As I breathed in the amazing aromas from my new herb garden over my kitchen sink and researched various ways to use them in my new water infuser, my fur-babies came to mind… Could these tasty herbs be harmful or are the health benefits for my pups that I am not aware of?
Herbs offer us a great way to add flavor and spice to foods in addition to often being full of health benefits. Surprisingly, there is also a lot of good when offered to pets! Research shows herbs for dogs can boost immune systems, repel pests and parasites, prevent future diseases, and heal wounds.
When used correctly, herbs can become another tool in your natural product toolbox and can help keep your dog healthy and strong. Sprinkle dried or fresh herbs over your dog’s food, or add to homemade dog treats to make them healthier and more flavorful. Here are several herbs to consider adding to your dog’s diet.
Oregano: Best recognized as added flavor for pizza, oregano is high in antioxidants and flavonoids and is reported as an antimicrobial. This non-toxic herb has been used to help with digestive problems, diarrhea, and gas. Research using oil of oregano has also shown antifungal properties. Oil of Oregano is more concentrated than oregano, so keep the dosage small. For oregano drops made especially for pets, check out Orega Pet (oregapet.com).
Rosemary: This good-for-dogs herb is high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6. Rosemary has also been shown to act as an antioxidant. (Though rosemary is very high in iron, it is not to take the place of an iron supplement if one is needed as there is little data about how bioavailable the iron in rosemary is.)
Peppermint: This aromatic herb has historically been used to help soothe upset stomachs, reduce gas, reduce nausea, and help with travel sickness. In addition, research is being done which shows that it may have radio protective effects and can be used to reduce radiation-induced sickness and mortality in animals undergoing chemotherapy. There is no reported toxicity for dogs although very high doses may result in liver or kidney problems.
Basil: This dog-approved leafy herb, well-known for its delicious role in pesto, has antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. The next time you’re cooking with fresh basil, sprinkle a pinch of the chopped herb atop your dog’s dinner.
Parsley: Another leafy herb commonly seen as a garnish on our plates is a source of flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It also contains lycopene and carotenes. Often added to dog treats as a breath freshener or used to soothe the stomach, parsley has a long history of use with dogs. Note: “Spring parsley,” a member of the carrot family that resembles parsley is toxic to dogs and cats due to high levels of furanocoumarin which can cause photosensitization and ocular toxicity.
How to Use Herbs for Dogs:
Use fresh or dried, adding a small sprinkle (a pinch for small dogs, a teaspoon for large dogs) of these herbs to your dog’s food is a safe way to give them a little boost in nutrition. You can also use them to make your favorite dog treat recipe a bit healthier and more flavorful. The flavonoids and antioxidants found in many of the herbs can help the body’s immune system combat some of the diseases commonly associated with aging, including canine cognitive dysfunction, cancer, and reduced immune function. However, there are potential downsides and they should be used with care.
Tincture and oils for many herbs are available at your local health or natural foods store. These are usually a more concentrated source, so if you wish to use tinctures, oils or higher levels of fresh or dried herbs it is best to work in conjunction with your dog’s health care professional. Sometimes the monitoring of a dog’s blood work is necessary to ensure continued safe use. For maximum effectiveness, make sure the herbs and spices you use are not old. If the spices have been languishing in your cupboard for years, toss them out and replace them; their health-affirming properties will be diminished if they’ve been kicking around for a while.