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Kava kava

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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Overview

  • Kava kava is a tropical herb that supposedly has an effect similar to that of aspirin. Kava kava is also a mild tranquilizer and has been used to treat anxiety.
  • Kava kava only grows in tropical forests, has been used for eons in Polynesia to make a kind of tea, and is a component of social and ceremonial life in the Pacific islands.
  • It is premature to recommend kava kava for the treatment of physical and behavioral problems in dogs and cats, as there is little or no clinical data to support such a recommendation. In addition, kava kava's safety has not been evaluated in all species.
  • Kava kava extract is available over-the-counter but should not be administered except under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.
  • Kava kava is classified as a nutritional supplement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not evaluated the effects of kava kava or products containing kava kava. The FDA requires companies that sell kava kava supplements to include the statement "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease," a statement that all nutritional supplements are required to carry.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Many different preparations of kava kava are available from a variety of manufacturers and distributors.
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Kava Kava

  • Kava kava has been used in veterinary medicine as a mild sedative to relieve anxiety-based behaviors, such as separation anxiety in dogs.
  • It also has been used as a painkiller, a muscle relaxant, anti-convulsant, mood stabilizer, and to induce sleep.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • Kava kava may cause side effects in some animals. It should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • The most common side effect in people is a skin rash, called kava dermopathy. Sensitivity to light sometimes occurs with kava dermopathy.
  • Liver failure and Parkinsonism have been associated with kava kava's use in humans.
  • Kava kava may interact with other medications. Consult your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving might interact with kava kava. Such drugs include central nervous system depressants, including barbiturates, benzodiazepines, phenothiazines, and antidepressants.

    How Kava Kava is Supplied

  • Kava kava is supplied as an extract containing kavalactones at a dose of 75 to 100 mg per capsule or tablet.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • Because kava kava is not often prescribed for animals, the correct dose has not been well established.
  • Your veterinarian may suggest a dose of about 0.5 mg per pound (1 mg/kg) of body weight, given orally every 12 hours, or as needed.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication, and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.




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