Yes! There is a general consensus that herbs and spices are toxic to pets. However, the ASPCA lists basil as non-toxic to dogs. In fact, the herb has notable health benefits. Basil is packed with antioxidants which have many health benefits to both humans and dogs. A little basil can help your canine friend fight cellular damage and illnesses like cancer.
However, you should be careful when feeding dogs herbs and spices. Here’s a brief overview of the health benefits of basil to dogs before looking at the risks posed by basil.
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- What are the benefits?
- What are the side effects?
- How to serve basil
- What herbs are toxic to dogs?
- Is basil harmful to pets?
Basil has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral benefits. As a result, you shouldn't be afraid if your dog snacks on some basil. Here's a summary of the health benefits of basil to dogs.
1. Prevents Cellular Damage
As an antioxidant, basil destroys free radicals that damage cells. The herb prevents cell damage and is also capable of healing cellular damage. This action alone can help prevent as well as treat many health problems affecting dogs.
2. Cancer Fighting Benefits
Basil’s antioxidants can help keep chronic diseases like cancer at bay. The herb has proven anticancer benefits.
3. Anti-inflammation Benefits
Given basil’s anti-inflammatory properties, the herb is capable of protecting dogs from diseases like arthritis. In fact, the herb is a better remedy for arthritis when compared to common prescriptions like painkillers, which don't tackle the root cause of the problems. Basil’s beta-caryophyllene can reduce inflammatory bowel disease risks.
4. Calming Benefits
Pets can get anxious or nervous in many instances that don't pose real danger. For instance, your dog can get anxious during travel or when they are in the presence of many people outdoors. In such instances, basil can act as a calming agent. In fact, the herb is safer and better compared to most prescription medicines for anxiety. This explains why many certified calming dog supplements have some basil in them. The herb can decrease levels of stress hormones like corticosterone known to cause anxiety in dogs.
5. Age-related Benefits
As dogs age, they are prone to health problems like senility and heart problems. Basil leaves can prevent such problems when administered moderately in your dog’s diet. The anti-inflammatory benefits of basil can get rid of canine arthritis, chronic diseases, and cellular damage known to accelerate aging in dogs.
While dogs can have basil to enjoy health benefits discussed above, basil shouldn’t replace healthy dog food. In fact, basil should only be used to supplement dog food. What's more, it should be given sparingly; otherwise, your dog can suffer some of the side effects discussed below:
Digestive problems: As mentioned above, basil should be given in small quantities. Giving your dog too many herbs can cause digestive system problems like diarrhea, stomach upset, and vomiting. This is a common side effect due to dog's sensitivity towards herbs.
Skin problems: Your dog can develop skin problems because of eating too much basil. If you enjoy feeding your dog human foods and you put a lot of basil in your food, your dog can suffer skin problems like itchiness.
Allergy effects: Some dogs are allergic to basil and herbs in general. As a result, some precaution is necessary when giving your dog basil for the first time. Basil is common in human foods. If you feed your dog basil on its own or as part of a snack or bite of human food, observe them for allergies. Common effects of allergies in dogs include sneezing, swelling, hives, diarrhea, vomiting and itchy ears.
Allergies should be reported immediately to your vet. Severe side effects like breathing problems can be lethal to your dog.
It's worth noting that the digestive system of dogs is designed for a carnivorous diet. Dogs that eat a lot of plant-based foods tend to suffer serious problems.
Given the negative side effect of giving your dog herbs like basil, it's important to explore ways of minimizing health risks. There are good/safe ways to give your dog basil, among other herbs. Given the health benefits of herbs to both humans and dogs, it's important to explore serving ideas as opposed to eliminating herbs completely from the diet.
How Should Dogs Eat Basil: Serving Ideas
1. As part of the ingredients of other food: Basil shouldn’t be your dog’s main dish. It should be part of dog-friendly dishes. It can be added in tiny amounts to dog food or snacks.
2. In tiny quantities: Basil should be sprinkled on food as is the case when adding some salt. The herb poses the serious side effects discussed above when given to dogs in large quantities.
3. Make sure your dog isn’t allergic initially: You should be careful when introducing basil to your dog’s diet. Since most dogs are allergic to basil, you should investigate if your dog is allergic before making the herb a common ingredient in your dog’ food.
Most herbs are toxic to dogs. In case you need details on common herbs and plants that you should keep far away from your dog’s reach, here’s a detailed list to consider:
Tomato plant: The tomato plant isn’t exactly a herb. However, it is common in many households. Tomatoes are also common additions in many human foods. However, tomato plants are toxic. Dogs can suffer side effects like drowsiness, weakness, gastrointestinal problems, slow heart rate, dilated pupils and other severe side effects from munching on tomato plants.
Aloe Vera: This is another common herb in many households that is toxic to dogs. While aloe vera has many benefits to humans, it can cause diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting, tremors, and overall CNS depression in dogs.
Ivy: You should also keep herbs like poison ivy far away from dogs. This herb is known to cause excessive drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain in dogs.
Garlic: Your canine friend should also stay away from garlic and other herbs belonging to the garlic family i.e., onions, leeks, and chives. These herbs alongside garlic are harmful to both cats and dogs. Giving your dog human foods containing garlic or herbs like chives and leeks can cause diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, rapid breathing, and elevated heart rate, among other side effects.
Amaryllis: This bulb common in many kitchen garden is also poisonous to dogs. If you have a dog/s, you should consider removing this plant from your kitchen garden. Dogs are prone to munching on Amaryllis.
Comfrey: Dogs should also avoid comfrey. This herb contains alkaloids that can cause cancer. Although dried comfrey is safer (contains less alkaloids compared to fresh herbs), it can still cause digestive system problems when ingested in large quantities. If you choose to give your dog comfrey, do so in small quantities given the health benefits of comfrey like relieving pain and offering anti-inflammatory benefits that can relieve your dog’s joint pain.
Basil isn't harmful to dogs or pets when given in small quantities. Cats can eat basil. While fresh basil is common in many human foods that pets love i.e., sauces, you should be cautious of the amounts of basil you give your cat or dog. Cats suffer side effects similar to dogs (such as vomiting and diarrhea) when they eat large quantities of basil. Cats and dogs are generally carnivorous. While basil offers many health benefits, such benefits can be acquired from typical cat foods. Plant-based foods are more suitable for humans than pets like cats and dogs.
Can dogs eat basil? Yes! But they shouldn't do so in large quantities given the risks of basil outweigh the benefits, especially if your dog is allergic to herbs. Basil is non-toxic to dogs and is generally safe for dogs when served in tiny quantities alongside dog food or dog snacks.
Since dogs love snacking on human food, you can also give your dog a bit of food cooked with some basil. Your dog stands to enjoy antiviral, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits of basil. In a nutshell, your dog stands to enjoy some health benefits by eating basil. However, the same health benefits can be found in nutritious dogs. In fact, it is better to stick to well-balanced dog food given such food comes with very little to no side effects.
Considering you can't know for sure if your dog is allergic to most herbs without giving them the herb first, the risks may outweigh the benefits of herbs, especially if your dog belongs to dog breeds susceptible to poisoning from herbs.
Important: Dogs are curious. They’ll want to taste your food as well as munch on all kinds of herbs and plants you may have in your home. As a result, you use the above info as a basis for further research on what you should and shouldn’t plant in your home. While a kitchen garden may be a valuable addition in your home, it may pose serious risks to pets.
In case your dog experiences harmful side effects from eating basil, consult your vet immediately.
The information on this page is not a substitute for veterinary help. Please contact a vet for help with any concerns that you have.