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Even dog owners are familiar with the concept of catnip. This herb affect cats the way some drugs affect humans. It's a great tool for training and entertaining cats. Unfortunately, catnip for dogs doesn't work the same way and can sometimes even be dangerous to use with canines.

But did you know that there’s a rumor going around that “dognip” exists as well, which is essentially catnip for dogs? What is this intoxicating substance, and why should you be overly cautious with its use? Some owners may have already decided to try it but before you do, read this article – we’re looking at everything you need to know about catnip for dogs – or the potentially deadly “dognip”.

ALSO READ: 7 Proven Ways to Calm Down A Dog (Backed by Science)

Catnip – An Introduction

Before we start on the topic of “dognip”, let’s talk briefly about catnip for dogs and cats, and how this substance works differently in each animal.

What is Catnip?

Catnip is a plant in the mint family that has a very strong odor and downy textured leaves. It’s known for its ability to put cats into a state of euphoria much like a “high” that humans obtain from certain drugs.

Catnip is harmless and nonaddictive to cats and is thought to create a “sexual” response in cats. The chemical responsible for this reaction is nepetalactone in the plant's leaves and stems. When cats are exposed to this substance, approximately 75% of them (who have reached sexual maturity) show altered behaviors. These behaviors include rubbing themselves on the plant, vocalizing, salivating, and rolling around.

The effect of catnip lasts for around ten minutes after which a cat is immune to further effects from the plant for approximately half an hour.

This is what dried catnip looks like:

Catnip for dogs

How Does Catnip Work?

When the nepetalactone oils from the catnip plant come into contact with the nasal membranes, they stimulate the sensory system. This pushes the olfactory bulb to respond by sending messages to the cat brain’s amygdala and hypothalamus. The amygdala then directs the behavior of the cat in response to the catnip while the hypothalamus creates the “sexual response” that is seen.

In short, the oils in catnip function as an artificial pheromone that triggers the cat’s sexual response.

Does Catnip Affect Dogs and Other Animals?

No. Catnip only affects cats in this way. The reason is because the brain structure of all animals, including dogs, is different and is set up to respond to different stimuli. If all brains were structured in the same way, we would all respond to pheromones from every species and this is simply impractical in the nature.

Is There a Catnip for Dogs?

Dog owners felt left out after realizing that catnip effect on dogs is almost nil, and went searching for the alternative. Now some are claiming that aniseed is the equivalent of catnip for dogs (this should not be confused with star anise).

Aniseed, also called Anise, is a plant that has long been used in human medicine for various applications from pain relief to gas relief. In moderation, anise for dogs and other animals is also used in holistic veterinary medicine to treat things like coughing.

Somewhere along the way, however, someone discovered that when exposed to anise oil scent, given anise seeds, or given anise treats, dogs have a reaction similar to that of cats exposed to catnip. Thus the rumor that anise for dogs is essential catnip for dogs started spreading, but there are dangers associated with this.

This is what dried aniseed looks like:

Anise for Dogs

Anise for Dogs and How It Affects Them

Not all dogs have the same response to anise, just like not all cats have the same response to catnip. Dogs that do react to anise become hyperactive or exceptionally mellow, which is why it works like catnip for dogs. This seems to be determined by your dog’s natural temperament. Dogs that are naturally mellow tend to become hyper and dogs that are hyperactive tend to become mellow.

Dogs are also motivated to follow the scent of anise. Anise oil has been used on lures for racing greyhounds to encourage them to chase the lure around the track. Anise has also been used to create a trail for foxhounds to follow when “drag hunting” a humane alternative to fox hunting.

Anise Exposure and Your Dog

There are many herbs and plants that are unsafe for your dog. Is anise one of them?

Yes and no.

In limited quantities, anise for dogs is relatively safe. When exposed to larger amounts of anise, however, your dog will show symptoms of diarrhea and upset stomach. When exposed to too much anise your dog will show signs of nervous system depression. These symptoms may include lowered heart rate, decreased respiration rate, unconsciousness, and possibly coma or death.

So how much anise is too much for your dog?

Since your dog’s reaction to anise will vary depending on their genetic makeup, their size, their age, and their current health condition, it is impossible to say how much anise is too much for your dog.

The best way to find out how much anise is safe for your dog is to talk to your vet or a holistic veterinarian. If, after talking to one of these professionals you still have reservations about anise for dogs, we recommend avoiding anise completely.

Using Anise with Your Dog

Using Anise with Your DogAnise for dogs can be used with safety and you can reap some of its little benefits. When you begin using anise with your dog, begin slowly with just a small pinch of seeds or a small diluted amount of essential oil for scent. Your veterinarian will be a great point of reference on how much anise is okay to start with. There are also several different ways to give anise for dogs.

Homemade Anise Essential Oil

You can purchase anise essential oil, or you can make your own.

To make your own homemade anise for dogs essential oil, you'll need the following:

  • Raw anise seeds
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Container with a lid
  • Mortar and pestle

Take raw anise seeds and use a mortar and pestle to crush them. Only crush them enough to get the scent of the seeds; don’t turn them into powder. Add the crushed seeds and debris from the mortar to a clean container, glass bottle or jar. Add enough sweet almond oil to the container to cover up the anise seeds. Gently swirl the container to make sure that the seeds are covered completely and then put an airtight lid on the container. Now set the container on a sunny windowsill for the next four weeks. After four weeks strain out the seeds and funnel the remaining oil into a clean essential oil vial.

When using anise essential oil with your dog use only a small single drop of the oil to scent the inside stuffing of a toy. Don’t use more than this!

Can dogs eat anise essential oil?

Absolutely not. Never allow your dog to ingest anise essential oil and never put anise essential oil directly on your dog’s skin.

Can dogs eat anise seeds?

Seeds are a different matter. A couple of whole anise seeds can be sprinkled on your dog’s food and it’s perfectly safe for your dog to eat them.

Anise seeds can also be ground and included in a treat recipe for your dog or added to a recipe whole.

Take a look at some of the anise treat recipes below.

6 Homemade Anise Dognip Dog Treat Recipes

If you're interested in catnip for dogs and want to try the “dognip” alternatively, these six recipes are a great way to include anise for dogs and take advantage of this plant.

1. Carrot Anise Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered anise
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine all of the ingredients together and mix well until you get a dough.
  • Roll out the dough and use a small cookie cutter to cut out treats.
  • Place the treats on the parchment paper lined tray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and crunchy.
  • Allow the treats to cool fully before serving.

2. Oat Bran Anise Treats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1.2 cups unbleached white flour
  • ¼ cup oat bran
  • 1 ½ tsp. dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. anise seeds
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

Instructions:

  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine all of the ingredients together and mix well until you get a dough.
  • Roll out the dough to 1/8” thick and use a small cookie cutter to cut out treats.
  • Place the treats on the parchment paper lined tray and cover them lightly with a clean towel. Leave them for an hour or so to rise.
  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Bake the risen cookies for an hour or so or until light golden brown.
  • Turn off the heat. Leave the cookies on the baking tray in the oven overnight to allow them to dry out thoroughly.

3. Anise and Molasses Treats

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup room temperature butter
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tsp. anise seed

Instructions:

  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Combine all of the ingredients together and mix well until you get a sticky dough.
  • Pull small marble sized pieces of the dough off the larger ball and roll them into balls. Place the smaller balls of dough on the parchment paper and flatten slightly.
  • Bake for 15 minutes until cooked through.
  • Allow the treats to cool completely and store in the refrigerator.

4. Anise, Sweet Potato, and Peanut Butter Treats

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cooked sweet potato
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 Tbsp. all-natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp. crushed anise seed

Instructions:

  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Once the sweet potato has cooled, scoop out the middle and throw away the skin.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the peanut butter and eggs with the cooled sweet potato and mix until thoroughly combined.
  • Once combined, slowly add the flour as you continue mixing until you get a dough that is no longer sticky but not dry. You may not need all of the flour to do this.
  • Roll out the dough to ¼” thick and use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookies.
  • Place the cookies on the baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until browned.
  • Once cooked through, allow the cookies to cool completely before serving.

5. Liver Anise Canine Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. liver
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. anise seed

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Rinse and dry the liver lightly with a paper towel. Once dry, cut the liver roughly then grind it in your food processor.
  • In a mixing bowl combine your flour, anise, and cornmeal and then add in the ground liver.
  • Mix the ingredients while adding the salt.
  • Spread the mixture out onto the parchment paper covered baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Once cooked through, cut the “brownies” into squares and refrigerate.

6. Carob Dipped Anise Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. soy flour
  • 2 Tbsp. wheat bran
  • 1 ½ tsp. dry baking yeast
  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. carob powder
  • 2 Tbsp. anise seeds
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dog-friendly icing
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup olive oil

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  • Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Combine all of the ingredients except the carob and icing. When you get a dough-like texture, roll the dough out to around ¼” thick.
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut out your cookies and place them on the baking sheet.
  • Bake for an hour or so or until the cookies are golden brown.
  • Turn off the oven and then leave the cookies in the oven overnight so that they can dry out.
  • The next day once the cookies are cooled, combine your carob (never use chocolate) with the dog-friendly icing and mix well.
  • Dip half of each cookie into the icing mixture and then set them back on the parchment paper to harden.
  • Once the icing on each cookie has hardened, store them in a large Tupperware with a sheet of parchment paper between each layer of cookies.
  • Store in a cool dry place or in the refrigerator if you prefer.

The Mandatory DisclaimerThe Guide on Anise and Catnip for Dogs

I have mentioned this already, but it’s worth mentioning again – anise for dogs is not the exact same thing as catnip for dogs. Aniseed can be fatal to your dog if they are overexposed to it. Always consult your veterinarian before exposing your dog to anise and if you have any concerns about using anise with your dog, don’t use it at all. The risks outweigh the benefits.

READ NEXT: 9 Reasons to Use Essential Oils for Dogs

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Kelli Pechal, VT
Kelli is a practicing Licensed Veterinary Technician and a lifelong animal lover who regularly works with pets. On top of her professional dog experience in the veterinary field, Kelli has also worked in a dog boarding facility since 2012. Kelli is also taking care of two rescue dogs of her own, a Border Collie mix and a Westie mix.