Kava for…Pets?

Posted by on Nov 5, 2011 in Kava News | 9 comments

Kava for...Pets?Aloha everyone! Makaira here. The rainy season is beginning in Hawaii, which means that I’ve been spending less time outside working with my beautiful ‘awa plants, and more time researching, reading, and looking for mentions of kava in the news. Just the other day, I happened to stumble across a completely bizarre article regarding kava and pets. I’ve honestly never even considered this to be an issue, so I thought I would share it with all of you in case anyone was wondering whether kava was good to give to pets.

This article in the Telegraph UK is entitled If your pet is scared of fireworks night, use real medicine, not homeopathy, and was written by a vet from Ireland. The article mentions the fact that some people choose to use traditional or homeopathic remedies to help their pets feel calm during noisy fireworks shows, in light of the upcoming Guy Fawkes celebration in the U.K. The author states that there is no evidence to show that these natural treatments work, and that therefore pet owners should use ‘real’ medicine, i.e., heavy narcotics, which always come along with numerous dangerous side-effects, to help pets cope.

The title of the article is loaded enough, and the article itself is absolutely seething with the author’s bias against any non-pharmaceutical medicine. Keep in mind, we’re talking about animals, who have no way of letting us know what side effects they may be experiencing from pharmaceuticals, and who cannot decide whether taking a pharmaceutical will be worth the potential risk to their health. I don’t know enough about homeopathy to argue for or against it, and I’m not interested in getting into that particular debate, but what I do know is that homeopathic medicines do not cause dangerous side-effects like pharmaceuticals do. I’m not sure why society assumes that ‘real’ medicine must be overly strong and potentially dangerous (and, indeed, the article does not discuss any of the potential side effects of ‘real’ veterinary medicines, although I’m sure there are many). Nor do I understand why anyone would want to expose a beloved pet to these side-effects rather than trying a method that is clearly much safer, if perhaps not as dramatically effective.

You may be wondering what on earth kava has to do with any of this. Well, this is the part of the article that really surprised me.  Apparently, there is a new product for pets known as Calmex, which contains kava. Kava is banned in the U.K. due to dubious ‘liver damage’ claims, but apparently it can still be given to pets there. Now, on the one hand, all of my readers will know that I feel that the kava ban in the U.K. is completely ridiculous and based on little other than fear-mongering. I feel confident that kava is safe for myself, my family, and the majority of humans because of its long history of use by indigenous peoples as a medicine and entheogen. However, there is no such history of usage for pets, and as I mentioned above, pets cannot communicate with us and let us know how a medicine is making them feel. I wonder, too, how the company that makes Calmex determined what dosage of kava would be safe for a pet – after all, animals come in many different weights and sizes. Kava CAN be dangerous when used to excess over long periods of time, and my concern would be that pet owners might not consider this when treating animals.

I’ve always felt that the idea of giving animals pharmaceutical medicines like Prozac for depression, or this idea of giving animals kava for anxiety, is more a matter of projection of our own emotions than a consideration of what the animal needs. Emotional issues in pets (and in ourselves, much of the time) are best addressed through changes in diet and amount of exercise, and positive, caring interactions. Rather than giving your dog kava, which could have unexpected results, or a doggy version of a Xanax, which could cause seizures and death, among other things, why not try making your dog a safe nook to sleep or hide in with pillows and blankets so that they will feel secure during the fireworks. If you can, spend some time with your pet during the display, providing a calming and reassuring energy to let them know that everything is okay. And, once the display is over, give them some nice treats and let them know that you appreciate their bravery and that all is well.

As humans, we are capable of choosing what medicines to take and deciding whether they are ‘real medicines’ that suit our individual body chemistry and condition. Animals cannot do this, so, in the case of emotional difficulties, why not try calming them in a way that has no known side effects – with love, attention and care. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

If you have any experience with ways to help calm and assist your pets during frightening or difficult experiences, whether it be with homeopathy, herbal remedies, or pharmaceutical medicines, please leave a comment and let me know. I’ve only just begun to consider the implications of this issue, and I would love some input from other pet owners!

Aloha no,

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  1. We have a cat that is an older Siamese/American Short Hair mix. She weighs about 11 pounds. Within the past year, she has developed a bad obsessive back-licking issues where she pulls all the fur off her back.

    We took her to the vet where they were able to rule out any mites, etc. So, we’ve tried to make sure it wasn’t any cleaners we’ve been using and were able to rule them out. All we can figure is that one of the other cats, who she has been getting along with until recently is being a nuisence.

    The vet has been giving her some shots, but those have stopped working and we don’t want to keep putting her through that. I’ve been reading about the kava, but I’m not sure what you’d recommend since you’ve been having such good results–or even what dose to start out with.

    We’ve been told that there’s nothing we can do aside from give away one of them, but all 4 of them are rescues and the “problem child” who we are trying to train out of being a problem child wouldn’t survive. We also don’t buy the “there’s nothing you can do.”

  2. Wow, thank you for sharing, Annette! Glad to hear that your rescue kitty is getting calmer and happier. It’s great to know that ‘awa has so many healing applications!

    Aloha no,

  3. I am currently treating a rescue street cat with Kava and valerian. I started with rescue remedy and then to calming herbs. So far all going well. I add them to food. They are a glycerine base liquid and I have administered slowly by drops in relation to body weight. Aprox 5 drops kava and 5 drops valerian. I have a lot calmer kitty. Still got a lot of time to put into trust as has been a street cat for a couple of years due to Brisbane floods.

  4. Aloha Anthony!

    Thank you for your comment, and a happy new year to you, too! I’m very sorry to hear about your pet. I do believe that the final decision of how to care for a pet should come down to the pet owner – vets can provide advice and so forth, but the owner is usually the person who can communicate best with their pet about what they really need. 🙂

    Aloha no,

  5. I just recently found out about the benefits of kava and am intrigued. When I saw the kava and pets blog I was nervous at first but after reading your post I feel at ease. It’s good to see a merchant acknowledge the possibility of a good homeopathic remedy for people work differently with pets. I lost a pet earlier in december due to cancer and the steroids that I was given to help my dog live longer became of concern to me. I did my research online and we all have to make choices for our companions just by reading what we think they’re feeling. I’m very happy to read this blog and as I browsed your website I got a very good vibe from everything. Thank you very much, and happy new year!

  6. Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for your comment! I’m sure many of our readers will find it useful. I’ve always liked Bach flower essences for treating animals, because they’re so gentle and natural. My sister says that she often uses Bach flower remedies to help her cats when they have to move to a new place or adapt to difficult changes.

    I’m very interested to hear that you put kava liquid on the paw pads and ears! This seems like a really good way to make sure that your pet doesn’t accidentally take too much kava. It makes me a little uneasy to hear that people are giving kava to pets orally, as the dosage would be so much smaller than for humans, but allowing it to absorb through the skin seems much safer and gentler!

    Aloha no,

  7. Hi Makaira,
    I have had GREAT results with flower essences (from Bach & FES) for anxiety as well a behavioral problems. We have 3 cats (all females) that often get into power struggles and I have found flower essences to be the ONLY thing I can count on to mellow them out. I have one remedy for fear, which was very helpful when a lightning bolt hit our transformer during a storm (it sounded like a huge bomb going off!) & I also use it when I get out the vacuum cleaner. Normally, it would take days for the kitties to become their calm, playful selves again…but that’s not the case when I use the remedies. I used another remedy when I had to drive 1000 miles with my 2 cats from Cali to Washington state (and back). My cats were calm & quiet even though they HATE riding in the car. I have also used the Kava liquid (I put some on their paw pads & ears…alot easier than getting them to take it orally) and this is how I use the remedies too (or a few drops in water). It works…and it’s gentle & natural 🙂

  8. Dear Lexie,

    Thank you so much for your comment! This is great advice for anyone trying to assist a frightened pet – companion animals come to understand much of what they know of the world from our reactions. 🙂

    Aloha no,

  9. I have tried giving my dog benadryl as my vet recommended, as she is very afraid of thunderstorms. It seems to make it worse for her, because she is now drugged (but not asleep) and can’t react like she wants to, to the scary noise.

    So, what I do instead is play with her. Comforting her during a storm simply reinforces to her that there IS something to be rightfully scared of. Playing her favorite games with her shows her this is a time she can still be relaxed and have fun and treats and chase toys. This is what has helped her (and me!) the most.

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