Can I Give My Dog Basil?
Those of us who do not make a habit of cooking are sometimes woefully lacking in knowledge of herbs and spices, but there are a handful of herbs that almost every adult has some familiarity with. Basil, which usually shows up in pesto sauces and salads, is one of these herbs. Even if you only cook once or twice a month, you can still identify basil when it shows up in the entrée you order at your favorite restaurant. With the rise of herbs, spices, and other health foods, basil has also gained popularity for its healing properties.
Because it has earned a reputation as a healing food, pet owners may wonder if it is okay to share a little bit of basil with their furry friends. Is it safe fresh? How about dried? Can dogs have basil?
The answer is yes, dogs can eat basil in moderation. Many of the most powerful human superfoods (such as garlic and onions) are extremely dangerous for our pets, but basil appears to be one of the safest herbs you can give your pooch. Basil does not contain any substances that are known to be toxic to dogs, so there is no reason you can’t mix a little bit of fresh or dried basil into their food for a burst of flavor. This also means you don’t have to panic if your dog starts munching on fresh basil leaves growing in your backyard!
What are the health benefits of feeding your dog basil? Proponents of holistic veterinary medicine may suggest that basil and other herbs have the power to prevent cancer and stop arthritis in its tracks. These benefits are almost certainly exaggerated, but there may be a nugget of truth at the bottom of such overblown claims.
Basil, like most herbs, is loaded with antioxidants that can protect your dog’s body from cellular damage that may result in chronic diseases. Antioxidants act as tiny guardians not because they repair the damage that has been done, but because they prevent damage from occurring in the first place. This is because they destroy the highly reactive, highly charged particles, called free radicals, that cause the damage. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants are thought to aid in preventing genetic mutations that can lead to many debilitating diseases, including cancer, arthritis, and even heart disease.
Antioxidant-rich foods may do more than decrease your dog’s risk of cancer. There is some thought that antioxidants may actually slow the physical and psychological decline associated with aging. One study performed on senior dogs found that those who consumed antioxidant-rich dogs learned to complete difficult tasks more easily than those who did not. Another similar study revealed that the aging canines who consumed antioxidant-rich food recognized familiar faces (both human and animal) more easily than those who didn’t, suggesting that antioxidants may be the key to keeping your pooch from becoming senile as they age.
Things to Consider
Basil also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which can prevent disease and alleviate the symptoms of existing illnesses. Anti-inflammatory foods such as basil are most noteworthy for the impact they can have on symptoms of arthritis. Dogs who consume anti-inflammatory foods on a regular basis may be able to reduce swelling naturally, which can alleviate pain and improve joint mobility in the long term. If your dog’s arthritis symptoms are mild and your veterinarian does not want to prescribe painkillers, consider supplementing their diet with anti-inflammatory foods like basil. If your dog is already taking any medications, talk to a veterinarian before adding any new foods to their diet. Certain medicinal foods may cause negative reactions when combined with medications.
Basil has also been used in the past as a calming agent. If your dog gets anxious during car rides, family trips, or 4th of July fireworks, consider giving them a little bit of basil to keep them mellowed out. If your dog’s anxiety is severe, however, talk to your veterinarian. They may need prescription medications to make it through tumultuous times.
Though basil appears to be perfectly safe for dogs, it is important to practice moderation. Dogs did not evolve to eat large quantities of fibrous plant foods, so it is possible that suddenly adding basil to your dog’s diet can cause upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. Some dogs also suffer from basil allergies. If your dog consumes something containing basil and starts suffering from breathing or skin problems, stop feeding them herbs and consult a veterinarian. This is a relatively rare food allergy, but it should not be ignored!
Basil is a safe, even beneficial, food for most dogs to consume in moderation. It is flavorful, rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, and generally well-tolerated. To give this tasty herb to your dog, simply mix fresh or dried basil into their food. As with all new foods, monitor them carefully for 24 hours after they have eaten to make sure they do not react poorly.