Did you know that adding certain herbs to your dog’s diet may improve their overall health and wellbeing? Ashwagandha is one such herb. This strangely pronounced word has evoked a lot of curiosity for medical professionals and pet owners alike due to its enormous promise for promoting animal and human health. So what exactly is ashwagandha and how can it help your beloved pets? 

What is ashwagandha?

Scientifically known as Withania Somnifera Dunal, ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb –– an herbal medicine traditionally used in India to promote health and wellbeing. From a scientific approach, ashwagandha contains therapeutic constituents such as withanolides, sitoindosides, and other alkaloids known to reduce stress, anxiety, and unwanted inflammation. Interestingly, ashwagandha’s meaning is “smell of horse”, partly because the roots of this herb give off the smell of a horse and many believe those who consume it may feel the strength of a horse. 

For years, Ayurvedic medicine has been known to improve

  • Digestive issues
  • Skin conditions
  • Types of arthritis 
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • High blood pressure 
  • High levels of cholesterol   

Amazingly, ashwagandha has been used as a natural alternative to help mitigate unwanted symptoms that our beloved canine friends may suffer from. In fact, authors Susan G. Wynn and Barbara Fougere developed a comprehensive guide for veterinarians interested in using herbal medicine. Their book, Veterinary Herbal Medicine, approaches Ayurvedic herbs (such as ashwagandha) from a biochemical standpoint rather than from the principles of traditional Eastern medicine. In their book, they devote a chapter specifically to the evidence-based logic regarding the benefits and uses of Ayurvedic herbs for dogs and cats. This may explain why more pet owners turn to herbal medicine to relieve unwanted symptoms in their beloved companions. One such health condition pet owners are most concerned about is dog anxiety. 

Ashwagandha for dog anxiety

No matter the breed, anxiety affects all dogs in one way or another. In some cases, anxiety can be a normal, even healthy emotion. However, excessive fear, separation, and even pain can cause unwanted, chronic stress and anxiety in our canine friends. 

Surprisingly, ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen. This means that ashwagandha helps balance physiological processes that help the body respond and manage stress. While there is no available scientific data specifically targeting ashwagandha for dogs, there are studies that involve ashwagandha and other animal models. In one study, researchers noticed that when chronically stressed rats were given ashwagandha extract, their tolerance to stress increased when exposed to shock procedures. Other studies, involving rats swimming in cold water to induce stress, revealed that they responded much better to cold water when given ashwagandha extract. These tests demonstrated that ashwagandha’s properties are quite similar to anti-anxiety prescription drugs and may help manage stress and anxiety in our beloved pets.

Other benefits of ashwagandha include

  • Antioxidant
  • Antibacterial
  • Antidepressant 
  • Antifungal
  • Neuroprotectant 
  • Cognitive enhancer 

Because of these benefits, many holistic veterinarians have seen tremendous results with ashwagandha. In fact, Holistic veterinarian  Dr. Tejinder Sodhi has exclusively worked with Ayurvedic medicines, such as ashwagandha, in his practice. He’s also known for introducing Ayurvedic medicine to the AHVMA (American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association)

Amanda Ree Ringnalda, an Ayurvedic health practitioner, spent two weeks shadowing Dr. Sodhi in Seattle, Washington. During that time, Ringnalda witnessed a dramatic change in a dog named Yoshi, who required assistance when walking due to bone, joint, and muscle problems. With a carefully monitored protocol of herbal medicines like ashwagandha, boswellia, and curcumin, followed by underwater treadmill sessions and electric stimulating acupuncture three times per week, Ringnalda witnessed Yoshi walking unassisted into his appointments within two weeks.  

While Yoshi’s story is undoubtedly awe-inspiring, many pet owners are wondering just how much ashwagandha should be given to their canine friends.

Ashwagandha for dogs dosage

As with many herbal extracts, dosage is determined by body weight. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive data on the exact dosage of ashwagandha for dogs. However, in a scientific study involving Wistar male rats and stress shock procedures, 25-50 mg/kg of ashwagandha extract was administered. In other studies involving rats and ashwagandha, researchers only administered 20 and 50 mg/kg of ashwagandha extract once daily for five days to achieve positive results. The exact weight of the rats used in these studies are unknown, but it’s safe to say that rats are smaller in weight than the average dog. If you’re looking for a more definitive approach to dosing ashwagandha to your dog, Ashwagandha for Pet Health has a very helpful dosing chart available on their website. Remember, it’s imperative to diligently research any herbal extract before administering it to your doggo’s daily regimen. 

This leads to our next question: 

Is ashwagandha safe for dogs?

According to empirical data, ashwagandha is a safe, well-tolerated medicinal herb. Other studies even indicate that ashwagandha is just as effective as anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals, minus the harsh and harmful side effects.  Generally speaking, ashwagandha is a safe herb for your pooch to consume. However, it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian before adding a new supplement to their diet. 

Like humans, no two dogs are alike. What works well for one dog may not work well for another, so it’s important to take things slow when introducing a new supplement to your dog’s daily routine. Anytime you introduce a new supplement to your dog, observe them closely and monitor their behaviors. If you notice your dog is acting strange or having any adverse effects, discontinue immediately. Keep in mind that some dogs and even cats can be sensitive to alcohol in herbal extracts. While the amount of alcohol found in herbal extracts is relatively low, please consult with your veterinarian to be sure your pup isn’t sensitive to alcohol.  

Final thoughts 

It’s safe to say that ashwagandha is a multi-purpose herb and has been studied for its therapeutic effects on numerous systems in the animal and human body. With its amazing anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, our canine friends can definitely benefit from this restorative herb. 

Here at Holistic Hound we’ve taken the immune-boosting properties of medicinal mushrooms, along with the anti-inflammatory properties of Cannabidiol (CBD), and have combined them with the anti-anxiety properties of ashwagandha to create one irresistibly delicious soft chew. There’s nothing better than rewarding your pup with a treat that also promotes their overall health and wellness. If you’re considering trying ashwagandha for your dog, but you’re still on the fence about dosage, try our carefully wildcrafted Hemp, Mushroom, & Ashwagandha soft chews. For more health-promoting pet products. click here.

  • Hi – I have 2 17 years old 70 pounds pups who were recently diagnosed with gastroenteritis – they were eating raw for 4 years – Ansewers, Primal and most recently All Provide chicken or Turkey – one is allergic to beef – they both get Polka dog Bakery dried cod skins for a treat – just a piece as a treat – any advice on what and when I can transition them to after a few days to a week on EN ? Thank you y you very much for your kindness, MB Eldred

    1. Thanks for contacting us, Beth! I think you might be looking to reach the former Holistic Hound retail store in Berkeley, which is now a Healthy Spot. Here is the link to their contact information https://holistichoundberkeley.com/contact/. They will be able to help you with the dog food recommendation =)

      Holistic Hound now specializes in pet supplements, specifically CBD, CBG, and functional mushrooms. If you have any questions about supplements for your (large!) pups, you can email our expert staff members at support(at)holistichound(dot)com, or get a product recommendation on our website https://holistichound.com/

      Thank you!