how to use oregon grape for dogs

Oregon Grape Root for Dogs & How to Safely Use It

Oregon grape root aka holly-leaf barberry is considered a bitter tonic and a natural antibacterial for dogs.

Is Oregon Grape Root safe for dogs?

Oregon grape is not considered a grape at all, but it’s actually part of the barberry family, so yes Oregon grape is safe to be used for dogs.  Holistic vets often use Oregon Grape root for its strong berberine alkaloids, antiseptics and medicinal properties for dogs with different types of infections including fungal infections.

This bitter tasting herb naturally slows the growth of bacteria, impacts your dog’s bile production that’s responsible for breaking down fats and oils. It also works as an anti-inflammatory that helps to reduce inflammation and swelling.

It’s an excellent alternative to using goldenseal for your dog since goldenseal is essentially going extinct from over-harvesting. Oregon grape root is more common and has a wider range than goldenseal.

9 Ways to Use Oregon Grape for Dogs

The following list shares the different conditions that dogs often experience and how this powerful herb may help. Keep in mind that Oregon Grape Root is bitter to taste and your dog might not like the taste.

If you want to try using the herb, your best bet might be to syringe the formula directly into the back of your dog’s jowl or use capsules. The tincture will most likely work better than capsule form.

Be sure to also read “How to Use” the herb and DO NOT ignore the precautions for this herb which also follows the list:

  • Respiratory System: like the herb Grindelia, Oregon Grape is helpful for viral infections and upper respiratory and sinus infections. A tincture application is recommended for these conditions.
  • MRSA: Studies show that berberine containing plants like this herb contains 5′-MHC which allows antibiotics to have a positive effect on the MRSA cell. Often times antibiotics will not work alone on MRSA which is a deadly infection. If you suspect your dog has MRSA, work with a holistic vet to use this herb correctly for this condition.
  • Atopic dermatitis, eczema, and skin allergies: Believed to slow irregular skin cell growth, eradicate fungus and bacteria, reduce inflammation and relieve the itch associated with these skin conditions in dogs. There are salves available or you can easily make a tea to use as a topical spray. Directions: You can use either a tincture or dried herb to make a topical rinse. Using dried herb: Add 2 teaspoons of the herb to one 8 oz. cup of boiled water. Pour hot water over herbs and steep 15-20 minutes. Strain the liquid and make sure it’s still warm, but not hot. Using tincture: Add 5ml to 1/2 cup of warm water that has been previously boiled. Allow cooling until warm. Spray the skin: Using a spray mister, apply to your dog’s affected skin areas. Allow the rinse to penetrate the skin for 10-15 minutes before blotting dry.  Do this twice daily until the skin heals. If your dog has a bad fungal or bacterial skin infection, consider using it internally as well.
  • Urinary Tract Infections: The urinary tract excretes the alkaloid berberine which allows the herb to use its antimicrobial process to treat your dog’s urinary tract for any existing infection. Use internally by tincture or capsule form. You might also consider Uva Ursi.
  • Intestinal Infections and Diarrhea: For dogs with chronic diarrhea associated with a bacterial infection such as Giardia lambliaEntamoeba histolytica (amoebas), Trichomonas vaginalis, and Leishmania donovani., Oregon Grape can do an amazing job at eliminating any infection and returning your dog’s stool to normal. Overusing this herb can cause it to act as a laxative.
  • Infected tooth and/or bacterial infection in the gums: Simply rub a little powder of Oregon Grape root for dogs on swollen gums and infected tooth. Follow up with your dog’s holistic vet if your dog’s teeth are in bad shape. Putting an older dog under anesthesia isn’t always recommended. You can find additional information on our article here.
  • Wounds: Oregon Grape is excellent for treating your dog’s wounds and for keeping the wound free of swelling and infection. Once the wound has been cleaned, use a clean cotton ball to dab some diluted tincture (oil infusion) onto the area.
  • Ear infection: If using Oregon Grape for ear infection in your dog, you’ll want to use an oil infusion. You can do this by simply applying 1-5 drops to the affected ear once or twice a day until the condition is gone. Directions: Apply 5 drops of tincture to your dog’s ears twice daily until the infection is healed. We recommend cleaning the ears first with witch hazel; waiting 10 minutes and then applying the drops.
  • Eye infection (conjunctivitis): For conjunctivitis, an alcohol tincture is recommended. Dilute the tincture by using 5 drops to one ounce of sterile saline and apply 1-2 drops of the solution to your dog’s eye(s) twice a day until the eyes are healed.
grape root for dogs

Dosage Instructions

Keep in mind that the dosages below are for humans. To convert to canine dosages, simply do this: Take your dog’s weight and divide it by 150. Here’s an example: for a 30-pound dog, divide 30 by 150. You’ll get 0.2 which is the same as 20%. So, you would give your dog 20% of the human dosage in tincture or capsules. 

Human dosages: If you have a large dog and prefer to use the human dosage, start at the low end and work up over a couple of days based on the formuas below: 

Tincture: Can be used at dosages of 3 – 6 ml or 1/2 to 1-1/2 tsp three times a day.

Capsules: One 500mg capsule 3 times a day. 

NO MORE than 3 doses a day of any form of Oregon Grape Root for two weeks for large dogs using the human dosage. 

These are dosages for using capsule forms of Oregon Grape Root for dogs:
Small dog: 22lbs or less – 250mg a day is recommended
Medium dog: 23lbs-55lbs. – 500mg a day is recommended
Large dog: 56lbs and over – 1000mg a day broken down into 2 doses of 500mg twice a day


  • This herb is considered a cholagogue, alterative, bitter tonic and should NOT be used in pregnant animals.
  • Many herbalists recommend using this herb to stimulate liver function, but it should not be used for dogs with ACUTE liver disease. Acute liver failure is when your dog’s liver suddenly stops working. This can happen due to an overdose of medicine or poisoning (vaccines, chemical flea and tick products, synthetic drugs, etc). The extract may irritate the organ, causing it to overwork itself. While Oregon Grape Root for dogs can offer strong benefits for liver health, we recommend not using it at all if your dog has elevated liver enzymes or preexisting liver disease.
  • It’s believed it may also damage natural gastrointestinal probiotics when used long term.
  • Not recommended for diabetic dogs as it may lower blood sugar levels.
  • This herb should NOT be over-used or used internally for more than 2  weeks at a time without taking a 2-week break before starting again. Two weeks on and two weeks off.

References: Herbs for Pets by M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats by CJ Puotinen, Herbal Prepper, EasyPetMD, Other.