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St. John’s Wort

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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Overview

  • St. John's Wort is an herbal remedy with a long and somewhat controversial history as a treatment for anxiety and mild to moderate depression in humans. It has also been used to treat stomach upset and insomnia, as well as a topical painkiller and antibiotic.
  • St. John's Wort is considered to be an herbal supplement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA's requirements for testing and approval to sell dietary supplements are less strict than its requirements for drugs.
  • Unlike drugs, herbal products can be sold without requiring studies on their correct dosage, safety, or effectiveness. The FDA has not evaluated this product for safety, effectiveness, or purity.
  • The beneficial effect in humans remains controversial. The benefits in animals are even less clear.
  • St. John's Wort is available over the counter but should not be administered unless under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.
  • This product is not formally approved for use in animals but may be legally prescribed by veterinarians if they believe that administration of the product is in an animal's best interests.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This product is marketed for use in humans but animal preparations exist that contain St. John's Wort.
  • Human formulations: Various generic preparations
  • Pet animal formulations: Various brands of herbal products contain St. John's Wort.

    Use of St. John's Wort

  • St. John's Wort is often used to treat mild depression in animals. In dogs and cats, such conditions might result from grieving, long-term separation, or even day-to-day separation anxiety,
  • It is also used to treat various anxiety states and has been used in the topical treatment of burns and other skin lesions.
  • However, it is important to note that the product's effectiveness has not been substantiated by proper clinical trials or by the FDA.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, St. John's Wort may cause side effects in some animals.
  • St. John's Wort should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the product.
  • Side effects may include photosensitivity. Animals treated with St. John's Wort should probably not be exposed to bright sunlight for long periods.
  • St. John's Wort may interact with other medications. Consult your veterinarian to determine if other medicines your pet is receiving could interact with St. John's Wort. Such drugs include antidepressants and MAO inhibitors.

    How St. John's Wort is Supplied

  • The product is available in various forms, including pills, treats and even in some types of chew toys.
  • St. John's Wort is marketed in combination with other herbal remedies (such as valerian root or kava kava) for pet therapy.

    Dosing Information

  • No medication should be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • It is best to follow individual manufacturer's directions and your veterinarian's recommendations when using a product such as St. John's Wort.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the product, and the development of any adverse effects.




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