Whether you’re a green-fingered gardener or a dried herb devotee, you’ve probably got a pot or two lurking in your pantry.
Herbs not only enhance the flavour of food, but they also have nutritional and medicinal properties. But can we use these aromatic herbs to boost the health of our dogs?
The answer is yes if we use aromatics that are dog-friendly. Whether you want to add a daily boost to your dog’s dinner or to treat a particular health issue, there’s a herb that can do it.
How to Use Herbs for Dogs
If you want to give your dog a boost to their nutrition you can add either fresh or dried herb to their regular meals. For small dogs, a pinch of the herb is enough, whereas for large dogs about a teaspoon is all you need.
Of course, you can always bake your own dog treats and use herbs them to add flavour or to deal with a particular problem, like bad breath for example.
In contrast, oils and tinctures are concentrated and should only be used with advice from your dog’s health care professional. Some undiluted oils are toxic when ingested and can cause serious skin irritations.
Herbs should never be used to replace a balanced diet, but they can add an extra dimension to your dog’s diet. So how do you tell which herbs are safe for dogs and what herbs should be avoided? Here’s our list of favourite dog-friendly herbs that you’re likely to already have in your garden or cupboard.
An aromatic, evergreen shrub with a woody citrus fragrance, Rosemary is often used in dog food as a natural food preservative.
Not only is Rosemary antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic, but it’s also a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin B6.
Often used for its antiseptic properties, it’s also used to help boost memory and relax sore and tired muscles.
Available fresh, dried and as an essential oil, it’s likely that it’s already on the ingredient list of your dog’s food, especially if it’s kibble.
Although fresh and dried Rosemary doesn’t pose a health risk, essential oils should never be used undiluted. And Rosemary in concentrated form is not suitable for dogs prone to seizures.
Oregano is a culinary and medicinal plant that belongs to the mint family. It’s been used for thousands of years and has a number of health benefits.
If you’ve ever had pizza, you’ll recognise the pungent, woody smell and flavour.
Oregano is high in antioxidants and contains fibre, calcium, iron, vitamin E, vitamin K and manganese, not to mention omega fatty acids and antifungal properties.
Available, fresh, dried or as oil, it’s used in the treatment of colds, indigestion, infections and wounds.
Basil has a number of benefits and just like Rosemary is antiviral, antimicrobial and is full of antioxidants. It’s packed full of vitamins and minerals including vitamins K, A and C. As well as Iron, calcium and manganese.
Often used to treat stomach spasms, loss of appetite and to ease gas. Basil is also good for treating insect bites.
You may be more used to Parsley as a garnish that gets pushed to the side of your plate. But Parsley is a nutritional powerhouse.
It’s a good source of Vitamins C, A, K and B and also contains Iron and limonene, an oil that combats bad breath.
But Parsley isn’t only good for curing dog’s bad breath, it reduces inflammation, stimulates digestion and is great for kidney health (steer clear if your dog already has kidney issues).
Both flat leaf and Curly Leaf Parsley are available but beware of spring Parsley as it’s toxic to dogs.
Although dill is often confined to a jar along with pickles, it has some important health and nutritional benefits.
Often used to soothe stomachs, Dill is an antispasmodic and also helps to reduce flatulence. Which is always useful in a household with dogs!
Along with Parsley, Dill can help manage bad breath and can also be used to help treat skin inflammation and irritations.
Full of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium Dill also has antibacterial properties, so it’s time to get this aromatic herb out of the jar and into your dog’s diet.
Mint has been used for centuries as an aid to digestion and to soothe upset stomachs. Like Dill, it helps reduce gas, relieves travel sickness and is a natural decongestant.
Not only that but Mint is an excellent source of vitamins A and C and minerals calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and zinc.
There are lots of varieties of mint, and they all have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
The only mint to watch out for is a variety called Penny Royal that is toxic to dogs. Peppermint oil should also be kept well out of reach of your dogs as the concentrated form is also dangerous.
Thyme, just like Rosemary is often used in dog food as an antibacterial agent. Not only does Thyme add flavour but it aids digestion.
It’s often used as an anti-spasmodic but is especially useful when treating coughs and respiratory problems.
Thyme’s antiseptic properties mean that it can help combat bad breath and ease sore throats. Not only that but when applied topically can clear up bacterial and fungal infections.
Full of vitamins C, A and K it’s also a good source of the minerals iron, magnesium and calcium.
Cilantro has antibacterial, antifungal, and antibiotic properties. Bitter tasting it’s an excellent source of Vitamins K, A and C. As well as the minerals Iron, magnesium and copper.
Useful as an antiseptic it’s also antispasmodic and is used to calm stomach cramps and ease gas. What’s more, coriander can help in the control of blood sugar levels making it a great all-rounder.
Why you shouldn’t give your dog herbs
Although none of the herbs listed should cause any issues when given on their own. Certain herbs can interfere with medications like antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs and steroids to name a few. So it’s always worth consulting your vet before adding any new foods to your dog’s diet.
Not only that but just like with any other food you should introduce herbs slowly and one at a time to your dog just in case of an allergic reaction.
They may be considered as an afterthought by some, but herbs are incredibly powerful so if you’re unsure whether to give them to your dog, seek medical advice or consult a herbalist first.
Safe herbs for dogs
Including herbs in your dog’s diet can boost health, aid digestion and even help infections when used externally.
They are easy to grow even if you don’t have a green thumb. And readily available in dried form if you don’t have room for fresh pots.
When used medicinally herbs are a powerful tool in keeping your dog healthy. Yes, there are circumstances when you need to steer clear of them. But with caution, they are a great addition to your dog’s diet.