Can I give my dog Valerian tablets?

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash

Is your dog finding it difficult to relax and sleep? Does she get nervous and aggressive at night? If you find your dog having trouble sleeping or stressed and anxious, and you’re wondering if Valerian supplement will help soothe his nerves and induce sleep, well it can. 

Valerian root extract has been used for centuries to treat anxiety and insomnia, it’s also potent for reducing stress and improving sleep quality. This herb is safe for both humans and dogs, so your pet can enjoy the nerve-calming and sleep-inducing qualities of Valerian roots. 

[1] What is Valerian?

Valerian is a herb native to Asia and Europe, it’s most commonly used as a cure for insomnia. Often referred to as nature’s Valium, valerian roots are effective for relieving stress, anxiety and generally calming the nerves.

The delicately scented flowers of the Valerian plant were used centuries ago as perfumes, while extracts from the root were used as traditional medicines, mostly as a powerful sedative. 

Valerian is still very widely used today, oils and extracts from these plants are employed in some manufacturing plants as flavouring for certain foods and beverages. Although there is very little scientific evidence to support the use of valerian as a sedative, it’s still widely used as a supplement for promoting tranquillity, improving sleep, and reducing stress. 

[2] What forms does Valerian come in?

Valerian root extract is available as a supplement in tablets, capsules, tinctures, teas and more. Valerian extract is usually consumed orally and some manufacturers make chewable Valerian tablets for dogs. 

Some supplements labelled as Valerian extract sometimes contain other ingredients, and although they are generally, if you’re giving this to your dog then ensure you check to confirm that all the ingredients in the products are safe for your dogs, you can confirm with your vet. 

Valerian roots are generally safe for humans and dogs, and it’s very effective for relieving stress and inducing sleep. Despite the absence of concrete scientific evidence, many experts recommend the use of Valerian root preparations to calm a dog’s nerves, improve night sleep, deal with separation anxiety and manage a number of other conditions. 

[3] What properties does Valerian have?

Extracts from Valerian roots contain a number of compounds and antioxidants that have sedative and sleep-enhancing properties. Compounds such as hesperidin and linarin are present in Valerian root extract, and they have the ability to interact with the brain and nervous system. Here’s what we know about the properties of Valerian root extract. 

Relieves stress and anxiety: Valerian root extract contains many compounds that interact with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which is a chemical compound that works to regulate nerve impulses between the brain and the nervous system. Studies have revealed that lower levels of GABA is associated with increased stress, anxiety and inability to sleep. 

Valerenic acid has been found to prevent the breakdown of GABA in the brain which results in a higher level of the compound thus promoting feelings of tranquillity and reducing stress and anxiety. This effect of Valerenic acid as a receptor that increases GABA transmission accounts for the calmness a person feels after taking Valerian supplement.

Improves sleep quality: Valerian root extract also contains a number of compounds, including valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and some antioxidants, which are known to improve sleep quality. Valerian supplements are also known to induce sleep and they are widely used as medications for insomnia and mood disorders.

[4] What are some of the side effects of Valerian?

Despite being safe for consumption, Valerian roots do have some side effects. Each dog is unique much the same way humans are individuals and differ from one another. And because of this individuality, the effect of Valerian supplements isn’t the same for all dogs. 

If your neighbour’s dog responds well to these supplements, there is no guarantee that your dog will respond the same way. Most dogs will tolerate Valerian supplements and even respond well to them, but this isn’t the case for every dog. Some dogs may suffer stomach upset and low blood pressure after taking Valerian root extract, this side effect is mostly seen in large dog breeds. It’s always best to consult your vet before giving your pet any supplements or herbs. 

But if you already gave you dog Valerian roots and you notice they have some trouble with their stomach and generally not feeling, contact your vet immediately for treatment. These side effects of Valerian supplements are generally uncommon and many dogs will have no problem at all with the Valerian products especially if given the right dosage. It’s also important to closely monitor your dog after you add a small portion of these supplements to observe how they respond to it. 

[5] Can a dog overdose on Valerian?

There hasn’t been any reports of dogs dying from Valerian root overdose, and this is very unlikely. However, a very high dose of Valerian roots may cause some serious health conditions like organ damage. To be on the safe side when administering Valerian root, give your dog the smallest possible dosage and closely observe how they respond to it. 

The concentration of active ingredients in Valerian root portions usually vary, therefore making the right dosage for each product peculiar to the product in question. 

With this in mind, you cannot assume a universal dosage for every product, however each product will have specific dosing instructions. Ensure you follow the instruction and also ensure the product is specially made for dogs because Valerian preparation and dosage for humans will significantly vary from those made for dogs. 

Here are some precautions to take when giving your dog Valerian roots to make sure you don’t cause them any harm;

  1. Talk to the vet before you give your dog valerian root
  2. Avoid giving your dog Valerian roots if they already suffer low blood pressure or have an upset stomach
  3. Start with the smallest dosage or go by what the vet tells you, this will prevent overdose 
  4. Be extra careful if yours is a large dog breed 
  5. Speak with your vet on possible medical alternative for treating anxiety or sleep disorder in dogs

[6] Melatonin vs. Valerian vs Skullcap: how do they compare?

Both Valerian and Skullcap are herbs known to have sleep-inducing and nerve-calming properties. Skullcap is a herb in the mint family and was used thousands of years ago as traditional medicine for insomnia. Skullcap is also used as a remedy for high blood pressure, hysteria and anxiety. 

Melatonin is a natural sleep-inducing supplement made from a hormone found in the pineal glands. Melatonin supplements help induce sleep, improve sleep quality, relieve symptoms of jet lag and boost immunity. 

Melatonin, Skullcap and Valerian are all used to treat anxiety and sleep disorder, they have become well known for their efficacy, especially with insomnia and calming the nerves. None of these medications should be taken together, they all have their individual qualities and are to be taken separately, never together. You can give your dog any one of these as they are all safe for dogs, but it’s always best to consult your vet to ensure you don’t cause your dog any harm.

[7] What other medicine can you give your dog to sleep?

Besides Valerian roots, there are a few other medications that also work to calm your dog’s nerves and help them to relax and sleep better. Here are some options for you

  1. Melatonin: melatonin supplements work great to help your pet relax better and go to sleep. These supplements are used for different anxiety and sleep disorders in both humans and dogs. 
  2. Acepromazine: this is another oral sedative commonly prescribed for dogs. It works by inhibiting dopamine receptors in the brain and suppressing certain brain functions. Some dogs will fall asleep within minutes after taking this sedative while some may not appear sedated at all. Like most other drugs, it works differently on different dogs.
  3. Passionflower leaf: these leaves have been known for centuries for their calming effect and sleep-inducing properties. Passionflower leaf is safe for dogs and will work to calm anxiety and help them relax.
  4. Skullcap: another sleep-inducing supplement for your doggy is the Skullcap. It’s known for its soothing effect and ability to ease stress and has been a traditional medication for insomnia for centuries.

Remember to speak with your vet before giving your dog any sedative, and also go with whatever your vet recommends.

[8] Should you use valerian with dogs with epilepsy?

Back in the 1500s, Valerian roots were used to treat epilepsy, it was actually the first epilepsy drug. Since extract from Valerian roots have the ability to calm the nervous system, it works great as a medication for seizures. 

A dog that has experienced seizures can be given Valerian root extract to soothe their nerves and help them relax. Valerian root extract interacts with the central nervous system and can inhibit neurotransmitters in the brain. It’s believed to also have antispasmodic properties, although there isn’t any solid scientific evidence to back this claim.

Valerian root is an ancient epilepsy medication and no longer widely used since they are better medications available. Valerian roots work best as a sedative and if you have a dog that suffers seizures, speak with your vet on whether you should use it occasionally to help your pet stay calm and relax, especially after an episode.

Closing Thoughts

Valerian roots have been known as nature’s Valium for thousands of years, and they are still widely used today for their incredible nerve-soothing quality. These natural supplements are safe for dogs, and as one of the best known sedatives, your dog too can enjoy the effects of Valerian roots. But not without caution because they do have side effects. When giving your dog these supplements, make sure you administer the appropriate dosage and talk to your vet first to know if an alternative supplement will be best for your dog.