Valerian root has been used for centuries by people as a mild sedative to help with anxiety or relieve insomnia. If your dog or cat is anxious, the vet may recommend trying this herbal cure to see if it has a calming effect. Since it's untested in cats and dogs, you should consult with a vet before trying it on your pet.
Valerian is a perennial plant originating in Europe and Asia. There are more than 250 types of valerian, though V. officinalis is the type typically used in Europe and the United States. The plant's roots can be used in a variety of forms, including tinctures, teas, extracts and capsules. As a supplement, valerian root is regulated in the United States as a food instead of a drug. Dietary supplements aren't always monitored for production consistency, meaning there can be wide variation across manufacturing lots in its formulations.
Benefits for Pets
Perhaps your dog becomes anxious at the sound of thunder or your cat is agitated during a routine car ride; if so, valerian may help your pet by soothing his frazzled nerves. PetPlace.com reports valerian root is believed to act on an inhibitory neurotransmitter acid, producing a calming effect. People have used the herb as a sedative for centuries and pet owners may find it helpful for the same reasons. A vet may consider valerian root as a remedy for separation anxiety or as a method to calm a pet who becomes anxious during thunderstorms. Other uses include treating hyperactivity and as an antispasmodic.
Valerian has a strong odor that people tend to find unpleasant. However, cats are often drawn to the smell of the herb, reacting similarly as they may with catnip. Cats initially are stimulated by valerian, but eventually the sedation effect kicks in, promoting calmness.
Discuss using valerian root for your pet with your vet, who can advise on the appropriate dose for your cat or dog. The herb generally is considered to be a safe supplement with few side effects, though it can interact with other medications including barbiturates and antidepressants. According to Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, some information indicates valerian should not be used in pregnant and lactating animals and that dependency can develop with chronic use. However, the school notes there are no known side effects. Since there's no oversight of supplement production, consult with a holistic veterinarian or other professional to choose a reliable product.
Some animals respond to valerian root as if it were a stimulant. Whole Dog Journal recommends initially trying the herb for your pet when he's in a calm state to ensure the drug doesn't result in additional nervousness.