Hypericum perforatum, commonly known as St. John’s wort, is a herb traditionally used to treat pain from nerve damage. More recently, it has become a natural treatment for depression and anxiety. Although these uses have been aimed at humans, dogs also may benefit from Hypericum’s calming effects.
Hypericum perforatum is a member of the Hypericaceae family. This perennial herb produces aromatic yellow blossoms and flourishes toward the end of June. This time of year is associated with John the Baptist, thus Hypericum has become known as St. John’s wort.
This herb has been used for medicinal purposes since the time of Hippocrates. During the Middle Ages, it was used to treat sword wounds.
St. John’s wort may have a relaxing effect on animals, relieving minor anxiety related to events such as thunderstorms, fireworks, veterinary visits and car rides. Hypericum also can be used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorders and aggression. The herb may relieve pain associated with disk disease, minor bruises, abrasions and muscle pain. Its analgesic effect also may make it a useful treatment for lick granuloma or hair loss associated with a psychological problem.
St. John’s wort can be used internally and topically. It is available in several forms, including capsules, ointments, tinctures and oil infusions. Liquid dosages can be used for dogs with immune-deficiency issues.
The recommended dosage for large dogs is 250 to 300 milligrams given twice daily. It can take four to six weeks for effects to appear. Read product labels carefully and consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate dosage for your dog.
Specific research regarding the effects of St. John’s wort on dogs is limited. At high doses, dogs may experience light sensitivity. If your dog is already taking an antidepressant, do not supplement with St. John’s wort unless your veterinarian tells you to. This herb may affect the absorption rate of other medications, and potential side effects include an increase in blood pressure, drowsiness and increased agitation. Hypericum is not recommended for dogs who are pregnant or nursing. Herbal supplements are not highly regulated, so read the manufacturer’s label carefully to check potency.