Our feline friends get euphoric and relaxed whenever catnip is around, but this “happy” herb from the mint family doesn’t have the same effect on dogs.
However, there is a happy herb for canines too. It’s called anise (or aniseed), also known as “dog nip,” and when given in moderation, it can have a stimulating effect on dogs. Anise, mixed in homemade treats, can be used during training sessions to get dogs psyched and motivated to learn.
What is Anise?
Anise is a seed from the Pimpinella anisum plant, with a distinct, black licorice-like taste and a strong scent. The plant is native to Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean region. The fruit seeds are used as a spice, in both ground and whole forms, in baked goods, herbal teas, and liquors.
The anise plant belongs to the aromatic flowering plants in the Apiaceae family, which produce other spices and herbs in your pantry, such as dill, cumin, fennel, parsley, and coriander. Although anise and licorice are often lumped together due to similar fragrance and taste, they are very different. While anise is a seed, licorice is a root from the legume family. Anise and Star anise (Illicium verum) share part of a name, but the latter is a fruit from a small evergreen tree in the magnolia family with a more intense aroma and is often used in Chinese all-spice blend.
According to Dr. Corinne Wigfall, veterinarian and spokesperson of SpiritDog Training, anise makes dogs excited and playful, and “it has several uses, including being used to train scent dogs, as a stimulating treat or reward, and as a natural remedy.”
How Does Anise for Dogs Work?
Smelling anise makes dogs giddy and playful. For this reason, it’s often referred to as dog nip.
Wigfall says that not all dogs are affected the same way, but those that are affected show a noticeable effect. You may notice your dog is more active, running around the house or the backyard, jumping, or hyper.
“Dogs need to smell the anise to be able to feel the effects,” Wigfall says. The best way to get your dog excited about this safe and natural ingredient, she recommends, is by grinding up the seeds and letting the dog sniff them or putting a very small amount as garnish on top of their food. It takes around 15-20 minutes to work and the energy boost can last between 1 to 3 hours. “It’s not recommended as a nighttime treat!”
Competitions such as agility may prohibit the use of anise for dogs so be sure to check the rulebook before using it as a performance aid.
How to Use Anise for Dogs
Anise can be used as whole seeds, as a powder, or an extract added to treats. Wigfall suggests adding a dusting of powder to toys and food or dropping it onto collars, harnesses, or bedding to introduce the smell.
Anise also comes in essential oil form, but Wigfall warns against using it, as the oil is “more potent than the extract and should never be used directly on its own.” Even a few drops are enough to produce toxicity effects when ingested and could lead to vomiting and diarrhea. .
Anise Side Effects in Dogs
Similar to how we sprinkle spices in our food, anise should be used in very small amounts when it comes to dogs. As it has the tendency to cause dogs to focus and get motivated, it’s best to reserve anise as a training tool or for special occasions. If your dog tolerates it, anise can be used intermittently in low quantities, long-term.
According to Wigfall, consuming large quantities can cause gastrointestinal upset in dogs, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Wigfall says, “large amounts could also cause bradycardia (low heart rate), decreased respiration rate, unconsciousness and, in severe cases, coma or death.”
If your dog consumed anise in excess, seek veterinary advice immediately. If your dog is allergic to anise, it will manifest in itchiness, skin redness, rash, or hives.
If your pet ingested or is exposed to a large amount of anise, keep a look out for the following signs:
- Lowered breathing rate
- Change in demeanor or unresponsiveness
Anise should be avoided in dogs who suffer from anxiety and related disorders. It should also be avoided in dogs with very sensitive gastrointestinal systems and those with kidney or liver problems.
Anise should only be given under direct supervision.
Anise Dosage for Dogs
Dosing is specific to each dog, says Wigfall. “It’s like people and wine, some need just a glass to feel tipsy, others a bottle. Each dog is individual so you have to test the dose with your dog and gradually work upwards until you see an effect.” Consult your veterinarian before providing anise to your dog to determine a safe dosage.
For pet parents wanting to give anise as more than an occasional treat, or for giving the dog more energy, Wigfall suggests consulting with the veterinarian to address the underlying reason for the lethargy or for recommendations for alternative supplements or training that can address the issue.
Anise should not be used to treat symptoms of a specific disease without direct recommendation by a veterinarian.
Where to Buy Anise for Dogs
Dognip hasn’t caught on like catnip, so it’s not widely available in toys or treats. Anise used for human consumption is the same in pet treats, so it can be bought at the grocery store. Add a small amount in your homemade treats or pet food occasionally, whenever you need extra focus from your dog, like for long training sessions. If you do find anise products in stores, Wigfall recommends checking the ingredients to ensure that they don’t have harmful additions like xylitol or essential oils.