Valerian root is a popular remedy for humans suffering from troubles falling asleep or anxiety. It is recognized by its stinky or “dirty sock” smell. We often see the benefits of herbs in your own systems and wonder how they might help our pets. Promoting quality sleep and reducing anxiety are just two of the effects that valerian can have on dogs and cats.
Valerian is given to dogs because of its ability to calm them down without altering brain function like a pharmaceutical sedative would. It is a relaxing nervine, meaning that it works to relieve both physical and psychological tension. Valerian works best for fearful dogs because it is an anxiolytic, or has the ability to reduce anxiety. It is especially useful for dogs who get nervous tummies when they are anxious or stressed. This herb can be given before thunderstorms, vet appointments or car rides. It can also help calm restless and reactive pets in a more natural way.
Cats are special creatures. They often react to substances differently than humans and dogs do. If most cats smell valerian they get a similar euphoric effect as the one they experience with catnip. This is likely due to the fact that valeric acid, a component of valerian, acts like a cat pheromone. This also explains why some cats react to it while others don’t. Lab studies have shown that cats treated internally with valerian experienced effects like those that humans and dogs have: decreased heart rate and blood pressure. Cats were more calm and less aggressive. The relaxing effects of valerian will also soothe gastrointestinal upset in cats.
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Valerian has many effects that work in the body to reduce anxiety and stress. Relaxing muscles and blood vessels helps to lower blood pressure. Encouraging a natural healing sleep soothes tired nerves. Valerian has a mild sedative effect that calms nervousness and increases GABA in the brain. This naturally sedates the nervous system and encourages muscle relaxation in tense animals. Because valerian calms the brain and body naturally it shouldn’t be used with any medications that alter brain function. Consult your vet if you are interested in trying valerian root for your anxious or restless pets!