Rosemary is widely used in dog foods as a natural preservative. Many sources report that it’s not toxic for dogs. It may even have some health benefits. You may wonder if dogs can eat rosemary safely. Despite some efforts to pooh-pooh any adverse effects associated with rosemary and dogs, there is some evidence of a link between rosemary and epileptic seizures.
Can dogs eat rosemary? Find out more below.
Rosemary is a fragrant evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean region. It’s a member of the sage family. Like other members of the sage family, rosemary has been associated with both medicine and cooking. The leaves, twigs, and flowering parts can all be used in various ways. Rosemary is even used as topiary and for low hedges.
Rosemary typically provides no nutritional value in the amounts used to flavor foods (such as one teaspoon). Rosemary extract improves the shelf life and heat stability of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids. These foods are normally prone to becoming rancid. This explains the use of rosemary extract in many dog foods.
Rosemary is used as an antimicrobial. It is also taken as a tea.
One tablespoon of rosemary contains 67 percent carbohydrates, 37 percent fats, and 6 percent protein. Rosemary is low in sodium and very low in cholesterol. It’s a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron, and manganese. It’s also a good source of vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, and copper.
On the downside, rosemary is high in saturated fat.
One tablespoon of rosemary contains 2 calories. It has 0.3 carbs and 0.2 grams of dietary fiber. It has 0.1 grams of fat and 0 protein.
Rosemary contains a number of phytochemicals, many of which appear to have beneficial effects. For example, it contains carnosic acid, a compound known for its powerful antioxidant properties. Some studies suggest that carnosic acid can slow the growth of cancer cells in the body.
Rosemary also contains rosmarinic acid. Together with carnosic acid, rosmarinic acid appears to have powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It may help boost the immune system.
Rosemary may also help reduce stress and anxiety, according to some studies.
Studies in aromatherapy suggest that using rosemary essential oil may help improve memory and cognition.
There are some risks associated with rosemary. It should be avoided during pregnancy since the herb is associated with stimulating menstrual flow.
There has also been anecdotal evidence for a long time linking rosemary or rosemary essential oil with seizures in dogs. We found many web sites that seemed to dismiss this link. However, we also found a 2019 study, “The Effects of Various Essential Oils on Epilepsy and Acute Seizure: A Systematic Review,” that does find links between rosemary (and some other essential oils) and seizures. The primary culprit appears to be one of the phytochemicals found in some essential oils – namely, thujone.
Many essential oils (EOs) have anticonvulsant activity and might benefit people with epilepsy. Lemongrass, lavender, clove, dill, and other EOs containing constituents such as asarone, carvone, citral, eugenol, or linalool are good candidates for evaluation as antiepileptic drugs. On the other hand, some EOs have convulsant effects and may trigger seizures in both epileptic and healthy individuals. Internal use of EOs like sage, hyssop, rosemary, camphor, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, cedar, thuja, and fennel can cause epileptic seizures because they contain thujone, 1,8-cineole, camphor, or pinocamphone, which have been identified as convulsive agents.
This doesn’t mean that you (or your dog) have to completely avoid these herbs, including rosemary. However, if you or your dog are prone to seizures or if you have someone in your immediate family with a history of seizures, it would probably be a good idea to avoid the use of these essential oils, including rosemary essential oil.
Can Dogs Have Rosemary?
As mentioned earlier, rosemary extract is often used today as a preservative in dog foods. It’s known for keeping foods containing omega-3 fatty acids from becoming rancid as quickly as they normally would.
Some people use rosemary as part of a natural flea repellent mixture, along with citrus. It may help keep bugs of all kinds away, at least in the short-term.
Most poison control centers consider rosemary to be non-toxic for dogs.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration considers rosemary “generally recognized as safe” or “GRAS.” This is the term they use for common ingredients that shouldn’t pose a problem.
All of this means that for most dogs, rosemary is safe in small amounts, as long as it is used as intended.
However, if your dog is prone to seizures or problems with the nervous system, rosemary essential oil can be a problem. For one thing, the essential oil is much stronger than a sprig of fresh rosemary or even a teaspoon of dried rosemary.
Secondly, rosemary essential oil contains a large amount of the phytochemical mentioned earlier – thujone. Thujone in some essential oils has been linked to epileptic seizures and convulsions.
The use of thujone in herbal medicines has been a cause of concern for the European Medicines Agency (2011). They have recommended against using some of these products for pregnant women and children. They were not able to reach a final determination regarding a safe dosage for humans, however.
If your dog is prone to seizures or has a problem with his nervous system; or, if he has any relatives with seizure problems, we recommend that you avoid using any type of rosemary products for him.
Otherwise, used as directed, rosemary should be safe for most dogs.
How much ?
We don’t recommend that you give your dog rosemary by itself. Don’t give your dog a spoonful of dried rosemary, for example; or a spoonful of rosemary extract.
DO NOT give any dog rosemary essential oil. Rosemary essential oil is much too strong and concentrated to give a dog even in minute amounts.
If you are making a recipe with rosemary for your dog, follow the instructions. For example, if you’re using rosemary as a flea repellent, it usually takes one sprig of fresh rosemary, some orange peel, and one pint of boiling water. Let it sit overnight then remove the rosemary and orange peel. Use the remaining liquid to spritz on your dog as a flea repellent.
If you are making cookies that call for rosemary, you can use about a teaspoon of fresh chopped or dry rosemary added to the other ingredients to make a couple of dozen dog cookies.
Just a small amount of rosemary is enough to provide plenty of flavor.
How Often Can You Give Your Dog Rosemary?
Lots of commercial dog foods contain a tiny amount of rosemary extract so it’s possible your dog is already eating a little rosemary, in that form, every day.
We don’t recommend that you give your dog additional rosemary on a regular basis. If you give your dog a treat that contains a little rosemary or use a flea repellent that has some rosemary, it should be safe.
Remember, if your dog already has any problems with seizures, it’s best to try to completely avoid rosemary as an ingredient as much as possible. It may not be possible. It’s hard to find dog foods today that don’t use rosemary extract as a preservative.
We should also note that rosemary extract is frequently used today as a preservative in human foods, including poultry and some other meats.
A sprig of rosemary or a dash of dried rosemary added to a dish is safe for most dogs. You will also find rosemary extract frequently used today as a preservative in dog foods. However, rosemary essential oil and the essential oils of some other herbs have been linked to epileptic seizures.
If your dog has any problems with seizures or convulsions, we suggest that you avoid foods that contain rosemary. It’s especially important to avoid rosemary essential oil since it is very concentrated.
Otherwise, most dogs should be able to enjoy foods that contain a small amount of rosemary without any harm.