Anyone who has ever seen a cat zero in on catnip knows the effect the plant has on felines. But many people don't realize that dogs like catnip, too. Catnip contains minerals such as magnesium, flavonoids, tannins and vitamins C and E. It also contains essential oils that help keep dogs' digestive systems healthy. Always consult your veterinarian before giving dogs catnip as medicine.
Though catnip is a stimulant for cats, the plant has the opposite effect on dogs and is sometimes used as a sedative or nerve tonic for them. If your dog gets nervous when going to the vet or in the car, for example, try putting a few fresh catnip leaves in his drinking water. You can also sprinkle some dried catnip -- 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon of per pound of food -- on his food or mix in some catnip tea.
A popular use of catnip among people is as a diuretic, and catnip is sometimes used for the same purpose in dogs. Catnip oil promotes urination, thus relieving the body of extra water and toxins such as uric acid or waste from colds or allergies. A small amount of catnip also can keep a dog's system regular but, as with people, be careful not to give too much.
Dogs suffer from intestinal and stomach ailments just as people do, and catnip is an excellent remedy for both species. Catnip can relieve gas, which makes it a great treatment for flatulence. It also has antispasmodic properties, which help reduce cramps and spasms, diarrhea and dyspepsia. Small amounts of fresh catnip, catnip oil or catnip tea can also calm a sick dog's stomach and keep her from vomiting.
Catnip is a natural emmenagogue, meaning it stimulates blood flow in the pelvic region. In women, catnip is used to help regulate and ease menstruation. The same can be done for dogs, but as in humans, catnip should never be given to a pregnant dog.
Catnip contains thymol, a compound that can be used as antiseptic. This makes catnip ideal for treating external wounds. Fresh catnip or catnip oil can be applied to cuts and scratches dogs may get, or applied to sores. Applying catnip oil also helps repel mosquitoes and other insects that may bite dogs.