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Valerian (Pet Power®)

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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Overview

  • Valerian officinalis is the botanical name of the plant from which valerian root extract is prepared. The plant's root contains yellowish/brownish/green oil rich in isovalerianic acid, apparently the cause of valerian's unpleasant odor. The root also contains alkaloids. Two main ones, according to popular accounts, are chatarine and valerianine or, more convincingly, according to chemical analysis, actinidine (C10H13N) and naphthyridylmethyl ketone (a.k.a. diethyl-3-naphthyridine-2).
  • V. officinalis (valerian) has been used in traditional medicines as a sedative for 2000 years and continues to be used today. There is little doubt that it does have sedative/calming properties both in humans and domestic animals.
  • Its central nervous system effects are thought to be associated with an action on the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Valerian is also said to have antispasmodic properties.
  • In the United States, valerian is an over-the-counter drug.
  • This drug has not been specifically approved and labeled for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration. There is a great deal of state of the art information that has been published on its use in dogs, and it can be prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.

    Brand Names and Other Names

    This product is labeled for use in humans and there are also versions marketed for use in animals. At the present time, animal formulations of valerian are only available in Great Britain.
  • Human formulations: Various OTC preparations described as valerian, valerian root extract, or tincture of valerian
  • Veterinary formulations: Pet Power® (Available in the UK)

    Uses of Valerian

  • Valerian is used as a sedative or anxiolytic and to promote sleep.
  • It has also been used as an antispasmodic and anticonvulsant and has been recommended as a treatment for hyperactivity.

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • Since valerian has not been properly tested in dogs and cats, it should be used in these species only with the greatest of caution, although it is probably reasonably safe.
  • Valerian should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Valerian may interact with other medications. Consult your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with valerian. Such drugs include certain antidepressants, barbiturates, and other "behavior modifying drugs".

    How Valerian is Supplied

  • Valerian is available as 200 mg, 470 mg, 500 mg, and 530 mg capsules. It is also available as a tincture or solution containing valerian alone or along with other herbal remedies.
  • Tablets are available that are intended for use in pets. Each contains on average 28mg of valerian root powder (4:1 extract) equivalent to 112 mg of valerian.

    Dosing Information

  • Medications should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • Safe and effective doses of valerian have not been established for any domestic species. In addition, the quantity of the active ingredient varies from batch to batch making empirical dosing almost impossible.
  • Dog doses may be extrapolated from human doses. Generally the dose of a CNS drug for a large dog is in the order of an adult human dose. The recommended dose of valerian according to Pet Power® (the manufacturer) is "one to four tablets, as needed" [equivalent to 112 to 448 mg valerian]. It is not stated whether this dose recommendation is for cats, small dogs, or large dogs - though a small dog and a cat are featured on the product label.
  • One recommended dose for humans is 500 to 600 mg of valerian 2 hours before bedtime to promote sleep. Higher doses of ~1600 mg have also been recommended.
  • 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 any prescription recommended by your veterinarian, unless otherwise directed.




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