While melatonin is often recommended as a sleeping aid for humans, it has numerous benefits for our canine friends as well. From anxiety, hyperactivity and general restlessness to hair loss, this naturally occurring neurohormone can help pet owners treat these perplexing conditions at home.
What is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone found in the body. Secreted by the pineal gland, it helps set the sleep/wake cycle in humans and animals alike. Our bodies are designed to create more melatonin at night and then decrease production during the daytime. Hence as a hormone, it helps with the circadian cycle by establishing sleepiness and then maintaining the sleep state.
Melatonin can also be purchased as an over-the-counter supplement. This is the product both humans and dogs can take to treat numerous conditions.
Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?
While melatonin for canines is not yet FDA approved, it’s considered to be a safe, effective supplement for most dogs. However, pet owners should still always consult with their veterinarian before starting their dog on melatonin, in regard to efficacy, dosage, and possible contraindications.
Melatonin should not be given to pregnant dogs or young puppies. And as with all supplements, owners should take into consideration other medications their pets are already taking.
How Does Melatonin Work in Dogs?
Melatonin acts as a calming agent in dogs due to its sedative-like nature. Since dogs already produce melatonin naturally, the supplement simply boosts their intake of the hormone and helps to calm them down.
What Is Melatonin Used For?
As previously mentioned, melatonin has multiple uses for dogs. Listed below are some of the conditions melatonin is said to treat and how it’s alleged to work.
- Separation anxiety
This is a form of intense anxiety exhibited by some dogs when their owners leave the room or house. This can be demonstrated by non-stop barking, hyperactivity and destructive behavior. Melatonin’s calming effect should help most dogs with this condition.
- Canine phobias
Whether it’s the sound of fireworks or a fear of strange places, canines can develop an intense fear that leads to trembling, drooling, and other undesirable behaviors. The soothing properties of melatonin are considered by many to be an appropriate remedy for these situations. During treatment or recovery from serious injuries, melatonin is often used to keep dogs calm.
Just like humans, on rare occasions some dogs have issues settling in and falling asleep at night. As previously mentioned, melatonin is a necessary part of the sleep cycle process. By supplementing their intake of the hormone, dogs will often slip into deeper, more sustainable sleeping patterns.
- Cushing’s disease
One of the most common endocrine disorders found in canines, Cushing’s disease is the result of an overproduction of cortisol in the body. This disease is typically exhibited by increased appetite, thirst, and excessive urination. Melatonin in this situation is used to help inhibit cortisol levels in the body, hence better controlling Cushing’s disease.
This is another endocrine disorder that can result in partial baldness or even a complete loss of fur. Unlike Cushing’s, however, melatonin is used in this case to improve the quality of a dog’s coat and is believed to help stimulate coat growth.
What Are the Side Effects of Melatonin Usage in Dogs?
While melatonin is generally considered to be safe, as with any supplement there are possible side effects. Although rare, owners might witness the following complications:
- Confusion and sleepiness
Due to the sedative quality of melatonin, dogs may appear confused or disoriented.
- Upset stomach
- Tachycardia: Tachycardia is defined as an unusually high heart rate.
While most side effects are mild, owners need to be aware of these conditions when giving melatonin to their dogs. If any side effects are noted, owners should immediately stop using the supplement until discussing the situation further with their veterinarian.
Where Does an Owner Obtain Melatonin?
Melatonin is an over-the-counter supplement, although some veterinarians will also provide it to their patients. Be advised that certain companies use xylitol, an artificial sweetener often found in gum and other products, in their melatonin. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, so always read the entire label of any melatonin product you’re giving your pet and if you have any doubts whatsoever, be sure to consult a veterinarian for advice.
What Is the Dosage for Melatonin in Dogs?
Melatonin is available in multiple forms, from pills to liquid to crushed powder. The appropriate dosage varies depending upon the size of the dog. Typical dosages are as follows:
- Under 10 pounds: 1 milligram
- 10 to 25 pounds: 1.5 milligrams
- 26 to 100 pounds: 3 milligrams
- 100 pounds plus: 3 to 6 milligrams
Melatonin can be taken on an empty stomach, however, if any stomach distress is noted, it’s recommended to consume it in conjunction with a full meal. Dosages should not be given more than three times a day and the results should be noticeable within 10 to 15 minutes of administration. Results typically last for approximately eight hours.
Giving your furry friend melatonin is a natural way to treat many different canine issues. For owners who prefer to avoid giving their dog pharmaceuticals, the supplement should offer relief for both owner and canine alike.