential oil to fabric toys or stuffing them with dried catnip. These DIY catnip recipes can provide a fun and interactive experience for your dog while benefiting from the effects of catnip.

Homemade Catnip Biscuits

Homemade catnip biscuits are a great way to incorporate catnip into your dog’s diet while providing them with a tasty treat. To make homemade catnip biscuits, you will need basic biscuit ingredients such as flour, eggs, and butter, as well as fresh or dried catnip. Simply mix the catnip into the biscuit dough and bake according to the recipe instructions. You can adjust the amount of catnip based on your dog’s preference and tolerance. Homemade catnip biscuits can be a healthier alternative to store-bought treats, as they allow you to control the ingredients and avoid any potential additives or preservatives.

Catnip-Infused Toy Ideas

Creating catnip-infused toys for your dog can provide them with a fun and interactive playtime experience. One option is to add fresh catnip or a few drops of catnip essential oil to fabric toys. This will create an enticing scent that will attract your dog’s attention and encourage play. Another idea is to stuff toys with dried catnip, providing a longer-lasting source of catnip stimulation. Make sure to securely sew the toys to prevent the catnip from falling out. Catnip-infused toys can keep your dog entertained and engaged while benefiting from the calming and stimulating effects of catnip.

Observing Your Dog’s Reaction to Catnip

It is important to observe your dog’s reaction to catnip to ensure their safety and well-being. While most dogs experience a mild sedative effect from catnip, some may have different responses. Positive responses to catnip can include relaxation, calmness, and reduced anxiety. However, it is essential to monitor your dog’s behaviour and look out for any adverse reactions. If your dog exhibits signs of discomfort, agitation, or motion sickness after being exposed to catnip, it may be necessary to reduce or avoid the use of catnip in their routines.

Signs You Might Need to Cut Back

Catnip cannot really be overdosed on by dogs, but excessive ingestion can lead to health problems such as vomiting, stomach upset, restlessness, or trouble moving. All these are what happen when too much catnip product is ingested by your dog or when excess fresh catnip plant has been consumed.

Experts recommend giving your dogs about 1/2 teaspoon of catnip 30 minutes before you want them to relax. Apart from the catnip toy and spray we mentioned before, here are some extra ways to give catnip to your dog:

  • Sprinkle some dried catnip onto its food
  • Place some fresh catnip leaves into its drinking water
  • Apply fresh catnip to a mild cut or scrape
  • Give catnip to your pet friend in capsule form

Alternatives to Catnip for Dogs

While catnip can be beneficial for dogs, it is not the only option for providing calming effects. There are several alternatives to catnip that can help soothe and relax dogs. Natural calming solutions such as herbal supplements containing ingredients like chamomile or lavender can be effective in reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. These supplements often come in the form of treats or drops that can be added to a dog’s food or water. Additionally, other natural options like aromatherapy or music therapy can also have a calming effect on dogs. It is important to explore different alternatives and find the best solution for your dog’s specific needs.

Safe Herbal Options

Herbal supplements can provide safe and effective alternatives to catnip for dogs. Some herbal ingredients known for their calming properties include chamomile, valerian root, and lavender. These herbs contain compounds such as flavonoids and tannins that have soothing effects on the nervous system. Herbal supplements for dogs often come in the form of treats or drops, making them easy to administer. It is important to choose reputable brands and follow the recommended dosage instructions. Additionally, it is always a good idea to consult with a veterinarian before introducing any new supplements or herbal remedies to your dog’s routine.

Other Natural Calming Solutions

In addition to herbal options, there are other natural calming solutions available for dogs. One such solution is the use of aromatherapy. Certain essential oils, such as lavender or chamomile, can have a calming effect on dogs when diffused or applied topically. However, it is important to use essential oils with caution and ensure that they are diluted properly and safe for use on dogs. Another natural option is music therapy, where calming and soothing music is played to help relax dogs. This method can be particularly effective for dogs with separation anxiety or those who become anxious during car rides. Exploring different natural calming solutions can help you find the best fit for your dog’s individual needs.

Expert Opinions on Catnip and Dogs

Dog behaviourists are experts in understanding and interpreting dog behaviour. Their perspectives on using catnip for dogs can provide valuable insights into its effectiveness and potential benefits. Dog behaviourists can offer professional opinions on whether catnip is a suitable option for calming and soothing dogs, based on their knowledge of canine behaviour and psychology. They can also provide alternative solutions or behaviour modification techniques that may be more effective for specific dogs. If you are considering using catnip or other calming solutions for your dog, consulting with a dog behaviourist can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of your dog’s needs and the best approach to address them.


In conclusion, understanding the effects of catnip on dogs is essential for their well-being. While it can offer various health benefits, including easing digestive issues and promoting relaxation, it’s crucial to observe your dog’s reaction and offer catnip in moderation. Remember, not all dogs may respond positively, so always consult with a veterinarian before introducing catnip. By prioritizing your dog’s safety and well-being, you can explore the potential benefits of catnip while ensuring a happy and healthy furry friend.


Can all dogs have catnip?

Not all dogs have the same response to catnip. While catnip is generally safe for dogs, not all dogs will be affected by it. Some dogs may exhibit a mild sedative effect, while others may have no reaction at all. If you are unsure about your dog’s response to catnip, consult with a veterinarian for guidance.

How often can I give my dog catnip?

Catnip should not be given to dogs on a daily basis. It is best to use catnip in moderation and as an occasional aid for specific situations. The frequency of catnip use will depend on your dog’s individual needs and response. Consult with a veterinarian for guidance on how often you can safely give catnip to your dog.

Are there any dogs that should avoid catnip?

While catnip is generally safe for dogs, there are a few exceptions. Puppies under six months of age may not have fully developed responses to catnip. Additionally, some dogs may have allergies or sensitivities to catnip. If you have concerns about using catnip for your dog, consult with a veterinarian, especially if your dog is a puppy or has any underlying health conditions. It is also important to note that catnip should not be used as a substitute for proper training or behaviour management in dogs.

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