You are curled up on your couch during a chilly night, sipping a cup of peppermint tea. The aroma is refreshing and you pause to breath it in. Fido is curious, too, and takes a good whiff but violently jerks his head back. It is clear he does not like this smell. You might use an aroma therapy essential oil diffuser in your room and the days you use peppermint oil, your dog refuses to go in. While you are anticipating a relaxing atmosphere, your dog smells the opposite. There are reasons for your dog not liking certain smells, and he’s smart not to like peppermint because while it might be your favorite scent or flavor, it’s toxic to him.
The Root of the Behavior
The five senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell are natural protections for not only us humans, but canines as well. If we feel the heat from a fire, our body tells us to step away. When we hear explosions, we instinctively react either by ducking and covering or being on high alert to identify where the danger is. When we smell something foul like rotting meat or milk, it usually means it’s bad for us. These senses instinctively protect us from danger and your dog’s senses protect him as well. Smells are also associated with memories. If you have ever gone back and visited your childhood school, you might be taken back to first grade because you smell something familiar. Smell is a powerful sense and should not be underestimated.
Your dog’s snout can sniff out problems with ease; he just has to follow his nose. A dog’s nose also contains about 300 million olfactory receptors, which means they smell things much more intensely than humans can. We mere humans only have 5 million olfactory receptors in our noses. So when a scent might seem mild to us, to your dog it might feel as overwhelming as walking through the risky area of a department store where you dodge perfume samples and hold your breath. As much as you trust your nose not to tell you that milk is spoiled, your dog trusts his nose. Peppermint is toxic to dogs and understandably so, dogs don’t like it. You might use peppermint essential oils to relieve inflammation or just reduce your stress, however, these highly concentrated formulas are toxic to dogs and toxicity symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. If a dog ingests mint, such as a candy cane, or licks an oil off mint leaves or your body if you rubbed peppermint oil on yourself, he will become sick.
Encouraging the Behavior
Dogs should not eat or have peppermint oil rubbed on them because it will make them sick. The natural remedies that make humans feel better do not make them feel better. Humans can use essential oils to alleviate symptoms, but it is not the same for dogs. Using or feeding essential oils intended for humans to dogs is dangerous. The only time you’ll find a safe product for a dog is if it’s intended for a dog. Some products might contain peppermint, but they’ve been manufactured to be safe for dogs. If you want to share a holiday treat with your dog, make it a natural treat without peppermint. Candy canes can be problematic for dogs, not only because of mint, but the candy cane may contain Xylitol, which can be deadly to your dog. There are also other unknown or harmful flavors to your dog. The wrappers and sharp edges can cause digestive problems. Nothing says holiday spirit like spending a night at the vet.
There is no scientific evidence that dogs benefit from peppermint the way humans do and if you apply the incorrect amount, you dog can suffer. Giving your dog products intended for human use is very dangerous and if you want your dog to reap the benefits of a natural, holistic approach, you should talk to your vet about appropriate products for dogs. Natural products might be preferred in your home, but make sure they’re safe for everyone, including Fido.
Other Solutions and Considerations
While your dog’s nose should guide him away from peppermint to protect himself, he still might encounter it. If your dog does ingest or come into contact with peppermint and shows signs of poisoning, take him to the vet right away. Signs to look for are digestive problems-like vomiting or diarrhea. He might eat grass to induce vomiting and get the peppermint out of his system. If you have essential oils or a mint plant in your home, keep them out of his reach. If you are concerned about your dog’s health problems and want to treat them with peppermint oil or any oil, see your vet first. Ask about alternative treatments and how to incorporate a natural remedy for your dogs’ health problems before turning to remedies intended for humans.
Keeping your dog safe is the most important thing you can do as his owner. If your dog backs away from a smell, there is probably a good reason for it. Make sure the products you share with Fido are intended for dogs and if they are not, talk to your vet to find what is the best thing for him.