Melatonin for Dogs
Just like their pet parents, dogs can sometimes have trouble sleeping. And counting sheep isn’t a realistic solution for anyone. Melatonin for puppies and dogs may help if your pet is restless or sleepless at night.
If you’ve tried upgrading your pup’s dog bed and bedding and they still can’t get a good night’s sleep, it might be time to talk to your vet about calming and anxiety supplements. Melatonin is a mild addition to your dog’s diet that can help them doze quickly and easily. This hormone supplement has also been used to treat other common, non-life-threatening issues. Read on to learn more about melatonin and its use for dogs.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that exists naturally in both people and other animals. It helps us regulate our circadian rhythm. In other words, melatonin helps make our brain sleepy when nature says we should be at rest.
Since melatonin production is regulated mainly by light cycles—the pineal gland in the brain increases production in darkness—a body’s melatonin levels usually increase at night. However, sometimes the brain doesn’t produce this chemical as it’s supposed to. If your dog is not making enough of their own melatonin, they may benefit from a synthetic version.
Melatonin is a natural hormone, but you can consider it a supplement when it’s offered as a synthetic version. That means you should check for drug interactions and monitor the dosage. Melatonin made for humans may not be appropriate for use in dogs. Not only are dosages different, but some ingredients that are FDA approved for people can make your dog sick.
You should talk to your veterinarian before starting your pet on any new medication, vitamin or supplement. That being said, melatonin for dogs can be beneficial if given correctly. Many dogs have successfully taken melatonin with no adverse effects.
Some dogs may not be great candidates for this hormone, however, especially if they’re already taking certain other medications. See “drug interactions of note” below for more information. If your dog has ever had an allergic reaction to synthetic melatonin before, it is not recommended that you administer it again.
While melatonin is a sleepiness hormone, it isn’t only used to help decrease restless nights. Dogs and melatonin can work well together in other situations, too, including:
Alopecia Melatonin can help some dogs with hair loss. It can be particularly beneficial for seasonal alopecia, sometimes called flank alopecia. Allergies do not typically cause this type of hair loss. Veterinarians don’t know precisely what causes most cases of seasonal alopecia. What they do know is that offering dogs a small dose of melatonin can sometimes stop their hair from falling out. Left untreated, alopecia can lead to skin dryness and irritation. If you notice patches of missing hair on your pup, you can talk to your vet about using melatonin as a natural treatment.
Anxiety Does your dog have separation anxiety when you go away for the weekend? Or whimper all day while you’re at work? A dose of melatonin may also be helpful in these situations. Similarly, a vet may recommend the hormone for dogs who are fearful of fireworks or have a hard time with travel. Some veterinarians even prescribe it for dogs who have a thunder phobia—administering the dose before a storm rolls in could help your pet stay calm when the loud noises begin.
Melatonin has also been used in the treatment of Cushing’s Disease and epilepsy. Before administering a melatonin dosage to a dog with either of those conditions, consult your veterinarian.
Melatonin overdoses in dogs are uncommon, especially when instructions are followed closely, but they are not impossible. An upset stomach and prolonged lethargy are signs that your pup possibly was given too much of this supplement. Just remember that melatonin is a hormone designed to calm, so some sleepiness and energy loss are normal and typically desired. Keep your eyes peeled for confusion and itching as these can be signs of an adverse reaction with the hormone.
There are a few options available for dogs.
- Pill form Melatonin is most commonly administered as a tablet or capsule. Some pet parents hide the tablet inside a pill pocket for easier administration.
- Liquid In some cases, your vet may have a liquid form available. Make sure it’s formulated for dogs since some human variations make dogs sick.
- Chewable Chewable melatonin offers the most straightforward administration for many pet parents. Pups usually think they’re getting a tasty treat.
- Implant In some rare cases, a veterinarian may implant a device under your dog’s skin that administers melatonin.
You can give this supplement with your pup’s favorite dog food or administer it without a meal. While many dogs can tolerate melatonin on an empty stomach, monitor your dog the first time you give them this hormone supplement. If vomiting or an upset stomach occurs, try offering it with food next time. The melatonin dosage for dogs should begin to take effect within a few hours.
As mentioned, lethargy is a common side effect of melatonin in dogs. Some dogs may also experience an increased heart rate and itching. Since the drug typically remains in their system for about 24 hours, these side effects should not be prolonged.
Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted on the effects of melatonin in dogs. What we do know is that the side effects are often similar to those seen in humans. Sleepiness, upset stomach and low body temperature are all possible. If your dog has preexisting liver or kidney issues, they may be more likely to experience side effects.
When it comes to administering melatonin for dogs, a dosage chart can be helpful. However, only your vet can tell you the right amount to give to your dog. The right dose for your dog depends on variables ranging from your dog’s size to the reason they are taking melatonin.
Most veterinarians will tell you to offer it no more than three times per day. In some cases, once a day may be enough.
If you miss a dose of melatonin for your dog, don’t double up at the next scheduled dose. Instead, if you miss the dose by an hour or two, you can go ahead and give the missed dose. If you’re closer to the next scheduled serving, skip the missed dose and administer the next one at its scheduled time.
Some drugs typically don’t mix well with melatonin. These include benzodiazepines, succinylcholine and warfarin. In addition to prescriptions, some vitamins and herbal remedies may also interact poorly with melatonin. While there are no specific supplements to look out for, you should inform your vet about everything your dog is taking before asking for approval for melatonin.
If you’re thinking of purchasing liquid melatonin, look out for the ingredient xylitol. This sweetener is commonly used in liquid medications for people, but it is toxic to dogs.
Melatonin typically isn’t the first option to help your dog sleep better. Check out Petco’s dog crates and kennels to help create a better sleep environment. These safe spaces may also help reduce anxiety. With an indoor crate, your dog can remain close to you instead of being locked away during bedtime.
Do not use melatonin without first consulting your vet, especially if you think your dog may be pregnant. An implant should never be used in pregnant or lactating dogs.
Ready to explore melatonin for dogs with your veterinarian? It may change the way your dog sleeps and help them avoid anxious nights. Always stick with the prescribed dosage and monitor your dog for any side effects.