Choosing which herbs to feed your dog can be tricky. While some herbs are beneficial to your dog’s health others may harm their digestion or can even be toxic. This can be especially problematic if you have a herb garden that your dog can come into contact with frequently. I couldn’t find a comprehensive overview of which herbs dogs could eat anywhere online, so I made one.
Here’s a list of the most common herbs that dogs can and cannot eat:
|Herb||Safe for Dogs|
|St. John’s Wort||No|
Of course, I’ll go into a bit more detail on each one of them. We’ll see which herbs are safe to dogs and which are toxic. In later sections of this article, we’ll also go over the possible symptoms a dog might experience when ingesting certain herbs and the possible benefits some herbal plants can yield. Let’s get started!
Can dogs eat herbs?
The simple but unsatisfying answer is: it depends. More precisely, it depends on the herb. Some herbs such as basil, rosemary, and thyme are completely safe for dogs to eat while others like chives, garlic, and st. john’s wort are toxic and can cause severe symptoms.
In order to determine the safety of each plant, I have referred to this excellent list curated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®). If in doubt please always consult your local veterinarian.
Since every dog can also react differently to a variety of herbs it is crucial to always monitor your dog’s behavior after consumption of new and unknown herbs. If you notice any unusual symptoms or behaviors consult with your vet on how to proceed.
Herbs safe for dogs
Basil, coriander, dill, echinacea, rosemary, sage, thyme, and valerian are generally considered safe for dogs. These herbs will mostly only have positive effects on your dog’s wellbeing. However, any herb consumed in large quantities can cause unwanted side effects.
|Herb||Safe for Dogs|
- Basil: This savory herb native to the southern European regions not only makes an excellent addition to most Italian dishes but also does no harm whatsoever to your dog. It may even have some beneficial effects (see below).
- Coriander: Cilantro or coriander is another herb that is not toxic to dogs and can be consumed by your canine friend without problems.
- Dill: Although most dogs will stay away from dill plants due to their bitter taste and scent, even consuming some amounts of dill is generally sage for dogs. Luckily, many common kitchen herbs that you might find in herb gardens are well-suited for dog owners.
- Echinacea: Another rather uncommon herb is echinacea – or coneflower – which is used in herbal medicine to treat ailments from mild headaches to migraines. Even though most medicinal herbs can have unwanted effects on pets, this one is safe!
- Rosemary: Rosemary bushes are not only great for scratching undesirable parasites of their fur but can also serve as a healthy herbal snack along the way.
- Sage: Not usually consumed raw by humans you might find your dog chewing on varieties of sage leaves. If you do, don’t despair. Most dogs will experience no discomfort after ingesting or coming in contact with sage.
- Thyme: Adding to the list of common kitchen herbs, thyme is one of my favorites. It goes well with savory dishes and can be grown in almost any garden that is visited by dogs regularly.
- Valerian: This herb is frequently used in medicine to treat digestive problems and other minor complications. Luckily, it is also safe for dogs to consume should they come in contact with valerian.
Are herbs toxic to dogs?
Chives, chamomile, garlic, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, st. john’s wort, and tarragon can be toxic to dogs. For some of these the mere contact can cause irritation and rashes on a dog’s skin, other require ingestion to unfold their toxic effect. The symptoms can range from mild digestive irritation to severe and potentially lethal side effects.
As each dog may react differently to each of the following herbs it is recommended that you pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and symptoms after each return from a walk or an adventure in the garden. In case anything unusual occurs contact your trusted veterinarian for an examination.
Herbs poisonous to dogs
|Herb||Safe for Dogs|
|St. John’s Wort||No|
- Chives: Chives is one of the most vicious herbs for dogs, cats, and even horses. It can cause panting, high heart rate, weakness, blood in urine, vomiting, hemolytic anemia, or the breaking down of red blood cells.
- Chamomile: The ingestion of chamomile can also cause serious discomfort to most dogs including symptoms of bleeding tendencies, allergic reactions, anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting, and contact dermatitis.
- Garlic: Since the strong scent of garlic makes it an excellent animal repellent dogs naturally sense a strong aversion to this herb. It can cause some serious symptoms such as panting, high heart rates, weakness, blood in urine, anemia (breakdown of red blood cells), and vomiting.
- Marjoram: Marjoram may appear innocent enough at first glance but can cause digestive irritations in dogs that include vomiting and diarrhea. Although counted among the most common garden herbs you will want to steer you dog away from anything that resembles a marjoram plant.
- Mint: While mint is said to have some potential benefits for pets it mostly causes bowel irritations that can lead to vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Due to its strong scent profile, it is, however, naturally rather unappealing to dogs and can even be used to keep deer at bay.
- Oregano: Just like mint and marjoram this Mediterranean herb can cause an upset stomach in dogs which may lead to diarrhea and vomiting. However, oregano is one of those herbs that each dog reacts differently to; some may experience no symptoms at all.
- Parsley: Parsley can lead to a curious symptom called photosensitization. This means that the dog’s skin becomes extremely susceptible to photon particles (sunlight) and can experience fast sunburns or dermatitis. This effect requires usually a large amount of parsley.
- St. John’s Wort: Same as parsley, st. john’s wort can lead to a hypersensitivity to sunlight and light in general. As opposed to parsley, however, here the prevailing symptoms tend to show themselves as ulcerative and exudative dermatitis instead of a sunburn.
- Tarragon: As a common cooking herb tarragon will usually only cause mild stomach upset in dogs which can become visible as vomiting or diarrhea.
Below you’ll find a summary list of all of the symptoms dogs may experience when ingesting or coming in contact with different herbal plants:
|Herb||Symptoms in Dogs|
|Chives||Breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia), vomiting, blood in urine, weakness, high heart rate, panting|
|Chamomile||Contact dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, allergic reactions, bleeding tendencies|
|Garlic||Vomiting, breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia, Heinz body anemia), blood in urine, weakness, high heart rate, panting|
|Parsley||Photosensitization (sunburn, dermatitis)|
|St. John’s Wort||Photosensitization (ulcerative and exudative dermatitis)|
The most dangerous herbs for dogs are without a doubt chives, chamomile, and garlic. Avoid consumption by your canine at all cost and contact the vet if you suspect your dog might have come in contact with these.
Are herbs good for dogs?
Despite their many potential negative side effects, some herbs can actually be very beneficial for dogs. These include – but are not limited to – basil, coriander, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Sometimes dogs will also naturally seek out certain plants to counteract their body’s condition.
As mentioned above some dogs may instinctively know which herbs to consume and which to avoid. However, in some treatments these herbs are even included as a viable and natural cure in conditions such as digestive difficulties or infections.
Herbs good for dogs
|Herb||Benefit for dogs|
|Basil||Antiviral, antioxidant, antimicrobial|
|Coriander||Dental health, bacteria growth inhibitor|
|Sage||Digestion, blood sugar regulation|
|Thyme||Anti-bacterial, digestive aid|
- Basil: Basil is not only safe for dogs to eat but can have antiviral, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. It can therefore be used to heal infections and improve the overall immune response in dogs and humans alike.
- Coriander: While basil serves to bind free radicals in the bloodstream, coriander works to ensure good dental health in dogs as well as inhibit the growth of bad bacteria. This can lead to a higher immunity against common afflictions.
- Rosemary: The main reason why rosemary can be good for dogs is its anti-oxidant property. Consuming rosemary can support a dog’s immune system in maintaining homeostasis and regulate the body’s defenses.
- Sage: Sage can serve an important function in helping to regulate a dog’s blood sugar levels. This can be especially beneficial if your dog tends to experience large spikes in blood sugar which may be accompanied by restlessness or fatigue symptoms.
- Thyme: As with sage, thyme can be a cure for many digestive ailments a dog may experience as it can stimulate digestive enzymes in the gut. Moreover, it also provides anti-bacterial coverage that keeps up your dog’s immunity when attacked by bad bugs.
How to keep your dog from eating herbs
Although it is impossible to monitor literally everything your dog consumes outside or in the garden it is possible to take some precautions when planting your own herb garden. Obviously, you will want to the herbs listed above as potentially toxic or make sure they are entirely inaccessible to dogs.
You can achieve this a few different way that range from least to most intrustive:
- Fences: The most effective but also most intrusive way is to fence in your herb garden. This will prevent your dog (and other dogs) from coming in contact with potentially dangerous herbs even by accident.
- Odor repellents: Another alternative that does not involve a physical barrier is to use an odor repellent. There are commercial ones available but also natural herbs such as lavender which may deter a dog from coming close to toxic herbs. However, this method is not 100% effective as some dogs may choose to ignore even strong scents!
Making sure you plant the right herbs suitable for dogs is a must with any canine. Planting herbs toxic to dogs can lead to severe symptoms when ingested and in some cases of serious allergic reactions can even be lethal.
Luckily, there are many comprehensive lists available online that outlines which herbs to plant and which not to. Of course, the lists provided in this article are by no means complete but they do include the most common herbs found in gardens.
Most importantly, should there be any doubt about your dog’s conditions or their reaction to the ingestion of a specific herb you should always contact your veterinarian for a thorough examination.