Is Chamomile Safe for Dogs?

Posted by Elizabeth Racine D.V.M. on

Is Chamomile Safe for Dogs?

Chamomile is an herbal remedy commonly used for humans for a number of ailments. Like many herbal remedies, chamomile has little to no scientific evidence supporting its use in either humans or animals. 

However, some people swear by it for a variety of conditions. But can chamomile be used in your dog?  

What is Chamomile?

Chamomile is a flowering plant in the daisy family. Chamomile is the common name for several plants in the family Asteraceae. Plants in this family have been valued as herbal medicines, flavoring agents, and scents.

Chamomile is perhaps most widely used as an herbal tea, which is said to improve sleep quality. Chamomile has also been used for many human ailments including digestive disorders, hay fever, muscle spasms, and menstrual disorders, but scientific evidence to support its use is lacking. 

What is Chamomile Used for in Dogs?

In dogs, chamomile is touted as a sedative, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant.

It has been sold to pet owners as a treatment for inflamed skin, for gastrointestinal issues such as stomach ulcers, flatulence, and inflammatory bowel disease, and for behavioral conditions such as anxiety. However, scientific evidence to support the use of chamomile for any of these conditions is lacking. 

Chamomile is unlikely to be particularly effective for any of these conditions.  More importantly, chamomile is not safe for use in dogs.

Is Chamomile Safe for Dogs?

Chamomile is dangerous for dogs

According to the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List, chamomile is toxic to dogs, toxic to cats, and toxic to horses. 

Chamomile contains volatile oils, as well as the toxic principles bisabolol, chamazulene, anthemic acid, and tannic acid which are toxic to dogs. If given externally, such as in products used topically on the skin, chamomile can cause contact dermatitis. 

Given internally, such as in oral pills, capsules, or chews, chamomile can cause vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and allergic reactions. Long term use of chamomile can lead to bleeding tendencies.

Chamomile and Other Home Remedies in Dogs

Unfortunately, like most home remedies, chamomile has little to no efficacy and can be unsafe for your dog. Therefore, it’s best to avoid the use of chamomile for your dog unless you are specifically directed by your veterinarian to use this product.

As with any home remedy, always consult your veterinarian before using chamomile or any other home remedy for your dog. You should never use any herbal remedies for your dog unless directed to do so by your veterinarian. 

If your veterinarian does direct you to use chamomile for your dog, be sure to follow your veterinarian’s dosing instructions closely, as giving your dog too much chamomile can result in adverse effects such as vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

Alternatives to Chamomile for Dogs for Anxiety

Fortunately, there are many safe and effective alternatives to chamomile for dogs.  Many people seek out chamomile for dogs because they are looking for a safe and effective supplement to address anxiety in dogs. 

When dealing with an anxious dog, mild anxiety can be addressed with calming supplements such as zylkene, calming tools such as a thundershirt, and pheromones such as Adaptil. If your dog’s anxiety is more serious than a mild situational problem, then it is best to see your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist for further care. 

To treat significant anxiety, it is important to first get to the root of the problem by identifying and managing potential triggers and developing an appropriate behavior modification training plan. 

Many dogs with anxiety also benefit from medication to modulate their fear and help them learn more effectively.  Your veterinarian can discuss your options with you and develop an appropriate treatment plan to manage your dog’s anxiety safely and effectively.

Alternatives to Chamomile for Dogs for Digestive Upset

Sick dog next to chamomile

Some pet owners wish to use chamomile for dogs for digestive problems, as is sometimes done in humans. 

Unfortunately, chamomile is known to cause digestive upset in dogs, including vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite!  Instead, if your dog is experiencing digestive problems, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian first before seeking over-the-counter remedies. Digestive upset in dogs can be a sign of a serious health problem and you don’t want to overlook these important symptoms. 

While one episode of vomiting or diarrhea may not be cause for immediate concern, if your dog’s symptoms are recurrent, last for more than 24 hours, or are accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy, abdominal pain, or other changes in health or behavior, then it’s time to contact your veterinarian. Never give your dog any over-the-counter medications, home remedies, or medications intended for humans without first consulting your veterinarian for advice. 

Many of these treatments can make your dog even more sick and may not be safe for your dog.

Alternatives to Chamomile for Itchy Skin in Dogs

Some pet owners use chamomile topically on a dog’s skin for inflammation and itching.

Not only is this unlikely to be an effective treatment, but it can also pose a risk to your dog if your dog licks a significant quantity of chamomile off of himself.  Treating itchy skin with soothing topical treatments may help your pet feel slightly better temporarily, but it won’t be effective for long. 

That’s because you aren’t doing anything to address what caused the skin to become itchy in the first place. Causes of itchy skin are many and can include parasites, skin infections, allergies, and atopy, to name a few.

All of these different conditions can have very similar symptoms, so it’s important not to try to self-diagnose your dog. The most effective way to deal with an itchy pet is to take them to your veterinarian for an examination.

Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination and may recommend some diagnostic testing such as a skin scraping to check for parasites or sampling of the skin to identify infections. Once the underlying cause of your pet’s itching has been appropriately diagnosed, a targeted treatment can be prescribed to address the root cause of the itch and get your dog feeling better!

If You're Unsure, Talking to Your Vet is The Right Choice 

Talk to your vet

Chamomile is not a safe home remedy for dogs. If your veterinarian suggests using it, be sure to follow their instructions to the letter. Human bodies digest and process the compounds in chamomile better than dogs can. When dogs ingest these compounds, they can be toxic. 

It's always advisable to speak with your licensed vet before making any dietary changes or additions to your normal routine. 

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Author

Elizabeth Racine D.V.M. is a small animal veterinarian with a passion for improving the lives of pets. She has worked in the veterinary field in various roles for more than a decade, with professional interests in behavior, nutrition, and palliative care. As a writer, her work has been featured by several world-renowned pet health and wellness brands. Dr. Racine shares her home with her dog Dasher - a beagle with his own storied career training new veterinary students - and her trouble-making orange cat named Julius.