Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Supplements for Reactive Dogs, Part 7: Valerian Root and Chinese Medicine

This is part of an ongoing series on supplements recommended on the internet for reactive dogs. I am not a vet, nor have I personally tried most of these supplements with my dog, which means that I cannot tell you if you should or shouldn’t use them with your own. I’m also a lazy researcher, and used Wikipedia for my starting point. Google filled in the rest, and while I think I’m pretty good at separating the good sites from the propaganda, I cannot verify the accuracy of their claims. If you want to use a supplement with your dog, do your own research, and consult with your vet.

In other words: Use this information at your own risk.

Valerian Root
What is it? How does it work?
Valerian is a plant which has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The leaves can be brewed into a tea, or the root can be ground up and ingested. It has been used as an alternative to benzodiazepines because it appears to have sedative properties, and is thus used for insomnia, anxiety, and as a muscle relaxant.

What are the risks of using it?
Although there are few adverse side effects, some people have reported agitation as a result of using Valerian. It does interact with other drugs, so consult a vet prior to use. I am also personally wary of using sedatives with dogs with reactivity, largely because of the warnings against tranquilizers such as Ace.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Valerian root is available over the counter in the US. This site states that safe and effective dosing recommendations have not yet been established in pets.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
I could not find any canine (or animal) specific studies, and most studies on Valerian have been small, with design flaws, and had inconsistent findings.

Chinese Medicine
What is it? How does it work?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the belief that the body is made up of systems connected by meridians. To be healthy, your “qi” or “life energy” must be balanced. When meridians are blocked or the qi is otherwise imbalanced, you become ill. TCM seeks to balance the qi through a variety of methods.

The specific Chinese remedies I’ve heard mentioned for reactive or anxious dogs includes Reishi, which is a mushroom, Shen Calmer (sorry, I couldn’t dig up much info on it), and Calm Spirit, a combination of various roots, herbs and seeds.

What are the risks of using it?
Since the various remedies are made of everything from mushrooms to seeds, the risks also vary. Speak with your vet regarding possible drug interactions and other side effects prior to use.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Some remedies are available online, though you usually need to see a TCM practitioner in order to obtain most of them.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
Most of the research into TCM has been done on acupuncture. The various herbal remedies have not been well-studied, though there are many anectdotal reports supporting various preparations. I have personally had acupuncture done, and loved it. Maisy loves acupressure. As a result, I would be open to various TCM herbal remedies, but would only want to use them under the guidance of my vet.

In Conclusion: This is the last entry I've prepared on supplements for reactive dogs, but I'd be glad to do more if there's a specific supplement you're interested in. Drop me a comment and let me know. I've really enjoyed reading some of the research that I've come across.

Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements 


Kirby @ Dog.Nerd.101 said...

I have heard that Melatonin for stressed out dogs can be helpful. It's naturally occurring in the body and people actually take it to help adjust the sleep and wake cycles. Thoughts?

Crystal said...

Hi, Kirby!

I don't have any personal experience with Melatonin, but I know people who use it- one successfully, one not so much. It's supposed to be especially helpful for sound phobias.

Here's the link to when I wrote about it last:

Romilda Gareth said...


James Terrier said...

What do you mean by reactive dogs? Are these traditional chinese medicines safe for these canine? My brother who is studying to be a vet was just talking yesterday about sedative drugs for dogs and how these meds affect them. He didn't mention about alternative medicine, though and I hope to ask him about it the soonest that I can. Meanwhile, this site that I just passed through has great information on how to sedate a dog using natural means, too. Wow, it seemed interesting and so, here's a quick link