Latest posts by Lauren Corona (see all)
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It can be tough to know what to do if your dog is suffering from issues such as anxiety or a reversed sleeping pattern.
Many vets recommend sedatives or drowsy antihistamines. These are excellent if a dog really needs them, but if you don’t think you’ve reached that point yet, are there other options?
Although synthesized in a lab, melatonin is a hormone that dogs (and humans) naturally produce. This means it’s less likely to produce unwanted side effects or cause other issues. That said, it’s always best to be well-informed about any substance you plan to give to your pets.
This article will cover everything you need to know about giving a dog melatonin.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- Can I Give My Dog Melatonin? Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?
- What is Melatonin?
- What is Melatonin For? What Can it Treat?
- How Does Melatonin Work?
- Side Effects of Giving Melatonin to Dogs
- Are There Any Dogs That Should NOT be Given Melatonin?
- Can You Give Dogs Melatonin Made for Humans?
- How to Give Your Dog Melatonin
- Melatonin Dosage for Dogs
- Can a Dog Overdose on Melatonin? What to Look For, What to Do?
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Can I Give My Dog Melatonin? Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?
Before you even consider giving your dog melatonin, of course you’ll want to know that it’s safe.
The quick answer is, yes; melatonin is generally considered safe for dogs.
However, there’s slightly more to it than that.
According to Pet Place, the drug is technically registered for use in humans only, and there haven’t been many studies on the effects of melatonin use in dogs. But, just because there isn’t much official evidence, it doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.
Veterinarians prescribe melatonin for a wide variety of different medical issues in dogs, and find that extremely few side effects are noted, even when used long-term.
So, in all likelihood, melatonin is safer than a lot of veterinary drugs that have had extensive studies on their use.
What is Melatonin?
Now you know that melatonin is safe for dogs, you might want to find out what it actually is.
Melatonin is a natural hormone that’s produced in the brain’s pineal gland, and is subsequently distributed through the body.
According to WebMD, its main function is to regulate sleep/wake cycles.
A synthesized form of melatonin has been created in labs for many years. This is used to help humans sleep better and regulate their sleeping patterns (for instance in cases of jet lag).
However, it seems to have a wider range of uses for dogs.
What is Melatonin For? What Can it Treat?
As mentioned above, melatonin can treat a variety of issues and ailments in dogs. These are some of the main contenders.
It’s not unusual for older dogs to get confused about their sleeping patterns, causing them to sleep all day and be awake all night.
Known as sundowner syndrome, this can be unpleasant for both dog and owner.
Since melatonin’s primary function is to control sleeping patterns, it’s the perfect treatment for this issue.
The drug can also be used to treat general cases of insomnia. However, there’s often an underlying cause of insomnia in dogs, such as pain. Therefore, you should only use it as a stopgap measure while a vet looks into other potential health issues.
Vets give melatonin to dogs to treat various kinds of anxiety.
It’s been shown to help with separation anxiety, which causes some dogs extreme distress when they have to be home alone.
It is also good for noise anxiety, for instance when dogs are afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks.
Melatonin promotes hair growth, so is useful in some cases where dogs have lost an amount of their fur.
Notably, it is used to treat certain kinds of alopecia, such as Alopecia X.
It can also help with hair regrowth in dogs with Cushing’s disease.
While the above are perhaps the most common veterinary uses of melatonin for dogs, vets prescribe it for other issues, too.
- Behavioral issues
- Dogs who need to gain weight after an illness or a surgery
- Platelet conditions
- Canine cognitive dysfunction
How Does Melatonin Work?
In its natural form, melatonin is a hormone produced at night by the pineal gland. Not only does it have to be night time, you also have to be in a low-light environment.
In the brain, tryptophan is converted to serotonin and then that serotonin is converted into melatonin.
According to veterinarian Sue Paterson, certain nuclei in the hypothalamus have melatonin receptors. When exposed to melatonin they help to control or reset a dog’s natural circadian rhythm.
Therefore, melatonin supplements should help with any conditions that are related to an imbalance of these natural rhythms.
Due to its calming properties, it also helps with anxiety and stress-related ailments.
Side Effects of Giving Melatonin to Dogs
Melatonin is something that’s naturally produced in a dog’s body. Therefore, few side effects are reported when given as a supplement.
That doesn’t mean that there are never any side effects of using it as a medication, however.
Although rare, the following side effects have been noted by some dog owners:
- Changes in female reproductive cycles
- Increased heart rate
- Digestive problems, such as stomach pain or an upset stomach
- Behavioral changes
Are There Any Dogs That Should NOT be Given Melatonin?
Melatonin isn’t suitable for every dog.
It shouldn’t be given to pregnant dogs or puppies under 12 weeks old.
It should be avoided in dogs with the following conditions, unless specifically approved by a vet:
- Kidney problems
- Brain problems
- Liver problems
- Bleeding disorders
You should also be wary if your dog is taking any other medications or supplements, as some don’t mix well with melatonin.
As with any medication, you should always check with a vet before giving it to your dog.
Can You Give Dogs Melatonin Made for Humans?
While there are separate human and veterinary formulations of melatonin, the active ingredient is the same. This means it’s generally safe to give dogs melatonin made for humans.
However, there are a couple of things to be aware of. Firstly, it has to be the correct dosage, as some human formulations may be in larger doses than needed for your dog. Secondly, you should check the ingredients of the tablets, just in case they contain an ingredient not suitable for dogs, such as xylitol.
If in doubt, check with your vet.
How to Give Your Dog Melatonin
If you’re going to be giving your pup their melatonin at home, it will generally come in tablet form.
Therefore, just give the medication to your dog in the same way you would any other tablet. This usually involves hiding it in an extra tasty treat.
However, there is also an implant version which is injected under the skin. This releases a steady dose of melatonin into your dog’s bloodstream for a set amount of time.
If your dog is having a melatonin implant, it will be inserted by your vet and you won’t have to do anything else.
Melatonin Dosage for Dogs
Melatonin dosage will vary depending on the size of your dog and what it’s being used to treat. Your vet will work out a precise dosage based on your dog’s weight and condition.
Since it’s available over the counter, it might be tempting to just go ahead and give your dog melatonin without consulting a vet. However, this is absolutely not recommended. There are some dogs that can’t safely take melatonin so always consult your vet first.
As we said, this will vary depending on your dog’s exact weight. However, according to Vetinfo, ballpark dosages are as follows:
- Dogs under 10 lbs: 1 mg
- Dogs 10 to 25 lbs: 1.5 mg
- Dogs 26 to 100 lbs: 3 mg
- Dogs over 100 lbs: 3 to 6 mg
Can a Dog Overdose on Melatonin? What to Look For, What to Do?
It is possible for a dog to overdose on melatonin, which is why it’s vital to get a vet to work out the correct dosage.
A small overdose is unlikely to cause anything more than a slight stomach ache and sleepiness, but a larger overdose could be very serious.
Make sure that you don’t leave the medication where your dog can reach it, that you write down the time you gave your dog their tablet so you don’t forget and give them a double dose, and that you communicate with any other humans in the household so you don’t accidentally both give your pup the medication, not realizing the other has also done so.
However, if these measures fail or something else goes wrong and your dog gets too much, you should know what to do.
The following symptoms may indicate a significant overdose of melatonin:
- Loss of coordination
- High blood pressure
If you suspect your dog has had too much melatonin contact your vet immediately or call the ASPCA poison control hotline on (888) 426-4435.
While melatonin isn’t a viable treatment for all dogs, in many cases it’s a great alternative to stronger medications for treating anxiety and sleep issues in dogs. Plus, some vets also recommend it for treating a wider range of conditions.
As something that’s naturally produced in your dog’s body, it tends to be associated with fewer side effects and other issues. But, remember, you should still consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog melatonin.
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