It’s the time of year for sweet treats and ditching those diets and for many pet owners, it’s tempting to include their furry friends in the food fun as well … but should you?
One ingredient that tends to come up a lot this time of year is peppermint. For many people this special flavor adds just the right amount of festive cheer to food and drink and it certainly seems like something our dogs might enjoy.
“It’s always tempting, especially around the holidays, for dog owners to share a special treat with their pets,” says Jerry Klein, DVM, chief veterinary officer with the American Kennel Club. “However, unlike humans, most dogs don’t crave a wide variety of tastes in their food. In fact, sudden changes to a dog’s diet can lead to gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea.”
So your dog might not actually cravethat tasty peppermint flavor the way you do, but is it really so bad if you give him just a little?
Here’s what you need to know.
Can Dogs Have Peppermint?
While peppermint is technically not toxic to dogs, it can lead to an upset stomach and unwanted consequences like vomiting and diarrhea, so Klein recommends keeping your pet away from it completely. Of greater concern, though, is what peppermint is often mixed with.
“Peppermint is often combined with the sweetener Xylitol, which is toxic to dogs,” said Klein. “In fact, consumption of Xylitol can lead to death for dogs if left untreated. That’s why it’s important to know exactly what ingredients are in anything you feed your pet, especially if the item is not intended for consumption by animals.”
In addition to being cautious with peppermint, pet owners should also be aware that the common mint plant — known as Penny Royal — is toxic to dogs. “This plant should not be used with any food products,” Klein says, “and dog owners should be sure to keep it out of their gardens.”
But What About the Health Benefits of Peppermint?
You may have heard that peppermint can be a powerful elixir for human ailments like bloating and gas, the same cannot be said for dogs.
“While some people believe that peppermint may help a dog’s digestive system or decrease joint inflammation, there isn’t enough scientific study to prove that claim,” Klein says.
If your dog is suffering from these symptoms, it’s best to talk to your vet about safe and healthy ways to treat them.
What Should I Do if My Dog Ate Peppermint?
If you think your dog has ingested peppermint, it’s best to be on the lookout for any signs that you should take her in to see the vet. “As far as concern of reactions, the amount ingested would be dependent on the size and weight of the dog,” says Klein. “However, if your dog is exhibiting any unusual signs at all, I would contact your veterinarian immediately.”
As a general rule of thumb, Klein says it’s best for dog owners to always keep their pets on a steady diet, unless otherwise directed by their veterinarian.
“If you really want to give your dog a special treat during the holidays or on other special occasions, give them an additional treat that is already part of their regular diet,” he suggests. You can also ask your veterinarian about healthy treats, like cooked carrots or cooked green beans. These healthy vegetables are generally compatible with most dog diets, and are not as likely to cause stomach upset if given as treats, he said.
Remember, no matter what type of treat you end up giving your pet, be sure to give it in moderation. “Just like with people, too many treats can lead to gastrointestinal problems, or to unwanted weight gain,” Klein says.