If you’ve ever had a streak of sleepless nights, you’ve probably looked into melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone that people and pets produce naturally via the pineal gland to regulate the sleep cycle.
In its naturally occurring form, melatonin release is heavily reliant on the light-dark cycle. As a synthetic supplement, melatonin helps trigger your body to prepare for sleep. Many people take it to combat short-term insomnia or even to reduce anxiety and depression.
So if melatonin works so well for humans, is melatonin for dogs safe? Can you give dogs melatonin?
The short answer is: Yes, giving dogs melatonin is harmless and even beneficial. But don’t do it just yet! Keep reading to learn the ins and outs of this pet-friendly medicine.
Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?
Studies have shown that dogs absorb melatonin safely, not unlike the human body. Research has shown that not only is melatonin safe, but it’s also effective at treating a variety of ailments, from insomnia to anxiety to alopecia.
Should I Give My Dog Melatonin?
Before you dive in, talk with your veterinarian first. Always make sure you’re purchasing supplements from a reputable brand that you trust. Try to limit the number of ingredients and additives in the product. Be sure you don’t select a product with xylitol, a common sugar substitute. This is extremely toxic to dogs.
Some pet owners prefer a treat specifically made for dogs with melatonin, while others prefer the pill humans take. Melatonin isn’t regulated by the FDA, but human supplements might be held to stricter standards. Unless otherwise directed, always give melatonin at night with a small snack to prevent stomach upset.
Uses of Melatonin for Dogs
While the use of melatonin for dogs is still undergoing research to determine its wide range of applications, studies have shown that melatonin is effective in many ways for our canine friends.
According to the American Kennel Club, around 14% of dogs experience separation anxiety and many more have fear-related anxiety that may occur during fireworks, car rides, or thunderstorms.
Before administering melatonin or other medication, it’s important to investigate your pet’s anxieties in collaboration with a vet to understand the root cause.
Melatonin can treat mild anxiety or aggression in place of prescriptions like tranquilizers. In these cases, melatonin is administered prior to the event that may cause anxiety. The medicine should soothe and calm your dog. Your vet may recommend a special formulation for dogs that includes hemp oil for dogs or chamomile to further benefit your pet.
Alleviating Sleep Issues and Insomnia
Especially elderly dogs or blind dogs that can’t acknowledge the rising and falling of the sun may need melatonin to have a normal sleep cycle.
Just as humans use melatonin to help fall asleep, the supplement can be used for dogs to help form healthy sleep patterns. Dogs and melatonin are a safe combination when it comes to a healthy night of sleep (and for pet parents too)!
Treating Alopecia and Healing Skin
Alopecia is a hair loss disorder in dogs. There are various types of alopecia and dogs may experience different symptoms. Studies show that melatonin can stimulate hair growth in dogs, which can combat alopecia.
In part, this is because hair growth in mammals is also on a circadian cycle, just like sleep. Similar studies on humans have concluded that melatonin can be used as a treatment for alopecia when applied topically.
Some dogs have hyperpigmentation or age spots on their skin. Melatonin has been used to treat these areas and shows great promise and results. Other studies conducted on rats have confirmed that the medicine can be used to treat skin conditions in mammals.
Treating Cushing’s Disease
Cushing’s Disease is caused by the overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol in mammals. In humans and dogs, this may cause an increase in weight around the belly and thinning skin. Increased thirst, urination, and lethargy are also symptoms in dogs. Research has shown that melatonin may be able to counteract the overproduction of these hormones by acting on adrenal tumor cells.
This is especially notable because it means that this supplement, in combination with flaxseed lignans, can address multiple types of Cushing’s, instead of treatments that only apply to one specific type.
Reducing The Symptoms of Epilepsy
Seizures in dogs are the most common neurological issue in dogs, and 20-30% of those dogs are unresponsive to at least one anti-seizure medication.
While studies have investigated the natural amount of melatonin in the bodies of non-epileptic and epileptic dogs, little is known about the exact interaction between epilepsy and melatonin for dogs. Some vets recommend using a combination of vitamins for dogs and melatonin to treat epilepsy and if anything, it can soothe the pet and give them a restful sleep.
Uses in Surgery
The use of melatonin for dogs undergoing surgery has proven to be a valuable addition to prepare for surgery and care for dogs after surgery. In a small study on diabetic and non-diabetic dogs undergoing cataract surgery, the use of the medicine was proven to reduce postoperative complications.
A 2019 study administered melatonin to 50 otherwise healthy dogs undergoing elective surgery. Their results showed that it could be used to reduce the anticipated amount of anesthesia needed and to calm the dogs prior to administration.
Instead of using more pharmaceuticals in the surgery process, melatonin provides a natural way to ease dogs into otherwise stress-inducing events.
When administered topically to dogs after dental implant surgery, melatonin stimulates bone healing. One study even combined melatonin with growth hormone and saw incredible progress in bone healing for these dogs.
In castrated dogs, melatonin increased antioxidant activity and decreased oxidation products. This is promising research for immunity in dogs.
More research is needed, but there is emerging information that shows this medicine can help dogs suffering from cancer and cancer treatment. It may reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy and even extend the life of animals undergoing treatment.
How Much Melatonin Can I Give My Dog?
Before you administer melatonin to your dog, speak with your veterinarian. Melatonin dosage for dogs differs depending on the condition you’re aiming to treat and your pet’s weight. First, it’s important to make sure melatonin fits with your dog’s current healthcare plan and other medications.
For example, to help regulate sleep, your 30-100 pound dog could take a 3-milligram dose once per day. Keep in mind that if you’re choosing a treat that has the medicine and something else like CBD oil in it, that dosage will be different.
In addition to treats and pills, melatonin can be applied topically or subdermally through an implant depending on your dog’s needs.
Side Effects of Melatonin in Dogs
Giving your dog the correct dosage of melatonin is unlikely to yield any negative side effects, but it is possible. Here are some things to watch out for if you give your dog melatonin. Dog melatonin overdose is uncommon, but it’s best practice to monitor your pet after administering the supplement.
Mark down the time and dosage for every medication you give your pet too, so you have relevant information to share with your vet if you do discover adverse effects of melatonin on your animal.
If your dog has any of these symptoms, give your vet a call.
- Stomach upset
- Rapid heart rate
- Excessive sleepiness or lethargy
Some dogs shouldn’t take melatonin at all, including pregnant or very young dogs, dogs with diabetes, or dogs taking other medications. Melatonin for puppies isn’t recommended under 12 weeks at least and be sure to discuss with your vet before giving your dog melatonin at any age, as adverse effects could occur due to interaction with other drugs.
It’s Puppy Snuggle Time
We all want our furry friends to stay healthy, safe, and happy. For some dogs, melatonin is just the thing to quell anxiety and improve sleep patterns. In addition to the many known applications of melatonin for dogs to treat disease, we can’t underestimate the healing power of a good night’s rest for our best friend.
If you’re unsure about melatonin for dogs, simply chat with your veterinarian or explore other options like CBD, which also has many benefits for pets and people alike!
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