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Most of the culinary herbs that we grow in our backyards are packed with tons of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. And most of them are not only safe for our dogs to consume but can also help heal or prevent a wide range of health problems. Even better, some of the herbs are easily digestible for our canine companions, particularly when finely chopped or ground to a powder (in the case of dried herbs).
But not all herbs are safe for our pups! So, which ones can you use to add some flavor or additional nutrients to your dog’s food? Can dogs eat thyme? Well, since we cannot cover all herbs in one blog post, let’s focus on thyme.
What is Thyme?
Thyme is a perennial, evergreen herb in the genus Thymus of the mint family, Lamiaceae. Its leaves grow on clusters of thin stems and produce small white, pink, or lilac flowers. The colors of its leaves often vary from pale green shades to shades of olive, bronze, silver, and deep green. There are over 350 species of thyme because they tend to hybridize fast. However, the most common variety that you are likely to find in many homes’ spice racks is the Thymus vulgaris or common thyme. It is native to the Mediterranean region though it is currently cultivated in the US, Portugal, France, and Spain.
Thyme is widely used as a food seasoning, either by itself or alongside other herbs like sage, rosemary, or marjoram. It is fit for every dish and can be consumed by anyone looking to enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs.
Can Dogs Eat Thyme?
The short answer is: Yes, thyme is safe for dogs. Dogs can consume moderate amounts of thyme without any issue. In fact, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) considers thyme to be non-toxic to pets, including your dog. The herb is also categorized as GRAS or “generally recognized as safe” by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA). However, because it is fibrous, too much of it can leave your pup with an upset stomach.
Here are some of the top benefits that your pup stands to gain if you sprinkle some fresh springs of thyme on his food:
- Improves Your Dog’s Digestive Health: The herb packs excellent carminative and antispasmodic properties, making it suitable for treating conditions like irritable bowel, dyspepsia, colitis, and indigestion in dogs.
- Can protect against cellular damage from free radicals: Thyme is rich in a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including A, C, K, iron, manganese, and calcium, all of which have excellent antioxidant properties to help fight damage caused by free radicals.
- Kills parasitic worms and suppress bacterial and fungal growth: Thyme has an active compound, Thymol, which has potent antibacterial and antiseptic properties. So, it can help expel parasites like hookworms and suppress the growth of fungal and bacterial pathogens. Using thyme oil on your dog’s skin can also help eliminate bacterial and fungal infection of the skin.
- Thymol can also fight gingivitis in dogs. Simply apply a thyme tincture or a strong thyme tea on your dog’s gums or infected sites using a cotton swab.
- May help treat urinary tract infection in dogs due to its antimicrobial properties. The herb is also believed to be a mild astringent tonic and can, therefore, be used for urinary incontinence in dogs.
There are a few issues with thyme consumption in dogs. As aforementioned, allowing your dog to consume large quantities of thyme can result in indigestion, leading to gastrointestinal distress.
Concentrated thyme essential oil is also not recommended for dogs. Like any other essential oil, exposing your dog to concentrated thyme essential oil may cause vomiting, seizures, and diarrhea among other health issues. Ensure that you dilute thyme oil with an appropriate carrier oil before using it on your dog. Remember to also administer the oil in small quantities and use it as directed by the manufacturer.
Thyme may also slow blood clotting, so it is believed that it might increase the risk of excess bleeding during and after surgery. Consequently, if your dog is scheduled for surgery or has undergone a surgical procedure, don’t give him thyme.
Beware of Spanish Thyme
Although common thyme is safe and beneficial to dogs, Spanish thyme is toxic to dogs. The herb contains diterpene, a chemical that’s known to lower blood pressure in dogs. The plant’s sap also contains thymol, carvacrol, eugenol, and methyl eugenol that can be quite irritating to your dog’s skin and gastrointestinal tract (when consumed). Toxicity can be mild or severe, depending on how much of the herb your dog has consumed. Typical symptoms of Spanish thyme poisoning in dogs include vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, difficulty in breathing, occasionally bloody diarrhea, and depression.
If you suspect that your dog has consumed some Spanish thyme, rush him to a local vet immediately. Remember to carry a sample of the plant because your vet may need to perform emesis and perform a few tests on your dog’s stomach content for traces of the plant.
Tips on How to Feed Thyme to Your Dog Safely
- Like any other food, if you are giving thyme to your dog for the very first time, start with small amounts. If consumed in small quantities, your dog will get to enjoy the wonderful health benefits of the herb without exposing him to any potential side effects of the plant.
- The best way to give your dog thyme is to sprinkle some fresh or dried ones on your dog’s favorite dry or wet food. You can also add some to his homemade dog treats.
- Since thyme stems are fibrous, they may not break down during cooking. So, if you decide to use whole thyme stems, consider picking them out before serving the food to your dog.
- To keep your dog healthy, always choose thyme leaves that have not been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. Whenever possible, buy organic thyme and always wash them thoroughly before giving any to your dog.
- If you can, grow some thyme in your garden and use that for your dog instead of giving something you don’t know its source.
Thyme is a potent herb that is not only safe for pets but packs tons of healthy benefits. However, for your dog to get the most out of this flavorful herb, feed him in moderation. Beware of the highlighted potential dangers as well, and talk to your vet in case you notice some weird symptoms in your dog, especially after consuming thyme.
To help you stay informed and keep your pup safe, here are more resources on what dogs can and cannot eat: