What Spices Are Safe for Dogs?

When it comes to spices for dogs, what spices are safe (and even good!) for dogs and what spices are dangerous to canines? Is tumeric safe for dogs? Can dogs have basil? What about cinnamon?

A dog eating out of a bowl.
A dog eating out of a bowl. Photography ©Chalabala | Thinkstock.

I love cooking with spices so much that my collection of aromatic little bottles has overtaken an entire shelf in my kitchen pantry. In addition to supplying unique flavors and aromas to my dishes, I love that spices may contain medicinal properties. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has harnessed the healing power of plants for thousands of years — an entire aspect of TCM is based on using spices and herbs to treat a wide variety of health conditions. But what spices are safe for dogs?

It’s true that spices are not just for humans. Our dogs can benefit from spices in their diet as well. For advice on safely using spices to boost your dog’s health, I turned to Josie Beug, DVM, a Miami-based holistic veterinarian. Here are her tips on spices for dogs.

First, what are spices?

Vintage photo of dog cooking with a chef's hat on.
What Spices Are Safe for Dogs?

The definition of herbs and spices differs whether you are talking about them from a TCM perspective or a cooking perspective, according to Dr. Beug. “In TCM, herbalists use formulations from all parts of the plant to create herbal therapies,” she says. “However, in cooking, herbs come from the leaves of plants, while spices come from the other parts, such as roots, flowers, stems, fruit, bark or seeds.” Some plants produce both cooking herbs and spices. For example, cilantro is an herb, and coriander is a spice, but both come from the same plant. To complicate matters, some herbs, such as basil, parsley, oregano and thyme, are dried and sold as “spices.” And other ingredients we think of as spices are neither spices nor herbs. Garlic, for example, is a bulb also found in the form of garlic powder.

For this list, consider any dried form of the plant used for cooking as a “spice” — mainly because this is how we think of them in daily life.

What Spices Are Safe for Dogs?

Dr. Beug recommends the following dog-safe spices that also carry benefits.

Basil for Dogs


  1. Antibacterial
  2. Anti-cancer
  3. Fights free radicals
  4. Helps prevent diabetes
  5. Protects the liver
  6. Reduces pain and inflammation

Tip: Add basil to help reduce pain and inflammation in dogs with arthritis.

Coriander for dogs

  1. Alleviates nausea
  2. Anti-diarrheal
  3. Eases intestinal gas
  4. Anti-parasitic
  5. Helps detoxify the body
  6. Increases milk flow

Caution: Avoid giving coriander to pregnant animals, as it may stimulate uterine contractions.

Cinnamon for dogs

What Spices Are Safe for Dogs?

  1. Anti-inflammatory
  2. Displays anti-cancer properties
  3. Regulates blood sugar
  4. Combats free radicals
  5. Protects against heart disease
  6. May lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in humans and similar conditions in dogs

Tip: Opt for Ceylon cinnamon over the more common Cassia variety, as it is much lower in the blood-thinning compound coumarin.

Dill for dogs

  1. Anti-inflammatory
  2. Antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial
  3. Improves digestion
  4. Lowers blood sugar
  5. Regulates menstruation
  6. Relieves diarrhea

Caution: Avoid giving dill to pregnant dogs, as it may induce menstruation and cause miscarriage.

Fennel for dogs

  1. Acts as a diuretic to remove toxins
  2. Aids digestion
  3. Alleviates constipation, diarrhea and intestinal gas
  4. Benefits brain function Y Contains anti-cancer properties
  5. Increases milk production during lactation

Caution: Excessive fennel intake can cause health issues, including difficulty breathing and heart palpitation.

Ginger for dogs

  1. Anti-inflammatory
  2. Eases nausea and upset stomach
  3. Helps boost cognitive function
  4. Helps regulate blood-sugar levels
  5. May block growth of cancerous tumors
  6. Reduces pain associated with osteoarthritis

Tip: Giving ginger to senior dogs may help boost cognitive function and decrease age-related joint pain.

Peppermint for dogs

  1. Alleviates spasms in the colon
  2. Improves signs of irritable bowel syndrome
  3. Reduces intestinal gas
  4. Relieves indigestion
  5. Soothes upset stomach
  6. Treats diarrhea

Caution: Avoid giving to dogs with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). May cause hypoglycemia in diabetics.

Oregano for dogs

  1. Antibacterial
  2. Antifungal
  3. Anti-inflammatory
  4. Contains cancer-fighting polyphenols
  5. Relieves indigestion and diarrhea
  6. Rich in antioxidants to combat free radicals

Caution: Oregano may increase the risk of bleeding in dogs with bleeding disorders. Use cautiously with diabetic dogs, as oregano can lower blood sugar.

Parsley for dogs

  1. Antibacterial
  2. Anti-inflammatory
  3. May help protect against urinary tract infections, kidney stones and gallbladder stones
  4. Natural diuretic
  5. Rich in antioxidants

Caution: Avoid giving to dogs prone to calcium oxalate stones, as parsley is high in oxalates.

Turmeric for dogs

  1. Anti-cancer
  2. Anti-inflammatory
  3. Fights free radicals
  4. Helps heal the gut
  5. Improves brain function
  6. Reduces symptoms of arthritis

Caution: Turmeric acts as a blood thinner and may increase risk of bleeding in association with some medications and botanicals, like NSAIDs, garlic and Gingko biloba. As a rule of thumb, Dr. Beug recommends a ¼ teaspoon for small dogs, ½ teaspoon for medium dogs and 1 teaspoon for large dogs per day, mixed into food. “The key is to remember that more is not better,” she says. “Besides, a heavy spice aroma may turn dogs off from the food.”

What Are Unsafe Spices for Dogs?

Now that you have the answer to your question, “What spices are safe for dogs?,” let’s discuss ones that aren’t. Dr. Beug advises avoiding the following spices:

  1. Garlic (dehydrated or powder): “Giving dogs small amounts of fresh garlic is safe and beneficial,” Dr. Beug says. She advises avoiding the powdered form, however, due to its increased concentration and potency.
  2. Onion powder: Thiosulphate, a compound in onions, can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs, a condition in which the red blood cells burst. “Play it safe, and avoid it an any form,” Dr. Beug says.
  3. Pepper: Black pepper is a popular component of golden paste (a mixture of turmeric powder, water, oil and black pepper that’s taken orally for its anti-inflammatory and other healing properties) to help increase the absorption of curcumin in turmeric. Dr. Beug recommends skipping it, however, as piperine in black pepper also enhances absorption of prescription medications, increasing the chance of accidental overdose.
  4. Nutmeg: Nutmeg contains myristicin, which is toxic to dogs and can cause symptoms ranging from disorientation to seizures. ROSEMARY “Rosemary is generally safe; however, avoid giving it to dogs prone to seizures, as it can worsen this condition,” Dr. Beug says.

This piece was originally published on May 14, 2018.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Chalabala | Thinkstock. 

Plus, find out how these spices can lower YOUR blood pressure >>

Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, MS, is a canine nutritionist and co-author, with W. Jean Dodds, D.V.M., of two books, including Canine Nutrigenomics: The New Science of Feeding Your Dog for Optimum Health. Their online course, Complete Canine Nutrition, can be found at myhealthydog.dog.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!

Read more about dog food on Dogster.com: 

47 thoughts on “What Spices Are Safe for Dogs?”

  1. I’ve had to start my dog on prescription kidney food. She likes the canned, but hates the dry. I try to limit how much wet food she gets. The dry food has a really strong smell- I wouldn’t eat it either! What spices do dogs like that might make the dry food more desirable?
    Thank you!

  2. Also, I have nothing against canned and processed pet meals. As a matter of fact, I know some brands wwith a track-record of excellence in that regards. However, I have a preference for organic pet meals for my dog.

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  7. Also, I have nothing against canned and processed pet meals. As a matter of fact, I know some brands wwith a track-record of excellence in that regards. However, I have a preference for organic pet meals for my dog. This is given that the chances of complications are very minimal.

    Thanks for this piece once again!

  8. Great and insightful article!
    I’ll like to stress how Pet parents should be very particular about whatever goes into the mouth of our beloved canine creatures.

    As humans, we have a different anatomical structure with different nutritional demands. Furthermore, there are meals that are beneficial to humans, but toxic (and sometimes very toxic) for our pets.

    For instance, tomatoes (especially in large quantity) are very harmful for dogs. On the other hand, a very good source of vitamins for humans..

    Once again, great job on this article and site at large!

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  22. I’m looking for a spice that will make his food more desirable. He is an EXTREMELY fussy dog. He even refuses real meats that I cook for him. I want him to eat healthy, but he hates dog food. I need something irresistible! Thanks.

    1. Wet dog food should only be used in moderation. Personally, I consider it a last resort due to the damage it does to their teeth and gums.
      I rescued an extremely fussy Jack Russell mix but was able to overcome this by mixing a little watered down baby food into her kibble.
      Just make sure it doesn’t contain onions, which I found surprisingly difficult. I use Beech-Nut “Chicken+Chicken Broth” They also have a turkey and a beef option.
      Good luck!

    2. My girl is the same way. She only eats meat and some vegetables only. No dog food that we have bought she will turn her nose up at it all

    3. I always soak my picky little dog’s dry food (taste of the wild) in low sodium chicken broth for 15 minutes, then add real chicken chopped up. She prefers to eat this from my hand… lol… such a diva… she won’t eat her dry food if I don’t…

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    1. Try adding a tsp of organic, non GMO, cold pressed coconut oil to her food twice a week, use only natural herbal shampoos i.e. something with neem oil will benefit the skin and coat, don’t bathe her more than once a month and you can even use the coconut oil as a conditioner. It is a bit of a challenge to rinse off but we’ll worth it. Coconut oil is anti fungal, anti inflammatory, anti parasitic and anti viral and actually good for dogs, plus it makes their skin supple, their coats shiny and will help soothe whatever inflammation may be causing and or caused by your dogs itchiness…

  25. hi there- thank you so much for this article! My dog has been on antifungals and antibiotics for almost 2 months now. I recently gave her some chicken mixed in with her dry food that had trace amounts of black pepper. I didn’t know about the reactions between medications and the absorption – should I be worried about a small amount of pepper in her system?

    1. It would have been a lot better had it actually covered how much of each of these can be used at a time. This article doesn’t say a single word about dosage other than the turmeric!

  26. as long as it’s not table salt.. use something with minerals like celtic sea salt ( the highest mineral count) or Himalayan pink salt and only a sprinkle. some feel dogs get enough salt for their needs in their food – even homemade plain veggies have salt content, everything has a lil, naturally.

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