Believe it or not, dogs can suffer from issues such as anxiety or irregular sleeping patterns that can make it difficult for them to get enough rest.
There are some vet-recommended sedatives and antihistamines out there that can help dogs get more sleep, but not every dog will be at the point where they need this kind of treatment yet.
Dogs (and humans) both naturally produce melatonin, but not always in enough! Melatonin is commonly taken as a supplement by humans to help them get some rest, but can dogs also be given this substance to help them sleep?
Everything that you should know about melatonin and the effect it will have on your dog can be found in this article.
The Basics: What Is Melatonin?
The first thing that you probably want to know if you are not already familiar with the substance is what melatonin actually is.
A hormone naturally produced in the brain’s pineal gland, melatonin is distributed in the body and primarily exists to help regulate sleep cycles.
When humans take lab synthesized melatonin, this is usually to help regulate sleep cycles and to help people get to sleep faster.
For dogs, however, melatonin actually can be used to help with more than just sleep cycles.
What Does Melatonin Treat?
There are a number of issues that dogs can be treated for with melatonin:
Dogs can get anxious, too!
Some vets recommend using melatonin to ease separation anxiety that some dogs struggle with when they are left at home alone. In other cases, melatonin can be used to ease any anxiety that happens in scary situations, such as when fireworks go off or thunderstorms roll in.
Just like in humans, dogs can have trouble sleeping.
If your dog is sleeping at the wrong time of day or struggling with insomnia, it is possible that giving them a small dosage of melatonin will help to regulate their sleep cycle and get them back on track.
Remember that it’s possible that your dog isn’t sleeping well because they are being affected by some other type of health issue. Always consult with your vet.
- Hair Loss
Melatonin can help to increase hair growth in some dogs. If dogs with conditions such as Alopecia X or Cushing’s disease which cause thin or missing hair take melatonin, it may help trigger some hair regrowth.
- Behavioral Issues
- Platelet Conditions
When possible, discuss possible melatonin treatment with your dog’s vet before starting any type of treatment regimen. Not every dog will react, so it’s good to get a professional opinion on what you should do.
How Does It Work?
Now that you have a better understanding of what melatonin is and why some owners choose to dose their dogs with it, let’s take a closer look at how melatonin actually works in the body.
Melatonin is produced naturally by the body at nighttime in low-light environments. The pineal gland is activated, and it converts tryptophan to serotonin, which is then converted into melatonin.
Melatonin receptors in your dog’s body receive this substance, and this lets them know to get sleepy. Such a process sets up a natural rhythm that is meant to help your dog sleep.
Is Melatonin Safe To Give My Dog? Can I Give My Dog Melatonin?
The short answer to this question is yes, melatonin is safe to give your dog.
As with any medication or supplement, however, there is more that you should know and consider before giving it to your dog.
Since this product has only been extensively studied in relation to its use on humans, there are very few examples of the long-term effects regular melatonin usage could have on your dog. Still, that doesn’t mean this hormone supplement is unsafe.
Vets around the world have prescribed melatonin to dogs without any notable occurrence of long-term issues in dogs, however, so you should be OK to treat your dog this way if your vet recommends doing so.
The Side Effects
Even though melatonin is a natural hormone in your dog’s body, you never know what may occur when giving it as an additional supplement.
As with any supplement, there are potential risks and side effects that you should be aware of before you start treating your dog with melatonin.
Here are some of the potential side effects reported by dog owners:
- Increase heart rate
- Changes in female reproductive system
- Behavioral changes
- Digestive problems
You might be wondering if it is possible to give your dog too much melatonin, and the simple answer is yes. It definitely is possible!
Dogs can overdose on melatonin, and that is why you should pay special attention to the dosage information we have gathered in the Dosage section below.
A small overdose of melatonin won’t do anything more than make your dog extra sleepy and cause a little stomach pain. Regularly giving your dog a little too much can have long-term consequences.
If you accidentally double dose your dog, your dog somehow gets into the melatonin, or you simply give them too much of the medication by mistake, it can cause more serious health problems for your pup that could even be fatal.
Be care while treating your dog with melatonin, or else you could face any of the following overdose effects:
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Lack of coordination
If you suspect that your dog has overdosed on melatonin, contact your nearest vet immediately. If you are not sure what to do in the meantime, give the ASPCA poison control hotline a call at (888) 426-4435.
Some Dogs Should NOT Get Melatonin… EVER!
Not every dog can handle an extra boost of melatonin. Because of how the body processes hormones, you will want to avoid giving any melatonin to dogs who fit any of the following descriptions:
- Puppies under 12 weeks of age
- Dogs with brain, kidney, or liver problems
- Dogs with allergies
- Dogs who suffer from seizures
- Dogs who take other medications, unless discussed with your vet
The only way to be sure that your dog is a good candidate to try melatonin is to discuss this treatment option with your vet.
Is Melatonin Made For Humans OK To Give Dogs?
The active ingredient in both veterinary melatonin and human-grade melatonin is the same. Does this mean that you can give your dog human-grade melatonin?
The short answer is yes; you can.
However, there is a potential risk in doing so.
Human-grade melatonin may be mixed with other ingredients that can be harmful to your dog, such as xylitol, so you need to thoroughly examine the ingredients list before giving it to your dog.
Additionally, the dosage may be much too large for your dog. Do a dosage calculation for your dog and a comparison to the human-grade dosage before you consider giving human-grade melatonin to your dog.
Choosing The Dosage
As mentioned in the previous section, it is important to figure out the proper dosage amount for your dog before you begin a melatonin treatment plan.
The dose will depend on the size of your dog and what type of condition you are trying to treat.
You should consult with your vet to figure out the exact amount that your dog needs, but these ballpark numbers can help you get an idea of what you will be looking at:
- Dogs under 10 pounds: 1 mg
- Dogs from 10 to 25 pounds: 1.5 mg
- Dogs from 26 to 100 pounds: 3mg
- Dogs over 100 pounds: 3 to 6 mg, depending on size
Step-by-step: Giving Your Dog Melatonin
Now that you know everything that you need to know about melatonin, take a closer look at how you can go about treating your dog with melatonin at home.
- Discuss this treatment with your vet before beginning any treatment.
- Check the dosage of the melatonin tablet, making sure it is appropriate for your dog.
- Hide the melatonin tablet in a tasty treat to encourage your dog to eat it.
- Feed it to them at the appropriate time of day to treat their condition.
It is possible to get a melatonin implant for your dog that gives them a steady supply of melatonin if needed. Discuss this option with your vet if your dog will need a long-term melatonin treatment.
Treating your dog with melatonin can be a great way to solve their anxiety, fear, sleep, or eating problems. The hormone changes the way your dog’s sleep cycles work, which can have a big effect on your dog’s behavior and health.
Since melatonin is a natural part of your dog’s body to begin with, it can be considered a good natural way to treat their problems.
Still, you should always talk to the vet about if melatonin treatment is right for your dog and their particular situation. Otherwise, you could be causing unnecessary risk to your dog’s long-term health.