It's interesting how catnip's euphoric properties affect cats in some rather intense ways. My Persian mix (Mitz) would bat his catnip toy a few times after which he'd continue with a roll around on the floor and finish with an incredible dash through all the rooms of the house, until exhausted. Catnip playtime was always a fun time for both of us, but does catnip provide the same intense euphoria for dogs? If not, then how does catnip affect dogs, if at all?
The actual name of catnip or catmint is 'Nepeta cataria.' Through the ages, humans used catnip for medicinal purposes, as a culinary herb, brewed as an herbal tea and even smoked.
The herb contains a feline attractant called nepetalactone and is known for its behavioral effects on cats both big and small, wild and domestic. Other plants that affect cats include valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Acalypha indica (root) and plants that contain actinidine. You may find that cats who will not react to catnip will react in a similar fashion to Tartarian honeysuckle.
Not For All Cats
Tests have demonstrated that tigers, leopards and Lynxes reacted strongly to catnip much like domestic cats while lions reactions were less frequent. Not all cats react to the plant (roughly 33% are not affected as the behavior is hereditary.)
Dogs Are... Nosy!
What many people do not realize is that catnip can also have have some effects on dogs and some dogs (not all) love the herb! Dogs are attracted to all flowering plants and catnip is no exception. Anything with an unusual scent, even a rotting fish will attract a dog. If it smells bad and can hide their own scent, believe me, dogs will roll in it! Some dogs may find the taste of the plant appealing, but although they may find some interest in the herb at first (because lets face it, dogs are nosy critters) that soon will subside as their curiosity diminishes.
Catnip contains many minerals and vitamins as well as essential oils that can aid in keeping a dogs digestive system healthy but if you intend to use catnip as a medicine you should contact your veterinarian before you do so.
Feline Stimulant, Canine Sedative
Catnip is a stimulant for cats but for dogs the plant has quite the opposite effects and is sometimes used as a sedative or nerve tonic. If you have a very nervous dog who hates going to the Vet or riding in the car, try putting some fresh catnip leaves in the drinking water or sprinkle some dry crushed leaves on his food.
A Stomach Aid
Among people catnip is used as a diuretic and is oftentimes used for the same purpose in dogs. Catnip oil relieves the body of excess water and toxins such as uric acid by promoting urination and a small amount can keep a dog's system regular.
Intestinal and stomach ailments attacks dogs as well as people and catnip is an excellent remedy for both species! Catnip relieves gas and can be a great aid in the relief of flatulence not to mention cramps, spasms, diarrhea and dyspepsia. Small amounts can also aid and calm a dog's sick stomach.
Other uses for catnip is in regulating menstruation because its properties stimulate blood flow in the pelvic region. Catnip can be used for both human and dog alike for this purpose but it should never be given to a pregnant recipient of either species!
The antiseptic compound in catnip called thymol can be used for treating wounds. Fresh catnip or catnip oil may be applied to wounds, scratches and sores and the oil may also be used as a mosquito repellent and general insect repellent for dogs.
Be Wary of Catnip Fields
What every dog owner should know, especially if you live in a rural area with a mixed household of cats and dogs is that if your dog walks through a nepeta (catmint) field, you should wash your dog's paws immediately with soapy water. A worried look on your dog's face while he exclaims, "Ruh Oh," like Scooby Doo, may mean a clowder of cats are in close pursuit with intents on chewing upon your dog's catmint covered paws! Yikes!
More information on catnip and its effects on dogs, cats and humans can be found here.
By Tom Matteo