Can Dogs Have Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that controls our sleep cycle, meaning melatonin signals when it’s time to go to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. Melatonin supplement is a natural sleep aid that has generated a lot of attention in recent years. 

These supplements were created in laboratories as a synthetic substitute for the natural sleep hormone known as melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a gland as small as a pea located in the center of our brain. Melatonin over-the-counter supplements are usually used by persons that suffer from sleep problems, including insomnia. 

But, were you aware that melatonin is also a naturally-occurring hormone in your dog as well? It plays the same role as it does in our bodies, generally regulating your dog’s circadian rhythm, and to some level, your dog’s feelings of anxiety and stress. That being said, many of you may wonder: can I give my dog melatonin? 

Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?

Because most animals, including dogs, naturally produce melatonin, it’s completely safe for pet owners to give melatonin products to their pets. In addition, melatonin products come with only a few minor side effects. However, there are a few things you need to watch out for.

First, if you’re considering giving melatonin to your dog as a treatment for medical conditions like Cushing’s disease, then talk to your vet.

And second, you always need to make sure that you’re giving your dog the correct dosage based on their age and weight. Always give them their dose with dog food in order to prevent an upset stomach or digestive problems. 

Uses of Melatonin for Dogs

Before getting started, it’s essential for you as a pet parent to keep in mind that melatonin isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in dogs, so your vet should always approve it before use.

Your vet might recommend melatonin for your dog for the following medical conditions.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)

Canine cognitive dysfunction is quite a common disorder in older dogs. Your older dog may show signs of sleep disturbance, pacing, and panting at night. Your dog may tend to get confused or disoriented or can show other unusual behaviors, including having accidents indoors. 

Melatonin can be quite helpful with CCD. Due to its ability to change the circadian rhythm, it can help older dogs to have a good night’s sleep. Melatonin production lowers with age, which can also be a factor in your older dog’s CCD.

Sleep Problems

It’s quite common for older dogs to get confused about their sleep patterns, resulting in sleeping all day and being awake all night. This is also called sundowner syndrome, and it can be rather unpleasant for both you (as a dog owner) and your dog. 

Melatonin products can be used to treat insomnia. Because the basic function of melatonin is to control sleep patterns, it can be a perfect treatment for sleeping problems. However, dogs usually have an underlying cause of insomnia, like pain. You should only use melatonin as a stopgap measure while your veterinarian looks for other potential medical conditions.

General Anxiety and Separation Anxiety

The calming effect of melatonin for dogs can be used to relieve anxiety. This is particularly useful if your furry friend suffers from separation anxiety or during periods that are likely to be quite stressful for your dog. Moving to another house, going to the vet, and even a trip in the car can be made less traumatic by using the calming effects of melatonin products. Whenever you want to help your dog calm down and relax, melatonin can do that for you.

Cushing’s Disease

This disease can occur both in dogs and humans and usually causes fatty deposits around the midsection, thin skin that easily bruises, and weight gain. It’s caused by a so-called adenoma, which is a pituitary tumor. These adenomas aren’t cancerous, but they can create a hormonal imbalance by causing the pituitary gland to produce too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates cortisol secretion.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

Melatonin can help treat seasonal alopecia, also known as flank alopecia. In dogs, this issue manifests as bald patches on both sides of the stomach. It isn’t quite defined how melatonin helps flank alopecia, but taking into consideration the fact that the potential side effects are low, many dog owners consult their vets to use melatonin. 

Melatonin is also effective in treating Alopecia-X, a non-inflammatory disorder that causes alopecia in certain dog breeds. There isn’t a standard treatment for Alopecia-X, but many vets report good results using melatonin.

Phobias

Apart from treating more generalized forms of anxiety in your dog, melatonin can be quite helpful with fears precipitating from thunderstorms, fireworks, and other common triggers as well.

Side Effects of Melatonin in Dogs

There are only a few side effects of melatonin products in dogs as long as it’s administered properly and at the correct dosage. In fact, the lack of side effects makes melatonin a more suitable choice than sedatives or other medications.

However, you should watch out for the few side effects of melatonin, and if you notice some of them, do report these to your veterinarian because they might recommend a lower dose or advise a different treatment course.

Here are the possible side effects of melatonin you should know about:

  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
  • High blood pressure
  • Behavioral changes
  • Cramps and upset stomach
  • Drowsiness
  • Insulin resistance in dogs with diabetes
  • Fertility changes
  • Confusion
  • Itching

You should always read the label on the melatonin supplement you intend to give to your dog because some of them can contain ingredients such as xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener and is quite toxic to dogs.

Some health conditions can worsen with melatonin, and some medications can interact poorly with melatonin supplements. Therefore, talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any medications or over-the-counter drugs.

In addition, without consulting your vet, you shouldn’t give melatonin to your dog if it has the following medical conditions:

  • Brain problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Seizures
  • Liver problems
  • Allergies
  • Bleeding disorders

Moreover, keep in mind that puppies and pregnant dogs should generally not take melatonin.

How Much Melatonin Should I Give My Dog?

Melatonin can be used as a treatment option for many medical conditions in your dog, meaning every dog may need a different dosage for achieving maximum benefit. The correct dosage also depends on the size of your dog.

Due to this, we highly recommend consulting your veterinarian about the melatonin dose before giving your dog melatonin. While you must always get any medication doses from your veterinarian, we’ll still present you with the standard dosing rates of melatonin that you can use on your dog.

So, here is the standard dosing rate for melatonin in dogs:

  • Dogs weighing less than 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) should take approximately 1 mg.
  • Dogs weighing between 4.5 and 11 kilograms (10 and 25 pounds) should take approximately 1.5 mg.
  • Dogs weighing between 11 and 45 kilograms (25 and 100 pounds) should take approximately 3 mg.
  • Dogs weighing more than 45 kilograms (100 pounds) should take between 3 mg and 6 mg.

The melatonin effects usually last for approximately 8 hours, so you can give your dog the melatonin dose before a stressful event or right before bedtime. These melatonin dosages can be different if your dog suffers from some chronic behavioral problems.

A Few Words Before You Go…

We all want our furry little friends to stay safe, happy, and most of all healthy. For some dogs, melatonin supplements are just the thing to overcome dog anxiety and improve sleep patterns. Additionally, to the many known applications of dog melatonin as a treatment for a disease, we cannot underestimate the healing power of a good night’s sleep for your dog. Indeed, the negative side effects of melatonin are only a few, but you still need to consult with your veterinarian about giving your dog melatonin – just to stay on the safe side.