How to Plant a Garden to Help your Dog Self-Medicate

How to Plant a Garden to Help your Dog Self-Medicate

A healthy dog is a happy dog, so it pays to give your dog access to a full range of natural remedies and medicines. Here Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert with Wyevale Garden Centres, shares which plants, flowers, and herbs you can use in your garden to help your pet self-medicate. 

As a dog owner, you might have noticed that your dog will sometimes start eating long grasses during walks or while out in the garden. While this may seem strange at first, your pet is actually engaging in a natural, instinctive behaviour called self-medication. It’s thought that dogs will self-medicate using grass when they’re suffering from a stomach upset or indigestion. The benefits of self-medication don’t stop with grass, either – there’s a whole host of other plants that can provide treatments for other illnesses, too.

If you think your dog could benefit from self-medication, you can help them out by providing a garden full of beneficial edible plants so they’ll have plenty of choice should they need to treat minor ailments. Here, I’ve shared the best plants and herbs to use in your garden, including the benefits they can have on your pet, and advice on how to grow a dog-friendly garden that will flourish. Just remember that if you’re planning to give your dog herbal supplements for any reason, you should always check the dosage and discuss your plans with your vet.

Peppermint

Peppermint has long been used to aid digestion and soothe minor stomach upsets in humans, and it offers similar benefits for our furry friends, too. Dogs may self-select peppermint leaves when they need to treat indigestion or ease bloating, and the plant can also act as a carminative, meaning it can help to relieve gas. Adding a little chopped mint to your dog’s food will also help to freshen up their breath.

Peppermint is hardy and easy to grow, and tends to flourish in wet, shady areas. But be warned — peppermint has a tendency to spread quickly, so grow it in a pot to stop it from taking over your flowerbeds.

Rosemary

This flavourful herb is packed with iron, calcium and vitamin B6, and is thought to contain a powerful antioxidant which supports blood circulation. It’s thought to act as an anti-inflammatory, meaning it can help with minor skin conditions. It also boasts a gorgeous, energising piney scent that both you and your pet are sure to love.

One of the hardiest herbs, rosemary can be grown in almost any garden. To grow this hardy and fragrant herb, just plant it in a sunny spot in well-drained, sandy soil, and make sure it doesn’t get waterlogged roots, as this will cause them to rot.

Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is thought to contain enzymes which help the stomach to break down proteins. As most dogs tend to eat protein-based diets, the enzymes in wheatgrass are thought to be super-effective at aiding their digestion and soothing upset stomachs. It’s also rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin B12.

This dog-friendly superfood can be cultivated both indoors and outdoors, meaning it’s great if you have a small garden. You’ll need to grow your wheatgrass in a shallow tray or pot, and keep it away from direct sunlight to prevent it from drying out: find out more about growing your own wheatgrass using this guide from WikiHow.

Valerian

Valerian has been used in calming remedies for anxiety for years, and is a great choice for anxious pets. You may find that your dog will self-select this soothing plant to cope with separation anxiety, or that they ingest it during stressful periods. It’s also thought to have a soporific effect, meaning it can help lull your dog to sleep.

Valerian is a hardy perennial, and will grow in most conditions and soil types provided that there is plenty of sunlight. When growing valerian, you should bear in mind that it can grow as high as four feet tall, so make sure you pick a spot with enough space to support the plant when it’s fully grown.

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet is a sweet-smelling flower that is thought to act as an anti-inflammatory, meaning it can help to maintain joint health and relieve the symptoms of arthritis. And, as meadowsweet is a mild analgesic, it’s understood that the plant can even act as a mild painkiller. In fact, the active ingredient in aspirin was originally derived from the meadowsweet flower (PhillipStrange). This makes it a particularly beneficial plant for older dogs and breeds that are prone to joint problems and rheumatic pain, like Labradors.

To grow your own meadowsweet, you’ll need a fairly large space in your garden, as it can grow to be up to 6 feet tall. This large, fast-growing perennial prefers soil that is well drained but moist, and should be cut back after flowering.

These easy-to-grow plants will suit gardeners of all experience levels. Just follow these tips, and before long, you should find that your dog is self-selecting their own plants whenever they need to treat a minor ailment, meaning you’ll have a happier and healthier pet in no time.