As humans, we know the importance of herbs. Many of us even grow them in our yards and kitchens for easy accessibility when cooking. They’re a simply way to add big flavor to meals, and without them many of our favorite things to eat just wouldn’t pack the same punch. As it turns out, the same benefits we get from herbs also apply to our pets. Some of the most common ones we use not only taste great to our dogs and cats but provide abundant health benefits (and extra fresh breath!). Here’s what you should know about adding a little green to your pet’s diet.
Antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamins A, B6, C, E, K, and also very high in calcium.
Boasts antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and anti-diabetic properties, and it’s also good for the heart and brain. It contains vitamin A, amino acids, calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamine, and zinc. It’s also high in antioxidant flavonoids kaempferol and vicenin. Dill is very effective as a digestive aid to help ease gas and constipation issues.
Good source of flavonoids, antioxidants, chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, and K, lycopene, iron, and carotenes. Effective as a
breath freshener and aids in reducing pain from gas, nausea, cramping, arthritis, and urinary tract infections.
Note: Spring parsley is toxic to dogs and cats, as are parsley seeds in high doses, so be careful when feeding.
High in antioxidants, chlorophyll, fiber, and flavonoids. It can help with arthritis, controlling body odor, digestive problems, diarrhea, gas, upper respiratory disease, and Lyme and other tickborne diseases. It contains antimicrobial properties that promote the internal cleansing of toxins and external flushing of bacteria in wounds, and it’s also an immune system booster.
Oil of Oregano
Considered to be powerfully antifungal, oil of oregano helps with bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, candida, salmonella, giardia, and E. coli. It is also an effective de-wormer.
Note: It is very important to dilute pure oil of oregano with something like olive oil or coconut oil. Always check with your vet to confirm the amount that is right for your pet.
High in vitamin B6, calcium, and iron. Contains antioxidants, has antimicrobial properties, and helps to prevent muscle spasms. Effective for repelling fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other annoying pests, especially if you use rosemary “tea” as a rinse over your pet’s fur (bonus: her coat will look extra glossy and shiny!). Do make sure to limit the amount of rosemary you feed your pet, as large amounts can cause stomach upset.
Good for digestion, including reducing symptoms of stomach aches, gas, and nausea. Positive results have also been reported when used with dogs undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. Highly effective as a natural breath freshener.
Note: Extremely high intake levels may negatively affect your dog’s kidney or liver. Check with your veterinarian to be sure dosing is correct for your pet.
1. Cats are carnivores. They do not need many of the nutritional values offered in the herbs mentioned above, but many will eat them because they like the flavor. Cats use greens to aid in their digestion and elimination of hairballs, so don’t be alarmed if your kitty throws up after eating—that may actually be a good thing!
2. Concentrated oils and some tinctures are more potent than fresh or dried herbs, so be sure to follow guidelines on the bottle or check with your veterinarian on how to safely administer to your pet.
3. Dried herbs lose their potency over time. Check expiration dates before use.
4. If you cook, bake, or make your own pet food, herbs are an excellent addition to most recipes to add flavor and increase the nutritional value.
5. Most herbs can be sprinkled directly over food or steeped as “tea” to add to water bowls, recipes, and on top of kibble or other food.
6. If sprinkling on food, use the following approximate serving guide*:
• Dogs under 10 pounds: small pinch
• Dogs 10-20 pounds: big pinch
• Dogs 20-50 pounds: up to 1 teaspoon
• Dogs 50-100 pounds: up to 2 teaspoons
• Dogs more than 100 pounds: up to 1 tablespoon
*These guidelines are for dried herbs. Double or triple these amounts if you’re using fresh herbs.
Editor’s Note: Before adding anything to your pet’s diet, be sure to check with your veterinarian to be sure that it is a good fit for your specific pet, especially if she is pregnant or nursing.