Is Valerian Root Safe for Dogs?

Posted by Nicole Wanner, D.V.M. on

dog next to a valerian plant

As dog owners, we want to do everything we can to keep our furry friends happy and healthy. If your pup becomes anxious during thunderstorms or when left alone, you may be considering valerian root for dogs. 

Importantly, there have been no clinical studies on valerian root's safety or benefits for dogs. Studies in humans and mice so far show that valerian's side effects are mild. However, it's unclear whether valerian is effective for anxiety, insomnia, or other conditions. 

Still, if you're interested in using valerian root for your dog, we've got answers for you. We'll explore what valerian root is in this article, answering whether it's safe for dogs, discussing potential medication interactions, and more. 

So, can dogs take valerian root? Let's find out. 

What Is Valerian Root for Dogs? 

valerian root and powder

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a perennial plant native to Europe and Asia. The ground-up roots and rhizomes (underground stems) of the plant are sold in valerian root capsules and powders (1). 

The historical use of valerian root goes back as far as ancient Greece and Rome. It was used as a medicinal herb to treat nervousness and insomnia, among other ailments.

Valerian root contains a variety of plant compounds. Scientists haven't yet discovered valerian root's "active ingredient," and multiple natural chemicals may be involved (2).

Can Dogs Have Valerian Root?

While valerian root is considered safe for humans, it's important to note that dogs are not people! Your dog's body may react differently to medications and supplements than we would.

There are currently no large-scale studies investigating the safety of valerian root for dogs. In other words, we can't say for sure that valerian root is safe for all dogs. 

Still, holistic veterinarians sometimes suggest valerian root for dogs experiencing anxiety or facing a stressful situation. 

Common stressors for dogs include:

  • Separation anxiety (being home alone)
  • Car rides
  • Thunderstorms
  • Fireworks
  • Travel
  • Moving
  • Visits to the veterinary clinic
  • Parties or unfamiliar people in the home
  • Introducing a new pet

If your dog's anxiety is an everyday occurrence or if they become aggressive when afraid, talk to your veterinarian. 

Your vet can recommend medications, supplements, and behavior modification strategies tailored to your dog's age, breed, personality, and health status.

Benefits of Valerian Root for Dogs

Valerian is considered safe for people, but the few research studies examining its benefits have been inconclusive. There have been no clinical studies on the safety or effectiveness of valerian root in dogs so far.

While valerian root may help your dog, remember: it is not a cure-all. Supplements can be helpful add-ons, but they rarely resolve an issue like anxiety all on their own.

Dogs with severe anxiety are likely to need more help to feel better. Behavior change, environmental modification, and prescription medication are often combined to relieve anxiety symptoms in dogs.

research on valerian root for dogs is limited

Side Effects of Valerian Root for Dogs

If you choose to try valerian root for your dog, you'll want to monitor closely for side effects. Side effects in people are generally mild.

Potential side effects of valerian root include:

  • Sedation (drowsiness)
  • Lethargy (low energy)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Lastly, do not give valerian root to pregnant dogs, nursing dogs, or puppies. These populations are at greater risk of side effects (3).

Contact your vet with any concerns after your dog begins taking valerian root. It's best to stop giving the supplement until you and your vet can formulate a new treatment plan.

Medication Interactions to Watch For

possible medication interactions for valerian root

While the side effects of valerian root are mild, it has the potential to interact with prescription medications (4).

Possible medication interactions with valerian root include:

  • Surgical anesthesia
  • Seizure medications
  • Pain medications¬†
  • Anxiety medications
  • Other dietary supplements (St. John's wort, kava, melatonin)

Valerian could make the effects of these medications stronger in unpredictable or dangerous ways!

If your dog takes a prescription medication, reach out to your veterinarian before starting a valerian root supplement. You may need to use a lower dose or pause the supplement before an upcoming surgery.

Should You Give Your Dog Valerian Root?

Valerian root is a natural supplement popularized for its calming effect and sedative qualities.

Reliable information about the safety, benefits, and side effects of valerian root in dogs is lacking. Additionally, valerian supplements may interact with prescription medications in dogs.

As with any herbal supplement, it's essential to consult your veterinarian before giving your dog valerian root. 

Your vet can help determine whether valerian root is appropriate for your dog and recommend a safe and effective dosage. They can also help you monitor your dog for side effects and adjust the dosage as needed.

References

  1. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/valerian-HealthProfessional/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7255569/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8170157/
  4. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/

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Author

Dr. Nicole Wanner graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in 2018. Currently, she is an academic research veterinarian studying CBD and DNA. Her research has been published in trusted international research journals. Dr. Wanner is passionate about pet wellness and has professional interests in genetics, behavior, and healthy aging. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and reading sci-fi novels. She shares her home with her husband Evan and their two mischievous rescue cats, Sylvie and Nemo.