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dogs and meds

A guide to valerian root for dogs

This herbal supplement can help reduce your dog’s anxiety and fear. Here’s everything you need to know about the homeopathic herb.

Updated October 26, 2020

Created By

Marissa DePino,
Dried Valerian roots in wooden spoon on sackcloth background. Valeriana officinalis, Caprifoliaceae in herbal medicine. Valerian Root for Anxiety and Sleep as nutritional supplement for health

Valerian Root Details

  • Medication type: Herbal Supplement
  • Form: Powder, Capsule, Tincture, Dried Root
  • Availability: OTC
  • Prescription required? No
  • FDA approved? No
  • Life stage: Only give to adult dogs, and never administer it to puppies or pregnant dogs.
  • Common names: Valeriana officinalis, setwall, Valerianae radix, Baldrianwurzel, phu
  • Available dosages: The recommended dose depends on your dog’s anxiety and weight. Large dogs may require a different dosage than small dogs. Make sure to follow the product label for safety.
  • Expiration range: 2-3 years

👉Always talk to your vet before introducing a new supplement to your dog’s diet. 

Your dog is peacefully asleep in their bed. And then it starts. Crash, clang, boom — a thunderstorm. Only moments before your dog was happily murmuring sweet dreams, and now they spring up off the bed. As the thunder continues to roar, your dog runs around the house in fright. They search for safety under couches and beds, hiding until the clamoring stops. No matter how much you may try to coax them out, they can’t help it. So what can you do?

Enter valerian root, a herb that can help.

When your dog is in fear, whether that’s from a storm, car rides, or a vet visit the goal is to calm your dog down. The soothing nature of the herbal supplement valerian root can relax your dog and put their fears to rest when given prior to the event.

All about valerian root and how it works

Valerian root (Valeriana officinalis) comes from the valerian plant, which is a flowering perennial plant that is native to the grasslands in Europe and Asia, later becoming common in North America. The herb blooms with small white, purple, or pink flowers during the summer months. But, what makes the plant standout are its stems and stolon, also known as its roots.

The roots carry a distinct smell that is a far stretch away from its scented flowers — think more of an earthy odor. Many find that it reeks! Once you get over the unpleasant aroma, you can take in the amazing properties of the root. The herb boasts sedative qualities that manage stress and anxiety in your dog.

It is thought to work by increasing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) to the brain, but no one knows the exact science behind it. Veterinarian Dr. Susan Wynn says, “Valerian root is believed to work via the receptors of the GABA, which blocks nerve transmissions between neurons that stimulate activity. Therefore, GABA has a calming effect.”

The health benefits of valerian root

Thanks to the homeopathic herb’s sedative and anti-anxiety properties, it helps calm down your dog during stressful situations. Integrative veterinarian Dr. Lisa Pinn McFaddin notes that “Specific conditions in which valerian root may be recommended include noise phobias — including thunderstorms, fireworks, and gunfire, separation anxiety, visits to the veterinary office, travel, on walks with aggressive dogs, and when hosting large groups of people at home.” Valerian root benefits dogs in the following situations:

  • Veterinary office visits. Give your dog the herbal supplement 60 to 90 minutes before the scheduled checkup. Always make sure to consult with your vet before administering valerian root prior to an appointment.
  • Loud noises. Administer the holistic remedy to your dog prior to the noise. If administered at the first sound of his noise phobia, it may be less effective. In the case of thunder, this is the first rumble, and for fireworks, prior to the start of the show.
  • Separation anxiety. Provide your dog with the herb to help with the behavioral modification process. The root will help manage your dog’s anxiety.

Side effects of valerian root for dogs

Valerian root is considered a relatively safe supplement with minimal side effects. However, side effects can happen. The root can interact with other medications including anesthetics, sedatives, anti-epileptic medications, and antifungal drugs. Ask your vet before administering the herbal supplement prior to a procedure. Additionally, dogs that are pregnant, lactating, or puppies should not take the herbal supplement, because the root’s safety hasn’t been evaluated with these demographics .

Side effects of valerian root include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Low body temperature
  • Unsteadiness on feet
  • Lethargy
  • Sedation

⚠️ If your dog experiences worrisome side effects from valerian root, contact your veterinarian.

How to administer it to your dog

Valerian root is an OTC supplement that can be found in stores. The root is prepared as tinctures, tablets, and capsules ranging from dried to fresh root. It is also found in many oils or chews combined with other soothing or calming ingredients.

What is the correct dosage?

The correct dosage of valerian root is dependent upon your dog’s stress level, weight, and the form of the herb given. Dr. Susan Wynn explains the difficulty of dosing in the beginning, “It’s all guesswork at this point, and only trained herbalists would be expected to start at the right dose.”

👉Pet owners should consult their dog’s vet for the recommended dose. 

The rule of thumb is to follow the instructions on the product label. If your dog is on other medications, they may require a lower dose. Always talk with your vet prior to introducing valerian root into your dog’s routine.

What form does it come in?

To harness the calming properties of the root, the valerian root is made into different forms of powders, capsules, and tinctures. One method is to give your dog valerian root via capsules and tablets. Turn the pill into a dog treat by putting it inside the middle of a small piece of cheese or peanut butter for the dog to eat.

It also comes as an essential oil. Using a dropper, drop the recommended dosage on the dog’s neck and rub the oil in. Many valerian root products like essential oils also contain calming ingredients like passion flower, glycerin, and chamomile. Always follow the dosage on the packaging when administering the oils and other forms to your pet.

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