Is mint bad for dogs? The short answer is… it depends.
What’s essential is being in-the-know.
The long answer is that different species of the aromatic, fast-growing herb’s genus (mentha) have different effects on dogs. Some are perfectly harmless, while others are known to be toxic.
There are many beneficial applications of mint in your dog’s diet; it’s just about knowing which are safe, and how to use them.
This article will try to clear up any doubts.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Which Mint, What Effects?
When we think of mint, we typically think of “mint”, we think of the (English/European) pennyroyal, or mentha pulegium. Other common species include (but are not limited to):
- Spearmint (mentha spicata)
- Peppermint (mentha balsamea Willd.)
- Horse mint (mentha longifolia)
- Apple mint (mentha suaveolens)
- Wild mint (mentha arvensis)
Peppermint and spearmint are particularly useful. Mint naturally helps to repel fleas and fights against bad breath. A sprinkling of ground mint leaves in your dog’s food will fight against the development of bacteria in their mouth.
Mint can give your dog a little nutritional boost, as it contains antioxidants and flavonoids. These chemicals can aid your dog’s immune system combat some of the diseases associated with aging, for example canine cognitive dysfunction and cancer.
Special Mention: Peppermint and Dogs
As with most mints, peppermint can be dangerous in large doses. Of course, doses will vary depending on the size of your dog, but in general a sprinkling for smaller dogs to a decent pinch for larger breeds will suffice.
Peppermint can help soothe upset stomachs, reduce gas and nausea, as well as help with travel sickness. What’s more, it has been suggested that it can alleviate some of the radiation-sickness associated with chemotherapy treatments.
Of course, the best way to keep track of your dog’s health is to consult an animal healthcare professional. Fresh mints certainly won’t damage your dog’s health in reasonable doses.
The most dangerous mint for dogs is one of the most frequently-found in English gardens, the pennyroyal. Pennyroyal oil is extracted from plants within the Labiatae family of mint plants.
Pennyroyal oil contains pulegone, a chemical which is toxic to the liver. Blood tests in dogs suspected to have been exposed to excessive pennyroyal oil show consistency with liver damage.
Symptoms of pennyroyal oil poisoning include: listlessness, a bloody nose, coughing up blood, diarrhea, slipping into a coma, breathing difficulties, vomiting, seizures and even death. However the most serious among these occur when a lot of oil has been ingested.
How Can I Prevent Pennyroyal Poisoning?
The answer to this is care. When applying flea products that contain the oil, follow the label instructions carefully. Furthermore, it’s important to keep dogs away from mint strands that contain the oil.
If your dog does demonstrate some of the symptoms, or you suspect may have been exposed to the oil and you want to take precautions, seek professional veterinary care. It might be necessary to wash their stomach out, or administer antibiotics.