All dogs can suffer from many of the same medical issues as humans, including separation anxiety, stress, and disruptive sleep patterns. A dog’s sleeping position can tell you a lot about how they’re feeling and if they’re stressed or relaxed.
Many veterinarians recommend prescription medications or antihistamines to alleviate these conditions. However, dogs are like many humans in one respect and can have adverse reactions to a lot of medications. An alternative to prescription drugs is hormones that humans and dogs produce naturally. Although a medical lab can produce melatonin, it’s naturally made by humans and dogs. The amount of melatonin that’s released into the body decreases during the day and increases at night. Production of the hormone decreases in humans and dogs as we age.
Can Dogs Take Melatonin?
Before you give your dog supplements or natural hormones, it’s a good idea to be informed about the use and any possible side effects. That being said, you can give your dog melatonin, but you should be aware of its use and how to administer it. If you have any questions, it’s advisable to discuss them with your veterinarian.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormonal enhancer that has calming properties. The hormone can be beneficial for dogs that suffer from anxiety, restless behavior, hyperactivity, and other social and medical issues. Melatonin regulates seasonal and circadian sleep patterns. The hormone is produced in the brain’s pineal gland. The amount of the hormone that the brain releases into the body depend on the time of day. The amount of the hormone the body produces decreases in environments with less light. Melatonin released into the body decreases at night.
What Is Melatonin Used For?
Melatonin is effective for a variety of health issues. The primary reasons for using melatonin are:
- Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
- Hair Loss
- Platelet conditions
- Sundowner Syndrome
- Weight gain after surgery
People understand the implications of eating disorders. However, eating disorders like anorexia can have severe effects on dogs. When a dog stops eating, problems with the heart and lungs, shortness of breath, and jaundice may occur. However, when a dog starts eating something different like your cat’s food, it likely isn’t anything to be concerned about.
Melatonin can be helpful for dogs who suffer from different types of anxiety. Dogs that are home alone a lot when their owners are at work often suffer from separation anxiety. Your dog can experience less stress due to loud noises, thunderstorms, and fireworks with melatonin. Many veterinarians use a holistic approach to canine medicine and anxiety issues. When a dog has a reaction to their owner leaving, gets overly enthusiastic upon their return, or suffers from stress when they hear loud noises, melatonin may help.
Signs that a dog may be experiencing cognitive dysfunction include:
- Changes in the waking-sleeping cycle
- Accidents in the house
- Interactions with family and other pets changes
- Activity level decreases
- Moments of disorientation happen more frequently
Canine cognitive dysfunction is sometimes referred to as Sundowner’s Syndrome. The condition is a process that’s progressive in aging pets.
When dogs lose fur due to Cushing’s disease or from excessive scratching, the coat may grow back with melatonin since it aids in hair regrowth. Another medical issue that melatonin may help in is platelet conditions. According to the ASPCA, the supplement may be helpful in treating Primary ITP in dogs.
There’s no evidence to suggest that melatonin causes weight gain after canine surgery. However, a study of animals in 2018 indicated that the hormone might help with obesity without changing food intake. The hormone can be beneficial for dogs following surgery. Melatonin can support the gastrointestinal tract, so dogs that are malnourished have healthier digestive systems. By reinforcing good gut health, dogs that are sick or malnourished are able to better digest food and get to a healthy weight. Many pet owners prefer to use natural hormone supplements to treat issues their dog has. Prescription medications can cause adverse side effects in many pets.
How Does Melatonin Work?
Melatonin is a natural hormone. Although the pineal gland produces the hormone, it’s also found in some foods. The hormone regulates sleeping and waking cycles, protects cells in the body from free radicals, and promotes a healthy immune system. Bright daylight prohibits the production of melatonin. During the nighttime hours, when light is at a minimum, the brain produces more of the hormone.
In some medical studies, melatonin is more potent than vitamin E in neutralizing free radicals that are harmful to DNA. Although melatonin has traditionally been used as a natural sleep aid, veterinarians are finding it to be beneficial in treating canine disorders, including anxiety, stress, and behavior problems.
As humans and pets age, melatonin production in the brain decreases. When the levels of the hormone in the body are lower, sleep patterns can be disrupted, and that can lead to issues with stress and anxiety. Fortunately, the side effects of human and canine use of the hormone are minimal.
What Are The Side Effects?
Melatonin is naturally produced in humans and animals. Very few side effects have been reported when used for dogs. However, like any supplement or medication, the hormone should be used according to the instructions of your veterinarian. Although they’re quite rare, the following side effects have been noted by dog owners:
- Changes in behavior
- Changes in the reproductive cycles in females
- Digestive problems and upset stomach
- Excessive sleepiness
- Increase in heart rate
If you notice any unusual changes in behavior or signs of pain when you’re giving your dog melatonin, you should immediately contact your veterinarian.
When Should Melatonin Not Be Used?
All supplements aren’t appropriate for every dog and there are exceptions when administering melatonin. The hormone should not be used for:
- Brain issues
- Kidney problems
- Liver diseases
Melatonin should never be used for dogs that are pregnant or puppies that are under 12 weeks of age. Melatonin used with other supplements or prescription medications can have adverse effects. You should always discuss prescription, over-the-counter medications, and supplements with your veterinarian before combining them.
Can Dogs Take Human-Grade Melatonin?
Although pet product suppliers sell supplements that contain melatonin, the formulas for humans and pets contain exactly the same hormone, so it’s usually safe to give human-grade melatonin to your dog. Two points to be aware of are that some forms of melatonin that are human-grade contain additives like xylitol, which is very toxic to dogs. You should always check the ingredients label before giving any supplement to your dog. The other thing to be aware of is the dosage. Some melatonin may be in dosages that are too high for your dog. Another point to be aware of is some pet product suppliers make treats for pets that contain melatonin. Even though it’s a treat, you shouldn’t exceed the recommended daily amount.
How To Administer And Dosages
There are two ways to administer melatonin to your dog. Some veterinarians recommend an implant that’s injected under the dog’s skin. The implant releases a steady flow of the hormone. In this case, the implant is done by the vet, and you have nothing further to do.
Most often, melatonin is administered to dogs in the form of a tablet. You give the tablet to your dog the way you would with any other medication. Some dogs take medications easier if they’re hidden in a favorite treat. Pet product suppliers sell flavored pockets that medication can be hidden in, making it easier to administer.
Can Dogs Overdose On Melatonin?
Dogs can overdose on melatonin like any other medication if you don’t follow your veterinarian’s instructions. The hormone should never be used with:
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Proper Dosages Of Melatonin For Dogs
- Dogs weighing under 10 pounds: 1 mg
- Dogs weighing between 10 to 25 lbs: 1.5 mg
- Dogs weighing between 26 to 100 lbs: 3 mg
- Dogs weighing over 100 lbs: 3 to 6 mg
The medication shouldn’t be given more than three times a day. Your veterinarian may have different recommendations about dosages of melatonin. It’s best to consult your vet first.
Before using melatonin, a natural supplement or medication for your dog, you should always discuss it with your veterinarian. Although melatonin is safe, your vet is the best judge of how it should be used for your dog. Hormones and natural supplements can curb anxiety and stress. By using behavior modification techniques along with melatonin, new behaviors can be learned. Stressful and anxious habits can be changed into positive behavior.
1. How much melatonin can you give a dog?
The dosage of melatonin you give your dog depends on his or her size and what the hormone is being used for. It’s vital that your dog isn’t given more than three doses of melatonin of the recommended dosage within 24 hours.
- Dogs 10 pounds and under 1 mg
- Dogs 10 to 25 pounds: 1.5 mg
- Dogs 26 to 100 pounds and over: 3 to 6 mg
2. Will 10mg melatonin hurt a dog?
A 10-milligram dosage of melatonin is too much even for a large breed dog. A small overdose isn’t likely to cause any severe side effect. However, a larger dosage could be very serious. You should always write down when the dog was given the hormone and how much was given to avoid overdosing.
3. What pill can you give a dog to calm down?
Prescription pills are available from your veterinarian. An alternative for calming anxious or stressed dogs is Benadryl. If you use Benadryl for your dog, make sure it’s the type that only contains diphenhydramine and no other ingredients. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine and works well for calming dogs that are stressed.
4. What can I give my dog to make him sleep?
Diphenhydramine, aka Benadryl, works well if you need to get your dog to sleep. Melatonin is a more natural alternative and can calm an anxious dog enough so he or she can rest. If giving your dog a pill to help him sleep is difficult, melatonin is available from several pet product manufacturers in liquid form. The hormone can be administered with a dropper or added to your dog’s food.
5. Side effects of melatonin in dogs
The side effects of melatonin may include an increase in the dog’s heart rate. Your dog may experience an upset stomach or problems digesting food. Some dogs get excessively sleepy or have issues with confusion. Some dogs experience changes in their behavior or scratch constantly due to itching.