Kava kava is a member of the pepper family and used as a natural remedy to treat anxiety and relieve pain. When used sparingly and under veterinary direction, it may be helpful as an alternative to chemical tranquilizers. Since the supplement isn't approved for animal use little is known about its safety for animals.
How Kava Kava Works
Kava kava affects the brain's limbic system, which is believed to control most of the emotional processes, potentially by regulating the brain's neurotransmitters. It produces a calming effect and unlike chemical tranquilizers doesn't seem to interfere with motor or mental function. Other properties of kava kava include:
- Analgesic, providing pain relief
- Muscle relaxing
- Tolerance resistant, unlike other sedatives.
Using Kava Kava for Dogs
Kava kava may be used as a mild sedative to help a dog with anxiety-related issues, such as separation anxiety or fear of loud noises such as fireworks and thunder. Veterinarians also have used it as an anticonvulsant, muscle relaxer, painkiller and sleep aid. Available in capsule, tablet and liquid form, the supplement should be used under veterinary supervision because it can be toxic to the liver if used excessively.
Using Kava Kava Safely
Since the supplement isn't approved for animal use and little is known about its safety for animal use, many of the recommended precautions for using kava kava on dogs are based on human experience. People who use kava kava sometimes experience a skin rash known as kava dermopathy. Liver failure and Parkinson's disease also have been associated with its use in humans. It may interact with central nervous system depressants such as antidepressants and barbituates. Kava also may increase blood clotting time.
Kava Kava Contraindications
Pregnant dogs and dogs with kidney and liver issues should not take kava kava, as it can be toxic to the liver in excessive amounts, potentially causing hepatoxicity, or liver failure.
Due to the potential to cause hepatoxicity, your vet should screen your dog for liver disease before using kava kava.