Ashwagandha for Dogs: A Vet's Perspective
by Dr Vivian Loren on Jul 27, 2023.
Ashwagandha is definitely increasing in popularity compared to the past 10-15 years. Also known as Withania somnifera, Aswhagandha is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine known for its adaptogenic properties.
This is an ancient medical system that relies on natural and holistic ways of curing physical and mental health.
But what about our four legged friends?
Is ashwagandha good for dogs?
Let's dig in a bit deeper.
What is Ashwagandha?
As mentioned above, it is also known by other traditional names. Some even called it the Indian Ginseng or the Indian winter cherry.
The plant itself starts as an evergreen shrub indigenous to parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Ashwagandha is consumed mainly in powder form and it's usually only the root of the plant that is consumed. That is in fact where most of the active substance is.
What is the science behind Ashwagandha?
The benefits of Ashwagandha are scientifically established in various different areas:
Calming and Anti Stress effect
Ashwagandha has been proven in humans to have an anxiolytic effect. But could it have a dog calming effect in our pooches as well?
Studies have shown that the anxiolytic effect is actually comparable to benzodiazepines such as Lorazepam. (source)
In addition, there was also an antidepressant effect and a mood stabilizer in those already diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha could therefore regulate your pup’s nervous system, soothing your pet in situations that trigger anxiety such as separation, social encounters, overstimulation, hyperactivity, or fear of loud noises.
Increase Energy Levels
According to various studies, Ashwagandha functions at mitochondrial level to increase the amount of energy production. One way it does this is by enhancing the mitochondrial health, which in turn could increase the body's efficiency in generating ATP, the energy currency of the cells. (source)
Although Ashwagandha in dogs has not been studies as thoroughly as in humans, there are some cellular similarities so in theory, the benefits should be replicable.
Improved joint function
This is a big one for dogs.
What if supplementation of Ashwagandha to dog food could reduce the need for other bone & joint supplements? And in addition, could that help improve your senior dog's arthritis?
There may something to go by here - Early studies have shown that Ashwagandha is an analgesic that acts on the nervous system. (source)
This would make it a godsend for older dogs, although dogs of any age can benefit from its effects.
Previous studies done on rodents have shown that Ashwagandha powder given to hamsters has an up to 49% inhibitory effect on tumour cells. (source) This effect stopped once Ashwagandha was no longer given as a supplement.
Improved Immune System
Various double blinded randomized control trials have been done to assess the role of Ashwagandha/ Withania Somnifera on the human immune system. Overall, it can offer very favorable benefits. (source)
With the role in humans established, could ashwagandha have the same effect on dogs? This means they would be less prone to infections, systemic diseases and other causes for morbidity.
It may also support the immune system in combating skin infections and allergies.
Research on Ashwagandha for Dogs
Although research on Ashwagandha's benefits for dogs is still developing, anecdotal evidence and preliminary studies suggest positive outcomes. Many pet owners have reported improved moods, decreased anxiety levels, and better overall health in their dogs.
Just in 2022, this 4 week randomized control study found that dogs who received 15mg/ kg Ashwagandha root extract per day had a statistically significant reduction in urine cortisol.
The owners' perception of their dog's response in the fear and anxiety domain was also assessed before and after intervention. There was a clear improvement in those dogs who had the Ashwagandha supplement compared to the placebo arm.
There was also a reduction in pain severity in those older dogs with arthritis.
This is all very good news for dog owners, as these early results look promising.
Before you go...
I wanted to give a brief overview on this ancient herb that may in the future play a vital role in our dog's diets.. as well as ours!
Several dog owners have already started experimenting with giving Ashwagandha extracts to their dogs as some supplements already contain these.
Of interesting note, we interviewed 30 dog owners in our local London park, and 12 of them take Ashwagandha supplements on a regular basis.
|Group||Total Number||Ashwagandha Users||Would Give Ashwagandha to Dogs|
Of these, every single one of them said that they would be willing to also give Ashwagandha to their dogs if advised by a vet.
Quite interesting, right?
I guess it goes to show that we are now more open than ever to share all the goodies with our quadruped family members!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much Ashwagandha is safe for a dog?
A reasonable dose if you want to try giving Ashwagandha to your dog is about 15 mg/kg. I wouldn't exceed this dose as this is the dose that was used in this recent study on dogs from 2022.
Here is a table you could use as guide, based on dog's weight:
|Category||Weight Range of Dog (kg)||Weight Range of Dog (lbs)||Daily Dose of Ashwagandha (mg)|
|Small||Under 10||Under 22||Up to 150|
|Medium||10 - 25||22 - 55||150 - 300|
|Large||25 - 35||55 - 77||300-400|
|Extra Large||Over 35||Over 77||400-500|
What are the disadvantages of Ashwagandha
Although tolerated in the majority of people, some side effects of ashwagandha can include:
- Tummy discomofrt
- Liver damage
Regardless, if your dog does not seem to tolerate it, or you feel something is wrong, get in touch with a vet straight away as some dogs may be intolerant to it.
Who should not take Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is contraindicated in dogs with certain disorders. One of these is autoimmune disease, or certain groups such as those who are pregnant, have stomach issues or any form of cancer.
It can also interact with some medications taken for diabetes and thyroid. Always consult with a vet prior to giving your dog Ashwagandha if they have any medical disorders.