This website contains affiliate links. If you shop through the links used on this website, I may earn commissions.
Despite being associated primarily with Italian food, basil is in fact popular the world over, and is one of the most recognizable and beloved culinary herbs.
Whether the word “basil” makes you salivate thinking of Thai basil chicken or a hearty, creamy Italian basil pesto, it’s hard to deny we humans LOVE our basil.
But what about man’s best friend? Can dogs eat basil safely? More to the point, should dogs eat basil?
Whether you’re considering adding this ubiquitous culinary herb to your dog’s diet, or are simply trying to figure out what’s safe and what’s not after your dog got into the basil growing on your counter or basil bush in your garden, we’ve got all the answers below.
Let’s jump into the matter and find out if dogs can eat basil!
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is not intended to be veterinary or professional advice. If in doubt, speak with your veterinarian about your pet.
Can Dogs Eat Basil?
Yes. As long as the dog doesn’t have a basil allergy, basil plants and leaves (fresh or dried) aren’t toxic to dogs. However, not all dogs will like or eat basil, and it can cause stomach upset and other mild side effects. If your dog eats some basil, or you feed your dog basil in small amounts, you probably don’t need to worry. However, be very careful about feeding your dog recipes that contain basil, as many basil-containing foods also contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs (i.e garlic, which is in many pesto recipes, and is toxic to dogs).
Should Dogs Eat Basil?
When it comes to feeding basil to your dog, can and should are two different questions.
Whereas animals like rabbits and guinea pigs naturally eat some fresh vegetables as a portion of their diet, veterinarians advise dog owners not to feed their dogs with human food. However, we also know many dog owners do feed human food to their dogs, and understand that dogs can get into human food of their own volition.
While I still stick to the official veterinary advice that you shouldn’t feed human food to dogs, I also want to provide a full picture. Let’s dive into the potential benefits and drawbacks of basil in your dog’s diet.
Potential Health Benefits of Basil To Dogs
Besides being a flavorful culinary addition to salads, sauces, and salads, basil has numerous health benefits for humans.
But it might also benefit dogs.
Responsible dog parents want to give their puppies the best food and nutrition. But what kind of nutrition can basil offer a dog?
Basil contains a number of essential nutrients, including vitamin K and vitamin A, as well as calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
- Vitamin K – Helps and allows the blood to clot properly
- Vitamin A – Promotes healthy eyesight and boosts the immune system
- Calcium – Helps with bone development and development and maintenance of a normal musculoskeletal system.
Some people use basil as a home teeth whitener, and the essential oils* in basil are a known antibacterial.
This antibacterial works on dogs too, killing bacteria in a dog’s mouth, which lower risks for tooth decay in dogs.
This not only means better overall health for your dog, but may also mean lower vet bills related to oral health and tooth decay into the future.
(Note: basil essential oil is not safe for dogs. Do not use basil essential oil around animals).
Antioxidants And Anti-inflammatories
Studies show that basil has high levels of antioxidants which help fight the free radicals in the body and reduce inflammatory processes.
Foods with high levels of antioxidants have been shown to help prevent life-threatening illnesses like cancer in humans.
Antioxidants prevent cell damage in humans, but can also do the same for dogs. If your puppy suffers from arthritis, foods rich in antioxidants might improve general health and ease arthritis pain.
Research shows that plants with anti-inflammatory properties protect vascular endothelium.
Since cardiovascular diseases are a common cause of death in dogs, adding fresh or dried basil to your dog’s meals could have potential health cardiovascular benefits.
Many dogs will eat basil, along with any other human food given to them.
But, are you wondering if your dog with digestive issues can eat basil?
The compound eugenol found in basil plants can promote a healthy digestive system and reduce the signs of an upset stomach.
That said, too much basil can cause stomach upset in dogs, so you’ll really need to be mindful of how much they eat.
Dogs with diabetes and elevated sugar levels might benefit from a bit of basil, as studies show that basil regulates blood sugar in both animals and humans.
Antioxidants help in reducing inflammatory processes, destroy free radicals, and fight against many bacterial and viral diseases.
Research from 2013 showed that specific preparations of sweet basil oil destroy E.coli and help with other infections and diseases.
Drawbacks of Feeding Your Dog Basil
Even though basil is not toxic to dogs and may offer some benefits, the devil is in the details – or in this case, the dosage.
Always be aware of how much you feed your dog, and watch out for any side effects.
Some dogs will eat basil, and LOVE it, whereas others can’t stand the strong flavor and smell of basil, and that’s completely normal.
However, at the end of the day, dogs – like cats – are carnivores, so their digestive system is most adapted to meat, not plants.
Basil should only be used as an addition to your dog’s diet, and even then, it’s really best to stick to dog food for your dog.
If you do decide to add basil to your dog’s diet, the bulk of each meal should include meat. At the end of the day, healthy vegetarian dogs don’t exist, so put most of your effort into preparing a healthy meaty meal for your pup.
Side Effects of Dogs Eating Too Much Basil
Despite possible health benefits, feeding your dog basil can also lead to side effects, especially if given in large quantities.
Diarrhea, Loose stool, and Vomiting
Basil can upset a dog’s stomach, cause increased peristalsis of the intestine, and lead to loose stool.
If you notice abnormally loose stool, diarrhea or vomiting after your dog consumes basil, call your vet immediately.
It could mean that you gave your dog too much basil, or it could mean your dog simply hates basil. That said, it’s best to check with your vet to be safe.
Without pre-testing, you won’t know whether your dog is allergic to basil or any other food until it tries it, and either reacts or doesn’t.
The most common allergic symptoms include hives, itchy skin, rashes, fainting, heavy breathing, and unconsciousness. If you notice such signs, immediately seek professional veterinary help.
Some pet owners do choose to get their dogs tested before introducing new foods, as allergic reactions of any kind can be serious and severe.
Other Considerations Before Feeding Your Dog Basil
Cross Contamination and Toxic Co-Ingredients
Remember basil-containing foods might also contain other ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as garlic.
Before giving your pup any kind of new food, read the ingredient list carefully to avoid adverse reactions.
The safest bet if you want your dog to try basil? Let it try pure fresh or dried basil leaves that haven’t been mixed with any other ingredients.
Basil Essential Oils and Dogs
Basil essential oils are a no-no for dogs – and is in fact unsafe for use around many animals.
Can Dogs Eat Basil Pesto Safely?
No, dogs cannot eat most basil pesto safely.
Most store bought or restaurant pesto is toxic to dogs, as pesto typically contains garlic (garlic is toxic to dogs). Do not feed your dog store-bought or restaurant pesto.
Can Puppies Eat Basil?
Be especially careful with puppies and basil, and before adding basil to your dog’s diet, consult with your vet. If you feed your puppy with basil or if your little “kitchen helper” accidentally eats basil – be on the lookout for any negative side effects for the following 24 hours.
Some puppies will be totally fine after eating this herb. However, your job as a responsible dog parent is to be extra careful.
Do Dogs Like Basil?
Many dogs eat anything in their sight, so they will most likely do the same with basil. However, there will be cases when dogs can’t get over basil’s powerful aroma or flavor – in this case, don’t force it!
Dogs are carnivores, so don’t be surprised if they are picky and wait for the meat instead of the greens you served.
How Much Basil Can a Dog Eat?
The Latin proverb, sola dosis facit venenum, means the dose makes the poison.
If you’re thinking about feeding basil to your dog, offer only small quantities to reduce the chance of potential stomach issues or allergic reactions.
Also consider the dog’s size.
- Small Dogs – Dogs under 15 pounds are considered small, and you should never give your small dog more than a pinch of basil daily. Anything more than this may cause stomach issues.
- Medium Dogs – Dogs between 15-40 pounds are considered medium dogs, and the maximum amount of daily basil they may tolerate is up to half a teaspoon.
- Large Dogs – Dogs between 40-50 pounds may tolerate up to 1 teaspoon of basil in their daily meals.
Veterinarians suggest that dog treats and new food should never be more than 10% of a dog’s regular dog food.
You may notice that your dog eats basil and seems to enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean you should add more basil or any other new food.
If you choose to feed your dog fresh basil, remember to wash it with cool water for a few seconds to remove bacteria, fungus, etc. After all, the same parasites, mold, and bacteria that affect us affect our dogs, too.
How To Serve Basil To Dogs
Dogs really don’t need basil in their diet, and you probably shouldn’t go out of your way to serve your dog basil.
However, if your dog has acquired a taste for fresh basil or dried, you can rough chop a fresh basil leaf and mix a small amount with the dog’s wet food.
Fresh basil leaves or dried pure basil will do – there’s no need to roast, otherwise cook or prepare the basil in advance.
And always remember that garlic is highly toxic to dogs, so avoid giving your dog anything that was prepared with garlic, and do your best to stay away from giving your dog other human food at the same time (i.e. don’t prepare your own pesto with olive oil, pine nuts and cheese for doggo!).
While basil is beloved by us humans, it may cause some unnecessary health problems to our canine cuddle buddies.
While basil is considered non-toxic for dogs, they really are best served being fed dog food, not human food.
If in doubt contact your own veterinarian, and be on the lookout for any negative reactions your dog might experience after any new food, basil included.
(This article was originally published on July 13, 2022 and was last updated on August 10, 2022)
Sandra is an undergraduate in Veterinary Science, completing her final year of study before graduating as a Veterinarian. An active member of the International Veterinary Students’ Association, Sandra has also completed veterinarian summer school training in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Vienna, Austria. Sandra loves small animals, and is also a fan of basil!