What Happens If You Give A Dog Catnip? The Surprising Truth

Many pet owners are curious whether giving catnip to their dogs may have the same effects as to cats. Catnip is a plant from the mint family that contains nepetalactone, a chemical compound that has a psychoactive effect on cats. The plant’s essential oil can be found in many cat toys and treats. While cat playing with catnip is a common scenario, dog owners may wonder if their furry friend would react the same way if given catnip. In this article, we will explore the surprising truth about what happens if you give a dog catnip.

The Science Behind Catnip

Catnip plant contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone. When cats smell, chew, or rub catnip on their faces or bodies, it triggers a pleasurable response that can last around 10-15 minutes. The effect, however, is not permanent and typically wears off after half an hour or so. Many cat owners report that their cats become more playful, rub themselves against things, or just lie there and purr when exposed to catnip. But why does catnip affect most cats so drastically?

Catnip’s Effect on Cats

When cats smell nepetalactone, it binds to the olfactory receptors in their noses, which triggers a neurological response in the amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with emotions. Nepetalactone essentially mimics a cat’s pheromones, which can cause the cat to act more affectionate or energetic than usual. Some cats may also become calmer or even sleepy due to the euphoric effect of catnip.

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

While catnip can provide an enjoyable experience for cats, it is generally safe for them to use. Most cats will naturally self-regulate their consumption of catnip, and the effects do not last very long. However, too much catnip exposure can lead to vomiting or diarrhea, so pet owners should keep an eye on their feline friends and make sure they do not consume too much of the plant or its oils.

Can Dogs Have Catnip?

Dogs also have olfactory receptors in their noses that can be triggered by the same chemicals found in catnip. However, catnip generally does not have the same effect on dogs as it does on felines.

Why Don’t Dogs React the Same Way as Cats?

Cats have a unique anatomy and physiological response to nepetalactone, which is not shared by dogs. While some select dogs may exhibit mild reactions to catnip, most canines will not exhibit the same euphoric or playful behavior shown by cats. Dogs will typically sniff, lick, or chew on things that may not be appealing to their owners, but it is not the same reaction as a cat playing with catnip.

Can Giving Catnip to Dogs Be Harmful?

In general, giving a dog catnip is not dangerous or harmful, but it may not provide the same benefits or experiences that cats have. A small amount of catnip ingested can cause mild digestive upset (such as gastrointestinal upset). Therefore it is recommended that pet owners stick to providing their canines with treats and toys that are specifically designed for them.

Alternatives to Catnip For Dogs

If you’re looking for something that can provide similar effects as catnip for your dog, some alternatives may be worth trying. There are many different scents and flavors that can stimulate your dog’s senses and offer a pleasurable experience. Here are a few options that dog owners can try:

  • Valerian Root: Valerian root can have a calming effect on dogs and can be used to reduce anxiety or stress. It is not the same as catnip, but it can still provide a similar effect on pets.
  • Chamomile: Chamomile tea can help relax dogs and promote sleep. It is also safe to use in small amounts and can be added to food or treats.
  • Lavender: Lavender can have a calming effect on dogs and is commonly used in aromatherapy. The scent can be diffused in the air, added to shampoos, or applied to fabric so that dogs can inhale the aroma.

Conclusion

While giving a dog catnip is not likely to cause harm, it is generally not recommended as it may not provide the same effects on dogs as it does on cats. While the chemical compound found in catnip can have a psychoactive effect on cats, it does not always have the same effect on dogs. Luckily, there are many other options available that can offer similar benefits to those found in catnip. Pet owners who want to use alternative herbal remedies should consult their vet before doing so.

FAQs

  • What effects does catnip have on dogs?
  • Catnip does not typically have the same effect on dogs as it does on cats. While some dogs may react mildly to catnip, most canines will not exhibit the same euphoric or playful behavior shown by felines. Dogs may sniff, lick, or chew on things that are not appealing to humans, but it is not the same reaction as a cat playing with catnip.

  • Is catnip toxic for dogs?
  • Catnip is not toxic or dangerous for dogs, but it may not provide the same benefits or experiences that cats have. A small amount of catnip ingested can cause mild digestive upset. Pet owners should keep an eye on their dogs and ensure they do not consume too much catnip, however is best to stick to treats and toys specially designed for dogs instead of giving them catnip as it might not be so effective.

  • What are some alternatives to catnip for dogs?
  • There are many alternatives to catnip that have similar effects on dogs. Some options include valerian root, chamomile, and lavender.

References

Ballantyne, K. (2019, March 7). Is Catnip Safe for Dogs? What to Know About Cats and Dogs and Catnip. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/can-dogs-have-catnip/

Animal Medical Hospital. (n.d.). Can I Give Catnip to My Dog? Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://www.animalmedical.net/blog/can-i-give-catnip-to-my-dog/

Goldstein, L. (2018, August 3). Do Cats Like Catnip? 9 Things to Know About Catnip. Retrieved May 17, 2021, from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/catnip-for-cats/

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