Mint: some love the smell in any form, whether it’s in gum, grown as a plant, or in breath mints or holiday treats. Along with many other herbs and spices, mint has more than one use in your home and out of it than just flavoring food and drinks. Some dogs are repelled by the smell of mint, and others are drawn to it. While some people may consider giving it to their dogs as a treat—or because of the many benefits it has in human use, mint, like many other plants, is not as safe for animals as it is for humans. Why don’t dogs like mint, and how can you use it safely?
The Root of the Behavior
A dog’s nose is many times more sensitive than a human’s. It’s no surprise that smells that we may not find appealing may be even worse for your canine companion. For dogs, any strong smell, such as mint, citrus, spice, alcohol, or vinegar may be repulsive. Some dogs may not mind the smell of mint, while others can’t stand it. For a dog’s nose, even smells we find mild can be far more overwhelming and disorienting. Natural remedies are becoming increasingly popular as people learn more about chemical toxins present in processed products—things present in our food, household items, cleansers, beauty products, and more. Natural remedies, like essential oils, can be helpful tools with a variety of uses beyond adding a more natural scent to your home or beauty routine. Some have other benefits, such as restoring energy, calming and reducing stress, and even relieving a headache. But just because they’re called “natural,” it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily harmless, especially for animals. For one, there is not much FDA regulation on products labeled “natural” the same way that terms like “organic” are monitored and controlled. That means that manufacturers aren’t held to a certain standard of purity, and there may be unwanted artificial toxins or chemicals in them, regardless of how “natural” they claim to be.
And even those products that are completely natural may not be good to use around animals. Many plants, for example, are toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. For dogs, peppermint oil has been used for a long time as a flea and tick repellant. The effectiveness of peppermint oil as an insect repellant is debated. Two things, however, are certain. One, peppermint will not kill fleas and ticks, only repel them. Also, peppermint oil can make your dog sick. Peppermint can cause skin irritation in dogs and, if ingested, can cause lethargy and vomiting. You can grow peppermint outside, but monitor your dog and do not allow them to ingest large amounts of it.
Encouraging the Behavior
Mint is often found in pet products like flea and other pest repellants, deodorizers, and even some treats. Most dogs generally won’t enjoy the smell or taste of it, but there are some exceptions. If your dog is drawn to peppermint, you may have to remove their access to the plant or product so they can’t ingest it and become sick. Instead of letting peppermint grow outside on the ground, you can transplant it into a pot to hang or sit somewhere out of your dog’s reach.
Strong scents like mint and some other herbs and spices can be used as a deterrent if used correctly. For dogs who hate the smell, mint and other strongly-scented plants like rosemary can be grown around your garden to prevent your dog from trampling your plants. For chronic diggers, mint, citrus peels or oils, or strong spices like paprika and cayenne can be sprinkled in the soil or near your fence line, wherever your dog likes to dig. The strong scents should deter your dog from digging up your yard or garden. It may take a few applications before your dog totally gets it, but the strong smell may make your dog sneeze and makes digging up soil much less pleasant for them.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Chemical flea repellants might seem concerning, especially if you have other pets and children in your home. But some natural remedies can be just as harmful. If you want to try using peppermint oil in your home or on your dog, make sure you consult a vet first. There are some sprays specifically manufactured for pets that have low concentrations of peppermint, which should be safer for use on your dog. Always make sure the product has been tested for safety. Do not make your own peppermint oil sprays because you may not be able to accurately dilute it properly, which may cause more harm than good.
While tasty and great for digestion in humans, mint can be harmful for dogs, especially if ingested. While it may be tempting to share a minty treat with your pup, they might get sick. And xylitol, an alternative sugar found in some processed goodies, is toxic to dogs. So keep minty treats for yourself, and save your dog the stomach ache.