Rob writes about the intersection of sleep and mental health and previously worked at the National Cancer Institute.
Melatonin is known for its role in helping people sleep, but this hormone also affects animals. Although research is limited, melatonin supplements are generally believed to be safe for dogs, and veterinarians may suggest melatonin supplements to help dogs with sleep problems, behavioral issues, and medical conditions.
For pet owners, it can be helpful to learn more about melatonin for dogs, including when to use it and how much to give. Pet owners should also know about the importance of working with a veterinarian and choosing a quality supplement.
Melatonin supplements are believed to be safe for most dogs when used in appropriate amounts, and many veterinarians prescribe melatonin to try to help dogs with various health issues.
Melatonin is a hormone that nearly all mammals, including dogs, produce naturally. Animals produce melatonin during periods of darkness, and their melatonin levels can change throughout the year in response to varying amounts of daylight. Melatonin has many potential functions, including helping animals sense the time of day and regulate seasonal changes in their body and behavior.
Melatonin is also sold as a dietary supplement that is marketed for use in humans, dogs, and other animals. The body can make melatonin naturally, but melatonin for supplements is typically manufactured synthetically. Veterinarians may recommend melatonin supplements for some behavioral or medical conditions in dogs.
Although there is a lack of research about melatonin’s effectiveness in dogs, it is common in veterinary medicine to consider prescribing medications that have been studied and used in humans. In people, melatonin may be used for sleeping problems like delayed sleep-wake phase disorder, jet lag, and anxiety related to surgery.
Before giving a dog any new supplement or medication, it is important to speak with a veterinarian. Prior to recommending melatonin, a veterinarian may perform an exam and conduct tests to diagnose the cause of behavior or sleep issues. This may help identify the optimal treatment and ensure that melatonin is a safe and appropriate option.
Veterinarians may recommend melatonin to treat dogs experiencing stress and anxiety, sleeping problems, or certain medical conditions. Melatonin may be suggested in addition to other treatments for these issues because of its potential effects on sleep and behavior.
Melatonin may be helpful for dogs who regularly experience anxiety, stress, phobias, or signs of cognitive dysfunction.
Many dogs experience anxiety that may be triggered by fear of a potential threat, separation from their family, or changes in their environment or routine. Anxiety and sleep problems can also be a sign of cognitive problems in older dogs.
Anxiety sometimes occurs as a phobia, which describes a sudden and intense response to a trigger, such as loud noises from a vacuum cleaner, fireworks, or thunder. Because dogs cannot say when they are anxious or afraid, they may display their anxiety through a wide range of behaviors, including:
These and other behavioral challenges in dogs are usually treated with a combination of training, changes to the dog’s environment, and medication or supplements.
Like their human counterparts, dogs need sleep for their health and well-being. Changes in a dog’s sleep patterns may be a sign of an underlying medical issue, a symptom of a sleep disorder, or a response to changes in their surroundings. While more research is necessary, some experts believe that melatonin supplements may help to alleviate insomnia and other disruptions in a dog’s sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin may also be used in dogs that cannot tell when it is light or dark outside because of blindness or other problems with their vision. In humans, this condition is called non-24-hour sleep-wake rhythm disorder and is often treated with supplemental melatonin.
Other potential uses of melatonin in dogs include treatment for hair loss, Cushing’s disease, and thrombocytopenia.
Researchers continue to explore other potential uses of melatonin in dogs. For example, studies are evaluating whether melatonin may reduce the anesthesia required before surgery, improve the outcomes of cataract surgery, or be beneficial as a treatment for canine cancer.
The right dose of melatonin depends on several factors, including a dog’s weight and medical needs. For these reasons, it is important to talk to a veterinarian for support in finding the right dose of melatonin for any specific dog.
When giving melatonin for anxiety or as a sleep aid, the dose of melatonin is determined by a dog’s weight. Some experts suggest giving a dog melatonin every 8 hours at a dose of 0.1 milligrams of melatonin for each kilogram of the dog’s weight. Others suggest a slightly larger dose given once every 12 to 24 hours.
|Less than 5 kilograms||1 milligram every 12 to 24 hours|
|5 to 15 kilograms||1.5 milligrams every 12 to 24 hours|
|15 to 50 kilograms||3 milligrams every 12 to 24 hours|
|Over 50 kilograms||5 milligrams every 12 to 24 hours|
To address a dog’s anxiety or phobias, it may help to give a dose of melatonin prior to the trigger that can cause distress. A veterinarian may recommend providing a dose of melatonin between 30 minutes and 2 hours before the anticipated anxiety-provoking event in order to allow enough time for the supplement to take effect.
For helping a dog sleep, avoid giving melatonin during the day. Instead, wait until around 30 minutes before the desired sleep time. To help establish healthy sleep patterns, it is recommended to give melatonin as part of a bedtime routine. Components of evening routines for dogs can include keeping a consistent bedtime, turning off bright lights, limiting noise, and providing the same comfortable place to sleep each night.
When given in proper amounts, melatonin is considered safe to give to dogs. Although harmful effects are uncommon, giving too much melatonin may cause a dog to be lethargic and have an upset stomach. Other potential side effects include:
Melatonin may also interact with other medications given to dogs. Melatonin can increase the effects of benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety and seizures. It may also interact with succinylcholine, a drug that is sometimes used as a muscle relaxer in animals.
While melatonin is safe for most dogs when using an appropriate dose, some supplements can include other ingredients that may pose health risks.
For these reasons, it is important to talk to a veterinarian before giving melatonin to dogs, especially dogs that are taking other medications as well as dogs that are pregnant, very young, or have other medical conditions.
Some melatonin gummies may be harmful for dogs. Melatonin supplements designed for humans may contain xylitol or other ingredients considered toxic to dogs.
Xylitol is an ingredient used as a sweetener in many sugar-free products, like baked goods, chewable vitamins, toothpaste, and dietary supplements. Even at low doses, xylitol can cause dangerously low blood sugar in dogs.
Additionally, some gummies may not contain the right amount of melatonin for dogs. In fact, research has found that melatonin supplements vary in quality, and some may contain a different amount of melatonin than what is listed on the package. For this reason, it is best to talk to a veterinarian about finding a high-quality melatonin supplement.
With such a wide range of melatonin supplements on the market, it can be challenging to find the right one for your dog. Melatonin comes in a variety of formulations for dogs, including pills, drops, powders, lotions, and liquids. Several considerations may be helpful when choosing a melatonin supplement.
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