We know that a balanced diet is a great place to start in your pet’s journey toward life-long health, and part of that comes from including a wide variety of foods in their bowls. There are hundreds of supplements to help you achieve that variety, but they’re not often the most economical or accessible option. But do you know what IS more accessible, economical, and sustainable? Growing your own herbs instead!
The best part about growing herbs is twofold: not only do you not need an outdoor gardening space (planting in a pot by the window or other indoor growing systems work great!), but these are all herbs you can add to your own meals! So, without further ado, let’s dig into 10 herbs your pets can eat, what nutrients and benefits they can offer your pet, and how to prepare them!
Vitamins A, C, and K, and trace amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
With impressive amounts of vitamin K, parsley is a natural anti-inflammatory and can support healthy blood clotting. It’s also a diuretic that works to flush excess water from tissues and promotes bladder and urinary tract health. Finally, its antimicrobial properties mean it can freshen your pet’s breath, so you can actually embrace all those little puppy and kitty kisses without cringing!
How to Prepare:
The safest parsley to serve your dog is curly-leaf parsley. Because it’s such a powerful diuretic, your dog or cat only needs a little sprinkled on their meals—don’t go parsley crazy! Additionally, avoid feeding parsley if your pet has any kidney issues, as too much of it can cause their kidneys to work harder than they have to.
Vitamins A, C, and K, magnesium, calcium, iron, and an assortment of antioxidants.
Basil’s antioxidants mean it has the potential to reduce oxidative stress, help regulate blood sugar levels, and potentially even help prevent cancer! When you combine that with basil’s ability to reduce inflammation and help protect against infections, this is an easy-to-grow and potent herb for your whole family!
How to Prepare:
Similar to parsley, the benefits of basil don’t mean you should be feeding a bowl of basil and nothing else! Start with 1/4–1/2 of a teaspoon (or 1-2 leaves) of fresh basil for your dogs and cats, and don’t exceed 2 teaspoons per meal for larger dogs. Remember that your pet may not appreciate the strong taste of basil, so starting with small amounts not only allows you to build slowly and ensure your pet isn’t reacting to the herb, but it also means you’re less likely to waste too much food if your pet turns up their nose at it!
Manganese, antioxidants, multiple B-complex vitamins, as well as vitamins A and C, and potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron.
The potency of manganese in rosemary means it can help blood clot quickly and potentially heal injuries faster, and its antioxidant compounds suggest it could slow the growth of cancerous cells and reduce the risk of infections. Finally, while more studies are needed, preliminary research on rosemary shows it may also improve memory and reduce stress when fed regularly.
How to Prepare:
Detach the leaves from the stem before serving, as the stem can be woody and potentially dangerous for pets to chew. You can sprinkle a bit of rosemary on your pet’s bowl, but do so sparingly—this herb can easily drift towards the “too much of a good thing” side of the line, so remember that a little goes a long way. While some rosemary extracts or essential oils may be appropriate for pets, use these with extreme caution; it’s much more potent than its fresh or dried form. Because rosemary is such a slow-growing herb, you might be better off buying an adult plant from a nursery and propagating cuttings in a cup of water by a sunny windowsill to keep your stash constantly replenishing.
Vitamins K and B6, iron, calcium, and manganese.
Sage is just one more herb with a long list of benefits for both us and our pets. Its antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties can help prevent your pet from bacterial and fungal infections and even help improve your pet’s breath! Sage can also act as a vasodilator; a little bit can help relax your pet’s blood vessels and promote circulation and a healthy heart. Finally, proponents of sage as a supplement have noted improved mood, cognition, and memory function, though take this with a grain of salt—there are certainly more studies to be done in this area!
How to Prepare:
While fresh or dried sage is perfectly fine for your pet, we would discourage using sage essential oils, which are exceptionally potent and often include non-pet-safe ingredients. Serve sage with a light hand—just a small pinch of dried leaves or a few chopped-up fresh leaves should be enough!
Vitamins A, C, and K, calcium, iron, manganese, and fibre.
Oregano has been used for centuries for a variety of health benefits. Its vitamin content can support your pet’s immune system. Its anti-inflammatory compounds can help promote respiratory health by reducing inflammation and mucus buildup in their airways—which could be beneficial for brachycephalic breeds! With additional antioxidant and anti-parasitic properties, oregano is a bonafide super-herb.
How to Prepare:
Oregano is a dog-only herb—it may cause a stomach upset or even more severe reactions in cats, so best not to risk it. Try adding 1/8 – 1/2 a teaspoon to your dog’s meal, depending on their size. Start with a lower amount, as the strong taste may initially be off-putting for some dogs. Additionally, while fresh or dried oregano works well, steer clear of oil of oregano, as it’ll be highly concentrated and too strong for your pup!
Sowing Your Seeds
Growing herbs is a fun, mostly passive exercise for the spring, and it can have long-lasting results! Whether you’re growing some greenery to boost your pet’s bowls, garnish your own meals, or even brightening your kitchen window sill, starting a herb garden can benefit your entire household’s health, mood, and plain-old meal appreciation! There’s nothing quite like sprinkling fresh, home-grown herbs into a dish that makes you feel like a professional chef—even more than you normally do when putting your pet’s meals together!
The herbs and amounts discussed here are meant for general wellness benefits for healthy pets. If you are looking to add herbs for specific medicinal benefits, you should seek out and have a consultation with a qualified animal herbalist.