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Is mint safe for dogs?
Can dogs have it in their mouth without it going into their system? If so what is the difference between the 2?
Yes dogs can have it.
Here is a study that showed that dogs and cats could extract the active ingredient from chewing on mint (I guess this was just a placebo effect). The study was using very large doses of menthol in the mint (like a couple grams of ground mint per day).
That study also showed that dogs have a higher metabolizing rate of mint and that the menthol in mint is absorbed at a slower rate (again this was probably just a placebo effect)
There is also a study that showed that dogs could extract the active ingredient from chewing on mint, but that dogs had a slower metabolizing rate (which again was probably just a placebo effect).
Also here is a study on what the effects are when a dog eats menthol: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22579761
(If anyone has more studies on the effects of menthol on dogs, or the effects of mint on dogs that aren't shown on Google Scholar feel free to edit this answer)
Menthol is derived from the essential oil of MENTHOLUS PINEUS
(syn:Mentha arvensis L. syn:Mentha piperita L., syn:Mentha spicata
L. syn:Mentha suaveolens Ehrh., syn:Mentha aquatica L., syn:Mentha
pulegium L.). It is a monocyclic compound. The menthol content in
essential oils of many varieties of MENTHUS (about 70-80%) and even
the leaves is around 7% but in the whole plants and in the oil it is
around 30% (G.H. Blythe, J.R. Macrae and P.G. Schuller, 1983). The
menthol content in peppermint (Mentha piperita) is about 10%
(M.A. Gentry, A.M. Lathrop, D.D. Echlemann, 1985).
The menthol content of peppermint and spearmint is not easily
determined, because it is difficult to standardize peppermint oil,
because the menthol is volatile.
The physiological actions of peppermint (Mentha piperita L.) and
spearmint (Mentha spicata L.) include carminative and spasmolytic
actions (M. Pahlavi and R.M. Mokarrameh, 1967).
Although peppermint oil has a slightly warming effect, the common
wisdom that it causes the body to sweat because of its
spasmolytic action has not been substantiated (S.L. Schurman,
Peppermint oil may be combined with peppermint oil for the
production of toothpastes and mouthwashes (M.F. Schafer, 1995).
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and spearmint (Mentha spicata) are
good in gastrointestinal disorders as well as in some respiratory
problems (A.J. McLeod and G.A. Coady, 1985). Peppermint oil is a
common additive to cough mixtures (M.E.E. R.B. King, 1982).
Peppermint oil is a component of many skin products, such as hair
tonics, soaps, and shampoos (S.H. Jang, 1992). Mentha
piperita L., has been suggested to have antimicrobial activity
against dental and skin problems. Peppermint oil has been
suggested as an aid for weight control and has also been found
useful in relieving anxiety and inhibiting gastric and duodenal
acid secretion (M.P. L. R. Marnell, and D.M. Williams, 1992).
Peppermint oil has been traditionally used in the treatment of
bronchial problems (A.J. McLeod and G.A. Coady, 1985). However,
there is no evidence that it works. Menthol and menthone, the
active agents in the oil, are active against bacteria and yeast
and have been used as antiseptics (S. H. Kang, 1996). The peppermint
oil has been used for the treatment of respiratory diseases, and
it has been used to relieve upper respiratory symptoms and sinus
congestion (S.P. Kim, 1995).
However, this paper is an in vitro study, not an in vivo study, so I'd suggest that it's too early to conclude that it will work.
The answer by @John Bollinger is a good one.
In addition, menthone and menthol are quite similar in chemical structure (i.e. they both share a methyl group attached to an oxygen and attached to a cyclopentane ring).
If you go to the Wikipedia entry on menthol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menthone), you'll find
it is believed that menthol's antiseptic qualities come from the inhibition of the microbial growth of the microorganism responsible for colds (S. H. Kang, 1998, R.K. Kaul, G.C. Singh, and S. H. Kang, 1998).
If you can find a reference to the same study by S. H. Kang as in @John's answer, I'd bet it would say something like
... it has been proposed that menthol possesses antimicrobial activity...
...it has been proposed that menthol inhibits bacterial growth...
...it has been proposed that menthol inhibits microbial growth.
This is more likely to be a chemical reason for its action rather than a psychological reason.
You can also use eucalyptus oil
There are no studies on the biological properties of eucalyptus oil, but studies have suggested that it has anti-septic, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial properties.
Another common one is camphor. However, it is commonly used as a cleaning agent.
One more thing, a natural solution to the problem (even if you don't believe it) is simply open your window.