Nothing lights up our lives more than bringing home a pet dog. Whether you’re living alone or with your family, a dog can bring immense joy and happiness to your life. They can even help you cope with feelings of loneliness and depression and have an overall positive impact on your physical and mental health.
The Reality of Being a Pet Parent
Nevertheless, bringing a dog home is a huge responsibility. You have to care for them the same way you’d look after a newborn baby. This is particularly important considering that your canine friend isn’t particularly good at expressing their pain and discomfort.
But here’s the thing – dogs suffer from pain, anxiety, and other issues just as we do. As a dog parent, it is your responsibility to watch out for any signs of discomfort and provide your dog with the right care. Things can get particularly dicey if you have a fearful and anxious dog.
If your dog suffers from anxiety, even a regular visit to the vet’s clinic or a simple car ride can become quite a task. The good news is that there are various ways to help relieve your dog’s anxiety and stress. And if you’ve ever turned to the internet for help with canine anxiety issues, you’ve likely come across the name “valerian root”.
Available in many different forms, including capsules and tinctures, valerian root has been used to treat sleep disorders in humans. Nowadays, many integrative veterinarians recommend valerian root for dogs as well. But is valerian root really effective and safe for your canine companion? What is the correct dosage and how should you administer it?
In this blog, we will take a deep dive into the pros and cons of valerian root for dogs and determine whether it is worth the hype. Let us get started.
What is Valerian Root?
Simply put, valerian root is a herbal supplement that is obtained from a flowering plant named Valeriana officinalis. While the plant is native to Europe and Asia, the benefits of valerian root have become known across the globe. Known for its sedative properties, valerian root has been traditionally used to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia in humans.
Image via Medical News Today
It is believed to have a similar effect on dogs as well. It also helps control seizures, when administered in the right dosage. While there isn’t any conclusive evidence on how valerian root for dogs works, researchers believe that it increases the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
GABA is a neurotransmitter that creates a calming effect on your brain by blocking transmission between neurons that simulate activity. This, in turn, helps the brain relax and cope with stress and anxiety. However, there haven’t been any conclusive studies that can confirm the sedative and calming attributes of valerian root.
Nevertheless, based on anecdotal evidence, integrative vets believe that the correct dosage of valerian root for dogs can improve a fearful and anxious dog’s quality of life. Of course, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons before giving valerian root to your dog. Also, you should consult your vet to find out whether it is safe for your dog.
Benefits of Valerian Root for Dogs
Valerian root works similarly to benzodiazepines such as Valium and Xanax. Due to its sedating qualities, valerian root for dogs makes stress and pain management relatively easier. Here are a few benefits of giving valerian root to your dog:
Improved Sleep Pattern
If your dog suffers from insomnia or irregular sleep patterns at night, valerian root can be of great help.
Separation Anxiety Management
Does your dog become nervous and fearful every time you are away? A calming supplement like valerian root can help them relax and deal with bouts of anxiety. However, you need to combine this with behavioral modification for the best results.
Help with Stressful Situations
Does your dog become particularly cranky during a car ride or a family gathering? Or do they start shivering the moment there is a trace of thunder in the sky and other loud noises? Or perhaps they are afraid of going to the vet? Administering the right quantity of valerian root can help them sail through such stressful situations.
In addition to helping with sleep and mental disorders, valerian root also relieves muscle spasms and pain.
Valerian root is known to have anti-convulsive qualities. It can minimize the frequency and severity of epileptic seizures in dogs.
Now that you know the wonderful benefits of valerian root, you must be eager to find out how you can give it to your dog. Before you take the plunge, let us take a look at some of its drawbacks.
Shortcomings of Valerian Root
While valerian root offers various benefits, it does have a few disadvantages, such as:
Lack of Scientific Proof
To begin with, there aren’t any conclusive scientific studies that indicate whether valerian root is safe and effective for dogs.
Finding the right dosage of valerian root for your dog can be extremely challenging.
Harmful Side Effects
Depending on the dosage and form of valerian root you administer, it can cause serious side effects, such as:
- Low blood pressure
- Digestive problems
Valerian root can interact with other medicines, such as sedatives, anesthetics, anti-epileptic drugs, and antihistamines, making them more potent. That’s why you should always consult your vet before giving valerian root to your dog. Also, you shouldn’t administer it prior to any surgical procedure that involves anesthesia.
How to Use Valerian Root for Dogs
This medicinal plant can be found in most markets and pharmacies. It is possible to find in a few common forms.
Tablets and Capsules
This is the most common form of valerian root available online as well as in pharmacies. However, you should only use this form of valerian root if your dog is comfortable swallowing whole capsules. Otherwise, you’ll need to mix it with their food. Another useful alternative is to give them chewable valerian root tablets.
Valerian Root Powder
This form of valerian root can be easily mixed with your dog’s food during mealtime. Or you can mix it with their water to create a calming tea. It is particularly useful for dogs who don’t like chewing tablets or taking capsules.
In this form, you’ll get valerian root in a tincture and will have to administer it using a plastic dropper. If you have an upcoming stress-inducing event, make sure you start giving the liquid a few days in advance. Most vets recommend a few drops 3 to 4 times every day.
Calming Support Dog Treat
This is a great of tricking your dog into taking valerian root. It comes in particularly handy for dogs suffering from muscle pain and separation anxiety.
Valerian Root Essential Oil
In this form, you can apply a few drops of the essential oil to your dog’s neck or chest. Rub the oil until it gets completely absorbed into their skin. It will help your dog calm down and better cope with stressful situations.
Valerian Root for Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions
If you are a dog parent who is contemplating giving valerian root to their dog, here are a few questions that will likely cross your mind:
How Much Valerian Root can I Give to My Dog? Can a Dog Overdose on Valerian Root?
The correct dosage of valerian root depends on your dog’s physical and mental health. It also depends on the disorder for which you are giving the valerian root. The best idea is to consult your vet for this matter. Overdosage of valerian root can cause side effects, such as low blood pressure, drowsiness, etc.
What is the Correct Valerian Root Powder Dosage for Dogs?
You can mix valerian root powder with water or your dog’s food. However, you should consult your vet to determine the correct dosage of valerian root powder.
Where to Buy Valerian Root for Dogs?
Valerian root tablets, capsules, and tinctures are available as an over-the-counter drug in most pharmacies. You can also find various online retailers selling valerian root powder and essential oil for dogs.
The Final Verdict: Is Valerian Root Safe?
Yes. When given the right amount, valerian root can help relieve separation anxiety and physical pain in dogs. It can even improve sleep patterns and help your dog cope with stressful situations. However, at Dogisa we recommend you consult your vet to determine the correct dosage and find out whether valerian root is the right herbal supplement for your dog.