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If your dog has ever watched you eat a bowl of mint ice cream, you might have wondered if it’s OK to give him a bite. But can dogs actually eat peppermint?
Peppermint isn’t technically toxic to dogs, but you still shouldn’t share your peppermint-flavored foods with your pup for a bunch of other reasons.
The Dodo spoke toDr. Sehaj Grewal, a veterinarian and CEO of The Melrose Vet, to find out what you need to know about peppermint and dogs.
Peppermint leaves can actually help soothe your dog’s upset stomach.
“A few fresh or dry peppermint leaves can be used to relieve GI tract upset,” Dr. Grewal told The Dodo.
So you can give your pup a couple of leaves if he gets car sick, for example. Dried leaves are stronger than fresh leaves, so keep in mind that he’ll need fewer dried leaves to feel the effects.
Your vet can let you know how much is OK to give your dog, so be sure to consult with them before feeding some to your pup.
While there are some benefits to peppermint leaves for dogs, your pup definitely shouldn’t have peppermint-flavored foods, like minty candies.
Many candies and gum contain xylitol (aka birch sugar), which is a sugar substitute that’s extremely poisonous to dogs. Xylitol can be found in many sugar-free foods and products for humans.
“Peppermint in candies is highly toxic to dogs,” Dr. Grewal said. “It [often] contains xylitol, which can affect the liver and kidneys.”
Xylitol poisoning can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, lack of coordination and lethargy, and in severe cases, it can cause liver failure and can be fatal. If your dog gets a hold of anything that includes xylitol, take him to the vet right away — it’s an emergency.
According to Dr. Grewal, peppermint candy or gum wrappers can cause a GI tract blockage if your pup manages to eat some pieces that are still wrapped. Your dog can choke on the wrapper, too.
And the candy itself can also be a hazard. If your pup eats a piece that’s too big, it can get caught in his throat or cause a blockage in his intestines. Small dogs are especially at risk because they have smaller mouths and stomachs.
You’ll often find peppermint mixed with chocolate in foods. Chocolate is highly toxic to dogs, so if your pup eats something that contains peppermint and chocolate, you should take him to the vet immediately.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, difficulty walking and seizures.
Even if the candy or food doesn’t contain xylitol, it’ll probably be high in sugar, which isn’t good for dogs. Too much sugar can lead to weight and teeth problems and diabetes.
Plus, dogs don’t typically eat a ton of sugar, so even small amounts can cause their blood sugar to spike and make them sick.
The pennyroyal mint plant smells similar to spearmint or peppermint, and pennyroyal oils and teas are used as herbal medicine. Pennyroyal oil is highly toxic to both people and animals if ingested. Pennyroyal poisoning in dogs can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, bloody nose, lethargy, coma and seizures.
Peppermint extract is more concentrated compared to the individual leaves, and it’s often used for flavoring. The amount of peppermint in extract may be too much for your dog, especially if he’s never had it before, and it can cause an upset stomach.
“[Peppermint candy] can cause GI tract upset,” Dr. Grewal said. “The most common signs are vomiting or diarrhea.”
Extracts are usually made with alcohol, which can also make your dog sick.
Since candy canes are a type of peppermint candy, your dog shouldn’t have any. The shape of candy canes also makes them easy for dogs to choke on, and if your dog bites the candy cane, the sharp pieces can hurt his teeth and mouth.
While mint chocolate chip ice cream is super delicious, there are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t share it with your dog.
The biggest issue with giving your dog mint ice cream is that many kinds have chocolate chips and they can contain xylitol, both of which are poisonous to dogs.
Ice cream is also high in sugar, and some dogs can be lactose intolerant, so your pup could get an upset stomach after having ice cream. Mint ice cream’s usually flavored with peppermint extract, which is often too strong for dogs and can cause your pup to get sick, too.
According to Dr. Grewal, “Peppermint oils are toxic to dogs.”
Peppermint oil’s more toxic than extract because it’s more concentrated. The oil is made of pure peppermint that comes from the leaves and plant, while peppermint extract is a mixture of peppermint and another substance, like alcohol.
So you definitely shouldn’t feed your pup peppermint oil. Using a diffuser for your peppermint oil isn’t safe either, since your pup can breathe the oil from the air. And candles that contain essential oils can be dangerous, too, because they disperse the oil into the air just like a diffuser. (Plus, if a candle smells good, your dog might think it’s food and try to eat it.)
If your dog eats some peppermint oil, breathes it or gets some on his skin, symptoms of toxicity can include:
If you notice any of these symptoms or see your dog eat peppermint oil, contact your vet. If your dog gets oil on his skin or fur, you should also wash it off right away, and move your dog outside for fresh air if he inhaled the oil.
If you want to use an essential oil diffuser, make sure you check with your vet about which oils are safe and keep the diffuser out of your dog’s reach. You also shouldn’t use a diffuser if your dog has any breathing problems, such as asthma.
And if you want to give your pup a minty snack, try these Pedigree mint-flavored dog treats from Chewy for $14.03.
Peppermint might seem like a fun food to share with your pup, but he could actually get sick. So to keep him safe, try giving him a minty dog treat instead (and save the candy canes for yourself).
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