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The Hidden Dangers of Giving Catnip to Dogs

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you gave catnip to dogs? You may think it’s harmless to let your dog have a little catnip since cats love it so much. However, there are some hidden dangers of giving catnip to dogs that you need to be aware of. In this article, we’ll explore what giving catnip to dogs does, look at safer alternatives, and provide tips on using catnip safely if you choose to give it to your pup.

What Does Giving Catnip to Dogs Do?

Catnip contains an oil called nepetalactone, which is known to attract cats. When considering giving catnip to dogs, it’s essential to know that it binds to receptors in a cat’s nose and has an energizing effect on them. But what does giving catnip to dogs do? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Excitement – Some dogs may become hyperactive and overly excited when exposed to catnip. Giving catnip to dogs may result in them running around, jumping, and playing wildly.
  • Lack of inhibition – The oil in catnip can cause dogs to lose some of their inhibitions. Usually, well-behaved dogs may start to act out or seem not to listen when on catnip.
  • Aggression – In rare cases, catnip can cause aggression in dogs. The lack of inhibition means dogs may become reactive or lash out in ways they normally wouldn’t.
  • Vomiting/diarrhea – Eating too much catnip can cause an upset stomach in dogs leading to vomiting or diarrhea.

So while giving catnip to dogs may give them a little buzz, it also comes with some risks like excessive hyperactivity, lack of control, and gastrointestinal issues. Most experts recommend avoiding giving catnip to dogs altogether.

The Hidden Dangers of Giving Catnip to Dogs

What is the Dog Version of Catnip?

If you’re thinking about giving catnip to dogs but want a safer alternative, there are options. Several herbs and foods provide a similar effect without the risks associated with giving catnip to dogs:

  • Anise – This herb contains anethole which can induce a harmless euphoric effect in dogs. However, it does not work for all pups.
  • Chamomile – Chamomile has a calming effect on dogs, making it a good alternative to giving catnip to dogs. It releases serotonin, which counteracts anxiety and excitability. Grow your own Chamomile.
  • Ginger – Ginger can help settle dogs’ stomachs and is also known for its calming properties. It can ease anxiety, car sickness, and more.
  • Peppermint – This mint contains menthol, which has an energizing, mood-enhancing impact on dogs. Discover the benefits of Peppermint.

These alternatives can let your dog relax and get a little happy without the risks of straight catnip. Always introduce new treats in small amounts to ensure your pup tolerates them well. For more information on alternatives, you can read about Actinidia polygama, a plant that has similar effects to catnip but is safer for dogs.

How Long Does Giving Catnip to Dogs Keep Them Calm?

If you do choose to give your anxious dog some catnip, the calming effects of giving catnip to dogs are usually short-lived. Most dogs will start to feel the effects within 10-15 minutes of eating catnip. However, these effects wear off after about an hour when the nepetalactone metabolizes.

Some sources claim the calming effects of catnip can last up to 3 hours in dogs. But this is rare. More often the initial excitation phase gives way to some mild sedation, which only lasts about 60 minutes.

If your dog needs more lasting relief for anxiety or excitability, natural calming aids like chamomile, ginger, valerian root or hemp products designed for dogs are better solutions. These can provide several hours of reduced stress and anxiety when used regularly.

Nepeta cataria ( catnip, catswort, catmint )
Nepeta cataria ( catnip, catswort, catmint )

How Much Catnip Can I Give My Dog for Anxiety?

Since catnip effects are so short-lived in dogs, some owners are tempted to give more to prolong the calming effect. But this can quickly backfire.

Here are some dosage guidelines if you plan to use catnip for your anxious dog:

  • For small dogs under 25 lbs: Give no more than 1/4 teaspoon catnip.
  • Medium dogs 25-50 lbs: Give 1/2 teaspoon at most.
  • Large 50+ lb dogs: Give a max of 1 teaspoon catnip.

Start with even smaller doses to ensure your dog tolerates it well. More is definitely NOT better when it comes to catnip for dogs. Too much can speed up the metabolism of the calming compound and lead to vomiting, diarrhea or even more anxiety. Stick to these safe, small doses max.

Also, limit use to no more than 2-3 times per week at most. Frequent catnip use can make dogs dependent on it for calmness or build tolerance. Look into other anxiety relief options for more lasting effects between occasional catnip use.

The Hidden Dangers of Giving Catnip to Dogs

Tips for Safe Catnip Use in Dogs

If you want to let your pooch enjoy some catnip as an occasional treat, here are some tips to make sure it’s a safe, positive experience:

  • Select organic catnip to minimize pesticide exposure.
  • Introduce catnip slowly in small doses to ensure your dog tolerates it well.
  • Supervise your dog closely after giving them catnip to prevent excessive ingestion.
  • Avoid use in overly aggressive dogs since catnip may intensify these tendencies.
  • Never give your dog catnip cigarettes or essential oils which are too concentrated. Stick to dried leaves/flowers.
  • If your dog has kidney disease, liver issues, or gastrointestinal problems speak to your vet first before using catnip.
  • Never use catnip as a remedy for chronic issues like separation anxiety. Consult your vet for effective long-term solutions.
  • Introduce some catnip-free days each week to avoid dependence.

With proper dosage and precautions, catnip can be an occasional fun treat for some dogs. But it should never be used as a substitute for meeting your dog’s needs for exercise, bonding, training and mental stimulation. If anxiety or behavior issues persist, address the underlying causes and see your vet for professional treatment recommendations.


While catnip is a popular treat for cats, it does not have the same pleasant effects in dogs. Catnip can cause dogs to become hyperactive, lose inhibitions and may even induce aggression. It also carries risks of gastrointestinal upset. For a safer way to relax and uplift your pup, try alternatives like anise, chamomile, ginger or mint instead. If using catnip, exercise extreme caution with dosage and frequency to avoid unintended side effects. Ultimately, meeting your dog’s needs through enrichment, training and medical treatment if needed, is the best way to keep your four-legged friend happy and calm.


Can catnip be toxic to dogs?

Catnip is generally safe for most dogs when given in small amounts. Over-ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and upset stomach but is not normally life-threatening. However, some dogs may have allergic reactions to catnip. Introduce it slowly and discontinue use if you observe any concerning symptoms.

Will catnip make my dog high?

Not exactly. Catnip does not contain THC like marijuana. The chemical in catnip that attracts cats can have a mild sedative effect in dogs. But instead of feeling “high,” dogs tend to just feel sleepy or relaxed after catnip use.

Can I give my puppy catnip?

Catnip is not recommended for puppies under 6 months old. Their brains and bodies are still developing, so natural compounds like catnip can overstimulate them. Wait until your puppy is a little older before introducing catnip as an occasional treat in small amounts.

What if my dog eats the cat’s catnip toys?

Your dog sneaking a few nibbles of the cat’s catnip kicker toy isn’t normally a big concern. But if they eat a large amount of concentrated catnip, it could cause an upset stomach. Make sure the cat has catnip toys they can enjoy safely out of the dog’s reach.

Can I use catnip essential oil on my dog?

No, catnip essential oil is far too concentrated and potent for dog use. Never apply topically either. Only give your dog organic dried catnip in extremely small amounts. Essential oils can be very dangerous if misused around pets.



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