Is Rosemary Safe for Dogs?
Yes, it is safe to give rosemary to Fido, provided you observe the same rule when it comes to giving human food items to pets. Always observe moderation. There have been issues of dogs having seizures because of rosemary, with some pet parents blaming pet food manufacturers of serious oversight. However, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists rosemary as non-toxic to both dogs and cats. There is a precaution, nonetheless. Never give too much rosemary to your Fido.
A Backgrounder on Rosemary
A type of mint, rosemary is a woody herb that boasts of evergreen and fragrant needle-like leaves. This Mediterranean native is a popular choice for imparting a unique mustard-like aroma to certain foods like roast turkey, lamb, chicken, and pork. Because of its strong aroma and flavor profile, many consider rosemary as a symbol of love and loyalty.
What is Its Nutrient Profile?
Rosemary contains vitamins A, C, and B6. It also has thiamine, riboflavin, and folate. This popular herb also contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, manganese, and copper. However, do not expect the amounts of these nutrients to be comparable to other foods. What may surprise you is that this herb also has omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A tablespoon of this herb provides about 35 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in the form of ALA and 37.7 milligrams of omega-6 fatty acids.
In addition to these micronutrients, rosemary also contains phytochemicals that can provide a number of benefits. These include the following:
- Rosmarinic Acid
This phytochemical has powerful antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Its antioxidant activity is more powerful than that of Vitamin E. Rosmarinic acid can help in the prevention of oxidative stress-related cell damage.
In humans, camphor is well-known for its ability to reduce swelling and pain. In some instances, the phytochemical can also reduce itching.
- Caffeic Acid
Don’t confuse caffeic acid for caffeine. This polyphenol has antiviral, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. Athletes often take caffeic acid as part of their supplements to boost their performance.
- Ursolic Acid
A polyphenol, ursolic acid can stimulate the growth of skeletal muscle tissues. There are ongoing researches showing the ability of this phytochemical to address glucose intolerance, obesity, and fatty liver disease.
- Betulinic Acid
The principal action of betulinic acid is in the induction of programmed cell death, known as apoptosis. Hence, this polyphenol is a potent anti-cancer compound.
- Carnosic Acid
Another polyphenol with powerful antioxidant activity is carnosic acid. However, its primary effect is in protecting the different cells and tissues of the central nervous system.
Like the other phytochemicals found in rosemary, carnosol also possesses strong antioxidant activity. It has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. It also promotes healthy neural processes while helping in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
What Benefits Can My Dog Get from Rosemary?
Based on the number of micronutrients and phytochemicals that this herb contains, it is easy to say that rosemary can provide many benefits to pet dogs. Let us go through them one by one.
- Helps in Fighting Certain Bacteria and Fungi
All of the polyphenols found in rosemary have antimicrobial properties. Some may have more potent antibacterial and antifungal activities than others. Some may have a preference for fighting cancer cells and viruses. The point remains: rosemary can help dogs fight certain microorganisms that may be present in the animal’s digestive and urinary tracts. When used as a topical preparation, this herb can be an excellent antiseptic for disinfecting the dog’s skin.
- Neutralizes Free Radicals
There are countless studies highlighting the negative effects of oxidative stress on the overall health of any organism, including dogs. We often associate this with an overabundance of free radicals. In a healthy organism, free radicals are beneficial since they can attach to pathogens and kill them. However, if free radicals outnumber antioxidants, oxidative stress results. This damages the DNA, proteins, and fatty acids in the dog’s body. Over time, it can lead to atherosclerosis, diabetes, heart disease, inflammatory disorders, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases, among others. Since rosemary contains several phytochemicals with antioxidant activity, it can help neutralize free radicals and halt the development of oxidative stress-related conditions.
- Promotes Healthy Heart
One of the physiologic activities of rosemary is the inhibition of smooth muscle spasms. Since the blood vessels contain a middle layer composed of smooth muscles, rosemary can help prevent unnecessary spasmodic contractions. This provides a smoother flow of blood to the heart, preventing it from getting overworked. The heart itself doesn’t have smooth muscles but cardiac muscles. It may not benefit from the antispasmodic activity of rosemary but it can benefit from the herb’s effects on blood vessels. You see, there are also blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. When these blood vessels are functioning in an efficient manner, then the heart is able to maintain its optimum function. This is how rosemary can promote a healthy heart.
- Supports Healthy Digestion
The antispasmodic property of rosemary can also benefit the digestive system. The gastrointestinal tract features a couple layers of smooth muscles that allow them to contract. This contraction helps in the digestion of food and the movement of fecal matter through the alimentary tract. Rosemary regulates the contraction of these smooth muscles, preventing indigestion and gas in the process. At the very least, you will not have to worry about bloat if you give a bit of rosemary to your dog. Plus, its antimicrobial activity can be beneficial in the management of certain intestinal infections.
- Repels Bugs
It is not known how rosemary is able to repel bugs and pests like ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. Regardless, the fact that it does work makes rosemary an excellent choice when it comes to repelling these disease-carrying pests. While it may not provide 100% protection against fleas and ticks, it should still be a good adjunct to conventional flea treatment in dogs.
What is the Controversy about Rosemary?
There are pet parents who have grown wary about the inclusion of rosemary in commercial dog food preparations. This stemmed from reports of pet dogs suffering from seizures right after the ingestion of rosemary-containing dog food. While many of these reports are anecdotal, it is causing quite a controversy even among veterinarians.
The FDA classifies rosemary as Generally Regarded as Safe. This classification is for both humans and animals. With this FDA assurance, it is quite mind-boggling why some people blame the herb for the occurrence of seizures in their pets. The answer may lie in the formulation of these rosemary-containing pet food products.
Many pet food manufacturers use rosemary essential oil in their formulations as natural preservatives. Unfortunately, essential oils are highly-concentrated extracts of the herb. This means your dog may be getting more than what it needs.
What is important to understand is that rosemary essential oil is beneficial when used in almost negligible amounts. If you have ever made an essential oil diffuser before, then you know that you only need a few drops of the essential oil mixed with a base oil to get the therapeutic effect. When done this way, rosemary can provide a relaxing and calming effect.
However, if you use the full concentration of the essential oil, then you get the opposite effect. Rosemary can be a powerful central nervous system stimulant. If the dog has epilepsy, then giving rosemary-containing dog food may exacerbate such conditions and lead to seizures.
The key here is the amount of rosemary active ingredients that the dog receives. If it is in its highly-concentrated form, then you can expect that it can trigger seizures in susceptible dogs.
How Should I Give Rosemary to My Dog?
It is clear that rosemary essential oil is a big no-no for dogs. As such, your best choice will be to give fresh rosemary to your pet. There are many ways you can serve this to your canine friend. Add rosemary to your grilled chicken, pork, beef, lamb, or potatoes as a seasoning. You don’t need to add salt. The flavor and aroma of fresh rosemary should be enough to make these meats as delicious as possible. You can also use it to season potatoes and other veggies that dogs can eat.
An alternative will be to pound fresh rosemary to a fine consistency. Sprinkle this over its regular dog food or you can mix it in. Some pet parents also mix fresh powdered rosemary in the dog’s drinking water. Make sure to use only a little because this herb has a very strong flavor. Your dog may not want to drink if the herb overpowers the tasteless nature of water.
If you do not want to use fresh rosemary, use a tincture preparation instead. These are products that contain diluted rosemary extract. Use about an eighth of a teaspoon of the rosemary tincture for every 20 lbs of the animal’s body weight. Give this to your hound three times a day.
Rosemary is safe for dogs. However, you should never give it to pregnant canines and dogs with known seizure disorders. Also, give only very small amounts and never ever give rosemary essential oil.
- Potentially Unsafe Herbs for Pets – Natural Dog Health Remedies
- Rosemary: A Beneficial Herb? – Dogs Naturally
- This Common Herb Does Wonders for Your Dog’s Coat and Skin – World of Angus