When I first started learning about how to make my pets’ food healthy, there were a few natural ingredients that scared me.
First there were grapes – definitely a big no-no.
Learn about other pet food basics, here.
Then, there was garlic… at first scary-sounding, and then not so much.
Learn about the benefits of garlic, here.
Is Rosemary Good For Dogs?
And then there was rosemary… A Mediterranean shrub used in a variety of human dishes and also found in many commercial pet foods as a natural preservative, rosemary was being linked to seizures in dogs. Oh boy – that’s all I needed. I was trying to help my dog’s skin issues, not add to his problems! So early on in my nutritional education, I steered clear of rosemary as much as I could. Of course, there were much worse pet food offenders that I avoided at all cost. So if it was a choice between feeding BHA/BHT and rosemary, I chose rosemary.
Learn about why never to feed BHA or BHT, here.
After a while, I started to wonder… Is it really that bad? And the journalist in me made me dig deeper.
What I found is that it all really comes down to how much and in what form you are using rosemary, but generally it is considered safe for dogs – and in fact, has many potential benefits.
“Rosemary, in most forms (dried, fresh whole plant, tincture or tea) can be used very safely in dogs, and in fact is Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) by FDA for use in both humans and animals,” says herbalist Gregory L. Tilford, co-author with Mary L. Wulff of Herbs for Pets.
“However, the essential oil, which is often used in very small amounts as a natural food preservative is very strong and concentrated. In small amounts it will lend a calming, relaxing effect, but if fed in too much abundance it can produce the opposite – a nervous system stimulant effect that may exacerbate nervous system disorders, like epilepsy. All said, as long as the oil is not used in concentrations greater than 1 percent of the entire composition of a food or supplement product, it can be used quite safely.”
Indeed, after further digging, there were quite a few health benefits linked to rosemary. Here are a handful:
There’s a reason rosemary is so popular as a dog food preservative. According to Herbs for Pets, rosemary is a great pathogen-fighter against common food bacteria, meaning it can help keep food from spoiling. And those pathogen-fighting capabilities extend to your pet’s body, where it can help against various fungi and bacteria. Because of rosemary’s antimicrobial prowess, it can be used in antibacterial skin or eye rinses, to help with minor cuts and burns, and for infections in the mouth area, urinary and digestive tracts.
Rosemary also contains antioxidants, which means it can help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals in the body – obviously a good thing. An overabundance of free radicals and resulting cell damage has been linked to age-related illnesses like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Heart Health Promoter
Because of its antispasmodic (spasm preventing) abilities on smooth muscles, rosemary can also help the heart in some cases of cardiac arrhythmia, as well as to generally strengthen the heart. This could be helpful for animals recovering from a traumatic event, according to Herbs for Pets.
Got a dog that can clear the room after a hearty meal? Rosemary is also known for its abilities in the digestive system, especially when it comes to gas, indigestion and other related problems. And because of its antimicrobial abilities, it can come in handy for gastrointestinal infections.
One of the greatest challenges for a dog parent can be keeping pests off of adventurous pets. Running on grass and tromping through bushes may be your dog’s favorite pastime, but it also leaves him vulnerable to ticks and fleas and other undesirable bugs. Rosemary is an herb often cited for its ability to repel fleas, ticks, mosquitos and other bugs. Plant a rosemary bush as part of your garden to help repel bugs and you can also make your own rosemary wash.
Glossy Coat & Flea Repellent Conditioner
Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, offers this rosemary conditioner for a glossy coat and as a flea repellant:
1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary)
1 pint boiling water
Mix rosemary into boiled water and steep for 10 minutes with container covered. Strain contents and allow to cool to body temperature. Pour it over your dog after his final rinse during his bath. Rub in the conditioner and towel dry without rinsing. Use several towels to blot off any excess water left on your dog’s coat, and allow him to shake the water off.
Now that you know that rosemary is generally safe when used appropriately, how do you administer it?
Herbs for Pets recommends 1/8 teaspoon of tincture fed orally as a starting dose per 20 pounds of your dog’s weight, up to three times daily.
Never use undiluted rosemary oil internally or externally. Also do not use the oil on any pet with any kind of seizure disorder. Avoid using rosemary for pregnant pets. Check with your holistic vet for any questions.
Learn how to keep your dog safe when using essential oils, here.