10 Facts You Should Know About Melatonin for Dogs

Taylor A Ritz Melatonin is a sedative-like supplement often taken by humans who need help sleeping. Can dogs take it too? Let’s discuss what melatonin is, what it’s used for, and if it’s safe for your canine companion.

1. What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the pineal gland. The pineal gland is a pea-sized gland located in the middle of your dog’s (and your) brain. This gland is responsible for helping your dog’s body know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. When your dog’s pineal gland is functioning normally, your dog’s body makes more melatonin at night, especially after the sun sets. This is when your dog starts to feel tired. When the sun rises, melatonin levels fall and your dog awakens.

2. Why Would You Give Your Dog Melatonin As a Supplement?

Though melatonin is produced naturally in your dog’s body, providing it as a supplement can be beneficial as well. Melatonin has been used as a treatment for issues such as anxiety, insomnia, Cushing’s Disease, and alopecia. As with any supplement, consult a veterinarian before adding melatonin to your dog’s regiment.

3. How Does Melatonin Help with Anxiety?

As a sleep hormone, it’s obvious why melatonin may be helpful for those suffering from insomnia, but how does it help with anxiety? Many dogs suffer from anxiety. Some dogs experience separation anxiety when their family members leave for the day while others suffer anxiety from loud noises such as thunder or fireworks. Road trips are another source of anxiety on dogs. A melatonin supplement has been used to treat the symptoms associated with anxiety in dogs. Melatonin helps a dog mellow out during situations that may cause them anxiety.

4. How Does Melatonin Treat Cushing’s Disease?

Cushing’s Disease is a hormonal disorder characterized by high levels of cortisol, a hormone in the body. When a dog suffers from Cushing’s Disease, a melatonin supplement can help block the uptake of cortisone in the body. Other drugs used to treat Cushing’s Disease can have harsh side effects whereas melatonin is a safer, more natural treatment. 

5. Does Melatonin Help Dogs Suffering from Alopecia?

Alopecia is a form of hair loss. Many dogs suffer from seasonal alopecia when seasonal irritants such as pollen cause them to experience hair loss. These bald spots typically appear on either side of the abdomen. As a result, this condition is also called flank alopecia. Though there has been little research done on treating alopecia with melatonin, some veterinarians still prescribe the supplement to their four-legged patients.

6. What Are the Side Effects of Melatonin?

Since melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep, the biggest side effect is drowsiness. The supplement can also cause digestive upset. In some animals, melatonin has been linked to an increased heart rate. Melatonin may affect the reproductive cycle in female dogs or lead to insulin resistance. As with any supplement or medication, melatonin can also cause an allergic reaction in your dog. 

7. What Dogs Should Avoid Melatonin?

While you should always consult a veterinarian with questions regarding supplements like melatonin, there are some dogs that should not take it. Due to a potential increase in heart rate, dogs with cardiac issues should probably not take it. Females dogs that are pregnant or may become pregnant should avoid melatonin due to the potential effect on their reproductive cycles. The possible insulin resistance melatonin may cause means that diabetic animals should not take the supplement either. As a general rule, puppies should not take melatonin.

8. How Much Melatonin Should You Give Your Dog?

Proper melatonin dosage should be determined by your dog’s veterinarian but also depends on your dog’s size. Individual dogs have different needs based on a multitude of conditions. Many veterinarians recommend introducing melatonin on a gradual basis, increasing the dosage slowly and as needed. As a loose guideline, dogs less than 10 pounds should take 1 milligram of melatonin. Dogs 10 to 25 pounds can take 1.5 milligrams while dogs 26 to 100 pounds should take about 3 milligrams. Dogs over 100 pounds may take anywhere from 3 to 6 milligrams of the supplement. Your dog should be given their appropriate dosage no more than 3 times per day, as the effects typically last about 8 hours. 

9. Where Can You Get Melatonin?

Melatonin comes in many forms. The supplement is available in tablet, capsule, powder, and liquid varieties. Some can be given with food while some should be ingested without eating. Melatonin is available over the counter but has not been explicitly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, as a supplement for dogs.

10. What Are Some Other Considerations for Giving Your Dog Melatonin?

Other than the possible side effects, here are a few other things to consider before giving your dog a melatonin supplement. Always read the labels on melatonin products. Some may contain other ingredients like xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Make sure the melatonin you buy for your dog does not contain xylitol or any other compound that is harmful to dogs. Also, some other medications may interact with melatonin. Melatonin may adversely affect preexisting medical conditions, so be mindful of this when considering whether melatonin is a good choice for your canine companion. 

Taylor Ritz

Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She is a former zookeeper and animal trainer. She has her own dog, Dobby, with whom she has bicycled across the U.S. and thru-hiked the Long Trail.

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