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A Guide to Valerian Root for Dogs

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No pet owner wants their dog to experience stress and anxiety, but sometimes, circumstances make it unavoidable. Fortunately, there are a variety of remedies to help with dog anxiety, from  prescription medications and behavioral therapies to natural hormones and herbal supplements. 

One of those herbal supplements is valerian root, used by both humans and canines to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Read on to learn more about the benefits of valerian root for dogs, and how to use it safely to soothe your anxious pooch. 

What is Valerian Root? 

Valerian root comes from the Valeriana officinalis, a flowering perennial found in Europe, Asia, and North America. While the exact science behind this herb isn’t known, it’s believed that the stems, or roots, of the plant work to block nerve transmissions in the brain that stimulate activity. In other words, valerian root has a calming effect on the brain. 

Valerian root supplements can be found in the form of teas, oils, powders, capsules, or even the dried root in its full form. This calming herb has been growing in popularity for humans and dogs alike, and for good reason!

Benefits of Valerian Root for Dogs

Many vets and dog owners can attest to the calming effects of valerian root for dogs, including: 

Reduced Stress & Anxiety

Give your dog valerian root prior to any encounter that could make him feel stressed, such as thunderstorms and fireworks, vet visits, travel, large gatherings, being around other dogs, and more.

Valerian root can also help to calm an anxious doggo who experiences separation anxiety while you’re out for the day.

You know your dog best, so you will be able to best anticipate the types of scenarios that could stress him out. Keep in mind that anxiety can be a sign of other health conditions, so talk to your vet to ensure you are treating the correct ailment. 

Improved Sleep

While the exact amount of sleep dogs need varies by age, breed, and activity level, most dogs spend between 12-14 hours sleeping each day, not to mention all of that time resting and lounging. 

Many humans find that valerian root is a helpful tool when dealing with insomnia, so it only makes sense that valerian root for dogs can result in better sleep. However, be sure to rule out any other health issues—herbal supplements are, well, supplementary, and should never be used as a cure-all. 

Reduced Hyperactivity & Restlessness

If your dog frequently gets the zoomies, the most simple step is to make sure he’s getting enough exercise and mental stimulation. After all, excess energy can easily lead to stress and anxiety. 

For dogs who need extra assistance winding down, valerian root just might do the trick. As with insomnia and anxiety, though, talk to your vet to see if there are any underlying health issues that need to be addressed. 

Valerian root may also be useful when it comes to reducing the frequency and severity of seizures. That said, it’s crucial that you consult your vet before changing or adding to your dog’s medications in any form to avoid any negative reactions. 

Please note that valerian root—or any type of medication or supplement—is not guaranteed to solve your dog’s issues on its own. Depending on how life-disrupting your dog’s anxiety, insomnia, or hyperactivity is, you may also need to invest in prescription medications and/or behavioral therapies, along with modifying your pup’s environment as needed. 

How to Give Your Dog Valerian Root

While valerian root for dogs is available over the counter, it’s important to first talk to your vet to ensure that this herbal supplement will offer more benefits than risks to your pup. 

For example, it’s possible that valerian root could result in negative interactions with any current medications or supplements that your dog is taking. Valerian root may also be unsafe for puppies, seniors, and pregnant dogs

Additionally, make sure you’re actually getting to the root of the problem and meeting the correct needs. If your dog’s anxiety is actually a result of a physical health concern, you’ll need to make sure it’s addressed appropriately; if his hyperactivity is a result of insufficient exercise, you’ll need to implement some lifestyle changes. 

Once approved by your vet, there are a few ways you can give your dog valerian root: in pill form, crushed up into food, as an oil with a dropper, or even applied topically to your dog’s neck or chest in the form of essential oil. You can also find valerian root as an ingredient in calming supplements, such as Pet Honesty’s Calming Hemp Chews

As far as dosage goes, the simple fact is that this varies significantly depending on a few different factors such as your dog’s size and weight, his anxiety and stress levels, any other medications he’s taking, and whether you are giving him valerian root in pill, powder, oil, or dried root form. Talk to your vet for insight personalized to your dog, and be sure to follow the product label. For best results, give your dog valerian root several times in small doses a few days before a potentially anxiety-inducing event or activity.