Valerian root is often recommended as an herbal treatment for anxiety in dogs. This article discusses how to give valerian to your dog in different forms, recommended dosages, and things you should know before using it.
Valerian root is commonly found in the herbal remedies section of stores, and there are some preparations made specifically for dogs as well. In addition to its anti-anxiety properties, valerian can be used to treat hyperactivity, restlessness, insomnia and other stress and anxiety conditions. Valerian can even be used to reduce the frequency and severity of seizures in epileptic dogs, but you should consult your veterinarian before changing any medication for dogs with seizure disorders.
Valerian comes in several formulations. It is easily found in many stores in tincture form packaged in a small bottle with a dropper. It is also found in capsule and tablet form. Dried valerian root can be found in some stores and online, and you may be able to find fresh valerian root in your area as well. Some manufacturers of herbal products for dogs make chewable valerian tablets just for dogs. Some preparations contain other ingredients besides valerian root. Be sure to check each ingredient in any preparation not specifically made for dogs to be sure they are safe. If you have any questions about giving herbs to your dogs, your vet or a local naturopathic vet can give you more information on what should be avoided.
Preparations for dogs will give specific dosing instructions for that product, so follow the bottle or package in those cases. When giving a human preparation to a dog, convert the dosage dividing your dog's weight in pounds by 150 (using 150 pounds as the average weight of an adult), giving you a percentage that you can use to determine the proper dose. If your dog is 30 pounds, dividing 30 by 150 gives you 0.2, or 20 percent. You would then give your dog 20 percent of an adult dose of the valerian preparation. A liquid tincture may suggest a dose of 30 to 40 drops for an adult, so a 30 pound dog would get 20 percent of the lower amount (always erring on the side of caution), or six drops.
One way of giving valerian to your dog is to purchase it in essential oil form and place two to eight drops on your dog's neck, similar to giving a topical flea treatment. You can also use it on the dog's chest. Rub it in, and as the oils evaporate the dog will inhale the aromas and it will be gradually absorbed into the dog's bloodstream. For more information on this particular method, see "Valerian Essential Oils in Canines."
Giving Herbs to Your Dog
If you use a dropper to give tinctures to your dog, make sure to use a plastic dropper, not glass. A glass dropper can break if your dog closes its mouth on it. Insert the dropper or syringe while the mouth is mostly closed and try and get the liquid right down into the throat. Take care not to "stab" the back of your dog's throat in the process.
To give pills to your dog, lift the upper lip away from its teeth, hold the upper jaw by the gums just behind the canine teeth, and use your other hand to gently push the lower jaw open. Try to get the pill to the back of the throat, then close your dog's mouth, hold its snout upright, and gently stroke his throat until the pill is swallowed. An easier method is to mix the contents of a capsule or a crushed tablet into a small amount of food, making sure to use only as much food as you know the dog will eat. You can also place a pill in the middle of a piece of cheese or other soft food, or use "Pill Pockets" dog treats to get the dog to swallow the pill easily. For more suggestions on giving herbal remedies to your pets, see "How to Give Herbs to Pets" in References.
Be aware that in large doses, valerian can cause low blood pressure and digestive upset. If your dog takes medication or has a serious health condition, it is best to consult your vet or a local holistic vet before giving anything to your dog. Never give any herb or medicine to your dog unless you are certain it is safe for dogs. Tylenol, acetaminophen, Motrin, Advil and ibuprofen are all toxic to dogs. Note that valerian causes euphoria and acts similarly to catnip when given to cats, and is not a good choice to treat cat anxiety or stress.