Is Rosemary Bad for Dogs?

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We are now up to the letter “R” in our dog food ingredient series. As we are nearing the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, today’s ingredient is rosemary, a common component of many stuffing recipes.


What is Rosemary?

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that has leaves similar to hemlock needles. The leaves are commonly used as a flavoring in foods such as stuffing and roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. Rosemary extract is the oily resin derived from the leaves of the rosemary plant.


Common names for Rosemary

Common names for rosemary include polar plant, compass-weed, or compass plant. In dog food we will only see either rosemary or rosemary extract listed in some foods’ ingredients.


Why is Rosemary in Dog Food?

Rosemary is added to dog food because it is an antioxidant and acts as a natural food preservative.


Is Rosemary Commonly Used in Dog Food?

Rosemary is a very common ingredient in dog food. We found rosemary or rosemary extract is in about 36% of all dog foods. It is much more common in dry foods- rosemary is present in 57% of all dry foods- most likely due to the fact that it is a natural preservative.


Common Benefits or Risks of Rosemary

Rosemary contains antioxidants that can reduce free radicals in the body. Rosemary has been used to support brain function in the form of clearer thinking, improved memory, and elevated mood. In one study, low doses of Rosemary improved recall speed, although high doses were associated with a decline in recall speed.


Some research supports the notion that rosemary can help prevent some forms of cancer including colon, breast, liver, and stomach cancers, as well as melanoma and leukemia.


Rosemary might also strengthen heart function and help dogs that have been under stress.


Despite its recognized benefits and overall safety, there is some thought that rosemary might trigger seizures in dogs. Yet, there is no research substantiating the relationship between rosemary and canine seizures.  Some herbalists believe that if there is a linkage, it is related to the dosage where high levels (as found in oils and extracts) might increase the risk of a seizure in dogs that are prone to them.   Such levels are not likely in dog food as rosemary is an ancillary ingredient. Obviously, if your dog is subject to seizures, check with your vet about an appropriate diet.

slimdoggy smiley

Slimdoggy Ingredient Comfort Level

Rosemary’s preservative properties make it a far better ingredient than artificial preservatives. Furthermore, rosemary seems to provide a multitude of health benefits to a dog. For these reasons, it gets the SlimDoggy Happy rating. However, if your pet is prone to seizures, check your pet food to see if rosemary is in the recipe and talk with your vet about the risks.


Miscellaneous facts about Rosemary

Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet said “There’s Rosemary….that’s for remembrance…”


Rosemary is an evergreen bush that grows to a height of two to six feet with pale blue flowers and spiky leathery leaves


Rosemary is one of the most commonly used herbs in Italian cooking.


Sources and further reading (cancer)


Editor’s note: to view all of the dog food ingredients we have covered, search on the tag “ingredients” or click here:

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  1. Wow, scary that is could maybe cause seizures! It does sound like it does more good than harm, though.
    Emma recently posted…Help Merrick And PETCO Feed Homeless PetsMy Profile

  2. it’s amazing how much good and healthy things we can find in our garden. that’s much better than all the artificial thingies :o)
    easyweimaraner recently posted…easyweimaraner PUPDATE MOANDAYMy Profile

  3. Mom has rosemary in her garden and we love sniffing it! Glad to see its help benefits but scary to think it has the potential to cause seizures.
    Miley’s Daily Scoop recently posted…Giving Thanks to My DogsMy Profile

  4. This one I did know was in some dog foods. Interesting info!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Kelp shampoo treatment for dogsMy Profile

  5. Hmm, I should read more about using rosemary as a food preservative. As I move to a life without refrigeration, the topic becomes quite interesting.

    I find this series an interesting way to learn what goes into dog food and why. But I laugh a little bit when people obsess over potential dangers or benefits of a particular food. I read something recently about how kale and other cruciform vegetables can lower thyroid levels for some people.

    Maybe that’s a problem if you believe the kale as superfood hype and start eating it all the time. But eating a wide range of whole foods is always going to keep us (and our pets) healthier than obsessing on good and bad single ingredients.
    Pamela recently posted…How To Make A Foster Puppy Survival KitMy Profile

    • Fad foods like fad diets don’t work. Sure kale is good for you – but not if that’s all you eat!
      mkob recently posted…Is Rosemary Bad for Dogs?My Profile

  6. Wow, I had no idea! I’m going to check my dogs’ kibble and I’m also going to use more rosemary in the human diet in the future!
    Sue recently posted…Dog Treats – Holiday Gift Guide for Dogs and Dog LoversMy Profile

  7. I like the idea of knowing the ingredients in dog foods. I wonder if the Rosemary/seizure theory is the same as the raisins/grapes. After Delilah ingested her raisins I discovered that only some dogs have reactions to the fruit and I spoke with one woman who says all of her dogs have always had grapes.

    So perhaps it’s more of a sensitivity or allergy to these foods that make dogs react? That’s just my theory. The Jodi Stone theory, I call it. 😉
    Jodi recently posted…My Dear FriendsMy Profile

  8. We had no idea that it was used as a preservative. Good info! Also good to know that there can be issues when too much is consumed!
    MyDogLikes recently posted…A Canine Good CitizenMy Profile

  9. So embarrassing – true confessions here… I don’t even cook with rosemary myself. I tell you, I’ve got to get better 🙂

  10. Very informative, didn’t not know it might cause seizures. It’s a pretty high percentage in food didn’t know that either.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Glory’s First Breeding Via TCIMy Profile

  11. We are fans of rosemary here, both dogs and humans.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–Odds And Ends From VacationMy Profile

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