Rosemary and rosemary extract in my dog’s food: Is it good or bad?

As owners are starting to be more cognizant of what goes into their dog’s bodies, many are starting to regularly read dog food labels and…

As owners are starting to be more cognizant of what goes into their dog’s bodies, many are starting to regularly read dog food labels and noticing rosemary as a common ingredient.

Since rosemary is becoming more and more popular in dog foods owners are asking questions like, why is rosemary being included in my dog’s food, and is rosemary even safe long-term for my dog’s health? We will answer these and many more questions for you in this article all about rosemary and dogs.

Can dogs eat rosemary?

Yes, dogs can eat rosemary and it actually has many beneficial qualities to dogs when given in small amounts. However, there are some dangers associated with excessive feeding of rosemary to dogs and there are some dogs that should not have rosemary in their diets at all.

There are several studies that show rosemary extract is generally safe for dogs and has numerous health benefits. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approves its use.

However, in 2012 the FEEDAP Panel (The Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed) assessed data to determine the safety and efficacy of adding rosemary extract to dog food and were unable to deliver an opinion as more information was needed. (If there are updates in the statement we will post them here) (Source)


Why is rosemary used in my dogs food?

dogs rosemary

Rosemary has been used in dog food for over 20 years and the addition of rosemary extract liquid to dog food is intended to be used as an antioxidant.


What are the benefits of rosemary for dogs?

In small quantities, rosemary is an extremely beneficial herb for dogs

Antioxidant: Rosemary contains antioxidants, which help neutralize cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Rosemary’s antioxidant effects are mainly due to diterpenes, carnosol, and carnosic acid which have been linked to preventing cancer and heart disease. (Source 1/ Source 2). Natural antioxidants in dog feed, in addition to promoting feed conservation, stimulate levels of systemic antioxidants and minimize the impacts caused by free radicals in the dogs’ blood.

Antimicrobial: One of the reasons rosemary is so great as a preservative in food is the herb’s ability to keep microbes and other pathogens like bacteria and fungi at bay, which keeps the food from spoiling.

Mood & Memory enhancer: Rosemary has been shown to enhance mood and memory!

Digestion Supporter: Rosemary has been known for its ability to assist with digestion related issues due to its antimicrobial properties

Heart health: Rosemary has antispasmodic qualities on smooth muscle which may assist dogs with cardiac arrhythmia

Blood Glucose Modulation: While further studies are necessary, feeding dogs a diet with rosemary (or basil) leaves powder at 0.05% might be a promising modulator of blood glucose levels to control diabetes mellitus in dogs. (Source)

Anticancer effects: This is due to the herb’s antioxidant effects. A study in dogs noted that in combination with turmeric root, the use of rosemary induces a synergistic response to induce apoptosis. (Source)

Bug Repellant: Many owners boast about having great success when bathed in a ‘rosemary tea’. In 2020, one double-blind study, a mixture of plant-based food supplements was used to successfully treat flea infestations on dogs. Bioticks is a mixture of extracts of thyme, rosemary, melissa, fenugreek, absinthe, and lemongrass (Source). This was the first study to evaluate a plant-based product as an oral supplement for flea control.

According to The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats by Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairin this makes a great rosemary wash to help repel fleas. Mix 1 pint boiling water and a tablespoon of rosemary leaves for 10 minutes. Strain the rosemary from the water and allow it to cool to room temperature. After you have washed your dog you can use this mixture as a final rinse. It is not necessary to rinse the mixture off as you should allow it to dry on the skin.


What are the dangers of rosemary for dogs?

It should be noted that many of the negative side effects noted when pertaining to rosemary and dogs are due to rosemary oil, a toxic oil meant strictly for topical use. Negative side effects cited on the web actually pertain to rosemary oil, a toxic oil meant strictly for topical use.

Seizures

In small quantities, rosemary can lead to a calming or relaxing effect in your dog but if fed too much it can produce the opposite effect and cause seizures since it is a nervous system stimulant.

While this is not an issue for most pet parents, if your dog already suffers from seizures you may want to steer clear of foods that contain rosemary abstract as an antioxidant

Allergies

While most dogs tolerate rosemary well, some dogs may have severe allergies or sensitivities to the herb. Let’s look at some of the signs that your dog may have a rosemary sensitivity or allergy. These symptoms can happen immediately or over a period of years.

If you want to read about the big differences between allergic reactions and sensitivities, read our latest article here

Symptoms may include:

  • Itchy skin: as with most allergic reactions rosemary can cause severe itchy skin in dogs that are allergic
  • Dry, flaky skin: this is usually seen in dogs that have a rosemary sensitivity and have been eating food with the herb for an extended period of time
  • Hair loss
  • Bumps/rash: typical of most allergic reactions
  • Chronic ear infections: If your dog has a sensitivity to the herb they may develop recurring ear infections
  • Obsessive licking/chewing of feet: this is also a common sign of an allergic reaction in dogs
  • Inflamed, red paw pads: most likely due to the excessive chewing and licking
  • Gastrointestinal upset: vomiting and diarrhea
  • Seizures: This is seen in severe cases

If you are concerned that your dog may have an allergy to rosemary there are two things your vet can assist you with

  1. A blood test to determine if your dog is allergic to rosemary
  2. A food trial – which over a period of a couple of months eliminates the possible cause of an dietary allergic reaction by placing your dog on a ‘hypoallergenic diet’

To treat your dog for rosemary allergies/sensitivities you simply remove any trace of rosemary from his or her diet, it’s a pretty easy fix. However, this means keeping a close eye on the ingredient list of your dog’s food and treats as rosemary is often present as a preservative.

Once your dog is off of rosemary all of the symptoms that developed from him/her eating rosemary should go away and any open wounds or scratches should heal easily as your dog won’t be tempted to lick at their skin going forward


How to feed your dog rosemary

dogs rosemary

In their dog food

There are plenty of dog foods with rosemary as an ingredient, usually for antioxidant purposes, simply read the labels on your dog’s food to see if it is included.

Can I season my dog’s food with rosemary?

Yes, there are owners that season their dog’s food with rosemary. However, it should not be something that is done daily, and if your dog’s food already has rosemary in it as a preservative don’t include any additional portions of the herb.

How much rosemary can I give my dog?

In the book, Herbs for Pets, it is recommended to give no more than 1/8th of a teaspoon of tincture orally per 20 pounds (no more than 3 times a day)

Note: You should never use undiluted rosemary oil (externally or internally)

Never use undiluted rosemary oil internally or externally. Also do not use the oil on any pet with any kind of seizure disorder. Avoid using rosemary for pregnant pets. Check with your holistic vet for any questions.


Which dogs should not have rosemary

The following dogs should not have rosemary in their diets

  • Dogs that have seizures
  • Pregnant dogs
  • Dogs that have allergies to rosemary

Moving forward

  • Some research has found that rosemary may interfere with iron absorption in humans, this needs to be further studied in dogs
  • Rosemary has been shown to improve memory in humans, studies in dogs would be great especially to determine if it may able to slow or prevent canine cognitive dysfunction