Is your dog experiencing anxiety or sleep problems? Losing hair and developing bald patches? Or perhaps it has been diagnosed with Cushing’s disease or cognitive dysfunction? If you answered yes to any of these questions, Melatonin for dogs might be the solution.
Melatonin is more than just a sleep hormone. Although not FDA approved for use in pets, when administered adequately and responsibly, it can have various health benefits. In this article, we go into detail about the safe and effective use of Melatonin for dogs.
Can I Give My Dog Melatonin?
Yes, you can give your dog Melatonin as long as you consult with your veterinarian first. Also, make sure you are buying melatonin supplements formulated specifically for dogs, as human products often contain potentially harmful ingredients.
Alternatively, if using human melatonin products (brand names Regulin® and Circadin®), go through the ingredient list carefully and consult with the vet in terms of proper dosage.
When to Use Melatonin for Dogs
Despite the lack of FDA approval for use in canines, veterinarians often recommend melatonin products for managing various behavioral and medical conditions. But what is Melatonin? And how does it work in dogs?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring neurohormone secreted by the pineal gland – a small gland found just above the center of the brain. Melatonin is critical for determining the body’s circadian rhythms or, in simpler terms, regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
When it gets darker, the brain signals the pineal gland to produce Melatonin, thus promoting sleepiness. The reverse happens as it becomes lighter – the brain tells the pineal gland it is time to decrease the production of Melatonin which results in waking up.
Benefits and Uses of Melatonin for Dogs
Just like in humans, Melatonin in dogs can have various beneficial applications. As a naturally occurring neurohormone, it is a safe and worry-free alternative for pets with the following medical conditions.
Melatonin for Insomnia and Sleep Disorders. As dogs get older, they begin to experience sleep problems. Melatonin regulates the sleep-wake cycles, and low melatonin levels are linked with sleep disorders. Melatonin supplements will regulate the melatonin levels and act as a sleeping aid. Melatonin is often given to older dogs with insomnia and cognitive dysfunction.
Melatonin for General and Separation Anxiety. Because of its sedative qualities, Melatonin can be very effective in calming and soothing dogs with stress and anxiety issues. A study showed that shelter dogs supplemented with melatonin exhibit fewer stress-related behaviors. This makes it safe to assume that Melatonin can also promote calmness and improve the mood in dogs with noise phobias such as thunderstorms and fireworks.
Melatonin for Cushing’s Disease. Cushing’s disease is a medical condition that manifests with high cortisol levels and is usually caused by tumors on the pituitary gland (adenomas). Studies show that Melatonin can ease the symptoms of dogs with Cushing’s disease because it blocks the uptake of excess cortisol. Plus, unlike most traditional medications, melatonin products are not associated with severe side effects.
Melatonin for Hair Loss and Alopecia. Melatonin stimulates hair growth in dogs diagnosed with hair loss issues due to generalized or localized alopecia, seasonal flank alopecia, and alopecia X. Studies show that melatonin implants stop hair loss and promote regrowth in affected pups. However, the exact mechanism of how Melatonin prevents and manages hair loss patches is poorly understood.
Melatonin for Anesthesia Induction. A recent study showed that when administered to dogs preoperatively, Melatonin can help with anesthesia induction. In such cases, Melatonin acts by decreasing the stress and excitement associated with the vet staff and surroundings. These calmness-promoting effects allow using lower propofol doses.
Melatonin for Seizure Management. The potential use and role of Melatonin in seizure occurrence and management is a relatively new research area. There are suggestions that healthy dogs and dogs with seizures have different levels of serum melatonin. Plus, studies show that in laboratory animals, Melatonin has the ability to potentiate the anticonvulsant action of phenobarbital.
Potential Side Effects and Risks of Melatonin for Dogs
Like all supplements, Melatonin may cause adverse reactions in super-sensitive dogs. Here are the potential side effects of Melatonin:
Although natural and generally safe, Melatonin should not be used in dogs:
- Dogs with allergic reactions to the active ingredient
- Dogs receiving medications with known drug interactions
- Dogs diagnosed with diabetes (increases the dog’s insulin resistance)
- Actively bred dogs (decreases sex hormones and affects the reproductive cycle).
Finally, a quick reminder – if using human Melatonin supplements, ensure they do not contain artificial sweeteners. The most commonly used artificial sweetener, xylitol, is toxic to dogs.
Melatonin Dosage for Dogs
Melatonin is available in tablets, capsules, powders, and liquid forms. It does not matter which form you use as long as it is convenient for you and acceptable for your dog. The Melatonin pill or liquid can be given with or without food/treats.
How much mg of Melatonin a dog needs depends on its body weight and the administration frequency on the underlying condition. These are the general Melatonin dosing guidelines:
- Small dogs (less than 25 lbs) need 1.5 mg every 8, 12, or 24 hours
- Medium to large dogs (26 to 99 lbs) need 3 mg every 8, 12, or 24 hours
- Large dogs (over 100 lbs) need 6 mg every 8, 12, or 24 hours
Adhering to the correct dosage is essential. If you suspect a melatonin overdose, immediately call your trusted veterinarian and follow the instructions.
Melatonin for Dogs Usage Guidelines
It is always advisable to keep a close eye on your dog when starting to use a new medication or supplement. Keep in mind that Melatonin may interact and should not be used at the same time with medications like:
We should also note that you can naturally boost melatonin production by feeding your dog tryptophan and calcium-rich foods, such as:
- Pastured poultry and fresh eggs
- Wild game and wild fish
- Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus
- Pineapples, bananas, and pitless tart cherries
Remember, Melatonin for dogs is a safe supplement. However, there are other options worth trying. CBD oil is a great alternative to Melatonin supplements. CBD promotes calmness and relaxation, assists the immune system, helps with occasional discomfort, and supports overall long-term health. We recommend the Honest Paws CBD products – Dog CBD Oil and CBD Dog Treats.
Our Final Thoughts on Melatonin for Dogs
If you were wondering is Melatonin safe for dogs, the answer is yes. Plus, Melatonin is more than an over-the-counter sleep aid supplement. Melatonin products have various beneficial effects that can be used to treat different behavioral and physical issues.
However, being a responsible pet owner means erring on the side of caution. As always, do not forget to talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog Melatonin. The information provided in this article is not a substitute for a vet consult.