Health

Melatonin For Dogs (Treat Phobias, Anxiety & Stress)

Melatonin For Dogs
Written by Graeme Hall

I've noticed that increasingly more pet owners are starting to use Melatonin for dogs. What we've been taking to help us sleep turns out to have a long list of benefits for dogs too.

Even veterinarians are turning to this supplement to treat dogs rather than opting for chemical drugs as a treatment for various medical conditions. Although dogs produce Melatonin naturally, some may benefit from supplemental dosage to treat almost anything from hair loss to anxiety and stress.

This all sounds great, but there’s a catch. Even in humans, we don't fully understand how the Melatonin hormone works and for prescribing supplements to dogs we know even less. However, there have been a few studies on the use of Melatonin for dogs and all have reached the same conclusion - it seems safe and testing has shown Melatonin to successfully treat a range of health conditions in dogs and other pets.

So with so little known about the long-term Melatonin health benefits for your canine, why are so many pet owners turning to this supplement? ... Let's find out!

What is Melatonin?

Before we delve deeper into the benefits of giving Melatonin to your dog, let’s take a few minutes to understand a little more about this unique hormone. 

The pineal gland located in the brain is responsible for producing Melatonin. It’s this hormone that helps to control your sleeping patterns. To amount of Melatonin the pineal gland produces is controlled by your body’s internal clock (your circadian rhythm) and the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to throughout the day.

Generally, levels of Melatonin in the body will increase towards mid to late evening, after the sun has set. The raised levels of Melatonin will stay elevated while at night and will slowly start to drop as the sun rises, which will cause you to wake from your deep sleep.

Production of Melatonin is inhibited by daylight and the body only produces it during the night - This has earned this hormone the catchy name “the hormone of darkness”.

Aside from humans, this hormone is essential for animals. It’s Melatonin that keeps nocturnal animals awake during the night and other daytime animals awake during the day - without it, the world would be turned upside down!

Melatonin can be sourced from animals, but a more preferable method of producing this hormone is synthetically. Almost all nutrition shop's stock this hormone in powder, tablet, capsule, or liquid form alongside other popular food supplements and vitamins

Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?

Although Melatonin hasn't been officially approved by governing bodies for dogs that’s not stopping pet owners and even veterinarians supplementing dogs diets. Because Melatonin is naturally produced in the body by both humans and dogs, it should be perfectly safe and even beneficial if you follow the dosage suggested by your vet or the recommended intake as per the product label.

However, the few trials that have been carried out suggest that you shouldn't give Melatonin to your dog if they have a hormonal imbalance if they are pregnant, have diabetes, or if they're still a pup.

This is why we always recommend that you discuss dog supplement with your veterinarian and whether they think it's safe to give to your K9 buddy.

Reported side-effects of Melatonin for dogs are not common, because it’s a natural hormone already produced by the dog, complications are rare to non-existent. And, when faced with other alternatives to treat various conditions in your dog such as tranquilizers and other medications people generally opt for Melatonin on the advice of their vet because it is so seemingly safe.

But, a word of caution - always shop around for Melatonin products specifically designed for dogs. These are readily available and contain ingredients that are dog-friendly. The problem with human supplements is that they can contain ingredients that can be harmful to dogs - the artificial sweetener Xylitol is one such toxic ingredient which is often found in regular "human" Melatonin products.

Zesty Paws Advanced Calming Soft Chews Dogs Suntheanine and Melatonin

If you want to try giving Melatonin to your dog, we recommend Zesty Paws Calming Treats Dogs

Melatonin Benefits for Your Dog

So now you know a bit more about this natural hormone and that it's safe, let’s take a closer look at some known benefits of giving Melatonin to your dog.

Dogs Suffering From Anxiety

A popular use for Melatonin in dogs is to treat anxiety issues making it a great alternative to other harsher chemical medications such as tranquilizers administered by your vet. When given to your dog Melatonin acts as a mild sedative keeping your dog calm and relaxed.

If you know there's a thunderstorm brewing or there's going to be fireworks lighting up the sky a dose of Melatonin given to your dog should keep them at ease. For some dogs even a trip to the local groomers or a long car journey can get them spooked - again in these situations Melatonin can help.

Cushing’s Disease

If your dog is suffering from Cushing’s disease, which is caused by tumors on the adrenal or pituitary glands Melatonin can help to control the symptoms. The tumors cause higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and having too much will cause your dog to become overly stressed.

Melatonin inhibits the dog's ability to take up excess cortisol and having less cortisol is beneficial if your dog is suffering from this condition. Simply put, your dog's system will be a lot more relaxed and less stressed.

Almost all of the prescribed medications for dogs who suffer from Cushing’s disease have some nasty side-effects and in some cases can even alter the mood of your dog. Melatonin is a better solution for controlling your dog's hormone levels and it’s a lot easier on the dog’s system compared to the other chemical alternatives.

Seizures

Giving Melatonin to dogs that suffer from seizures has been shown to have a positive effect, and many pet owners have seen a noticeable reduction in seizures between 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM and fewer during other times of the day.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Senior dogs that suffer from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), which is the equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease in dogs, can benefit from Melatonin supplementation. It's heartbreaking to watch, as they age the dogs cognitive functioning deteriorates and just like humans they will start to become more confused and they'll have trouble remembering people and places.

As the symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction progress your dog will most likely suffer from an increase in anxiety along with a disrupted circadian cycle (sleep-wake cycle). Melatonin for dogs can be helpful with the anxiety and stress brought on by CCD as can also aid in giving your dog a better night's sleep.

Flank Alopecia

Dogs that suffer from Flank Alopecia have noticeable recurring hair loss on either side of their stomach during the spring or summer months. The cause of this hair loss is still a mystery but many veterinarians believe it’s caused by the dog having trouble with the changing seasons.

This is where Melatonin for dogs can be beneficial in helping to treat Flank Alopecia. Pet owners are convinced that supplementing dogs with Melatonin helps with the hair loss. The theory is that it helps to adjust the dip in Melatonin levels and really helps dogs keep their thick coats at the turn of the seasons.

how long does it take for melatonin to work on a dog?

Melatonin Dosage for Dogs

Because little is really known about the side-effects of Melatonin in dogs most veterinarians recommend starting with a low dose and then slowly increasing to see how the dog reacts - although the risks of an adverse reaction are rare, it's best to be cautious.

The weight and size of your dog will ultimately determine the recommended dosage of Melatonin for your dog and your veterinarian will also consider the condition that's being treated.

However, if you have purchased some dog-friendly Melatonin and you want to help treat anxiety or other general conditions, the below is a good guide on the recommended dosage for dogs.

Dogs Weight

Melatonin Dosage (per day)

Under 10 lbs

1 mg

Between 10 lbs to  25 lbs

1.5 mg

Between 26 lbs to 100 lbs

3 mg

Over 100 lbs

3 mg up to 6 mg

If your dog has a more serious pre-existing medical condition it's best to seek the advice of your local veterinarian on the correct dosage - in most cases, their treatment will already include Melatonin.

Side Effects of Melatonin

In the limited trails and reports from vets, there haven't been very many reports of negative side effects of Melatonin supplementation in dogs. However, every dog can react differently and they may experience adverse side effects.

For example, pregnant dogs or lactating mama dogs shouldn't be given additional Melatonin as it can have adverse effects on fertility hormones.

If your dog already has a pre-existing medical condition always seek the advice of your vet before you self-administer Melatonin. Diabetic dogs, for instance, already have problems with their insulin levels and additional Melatonin can have adverse effects on your dog's system.

Even though giving Melatonin to your dog is generally safe and side-effects are few and far between, some mild ailments that veterinarians have reported include:

  • An upset stomach (diarrhea).
  • Itchy and Irritated skin.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Reduced sex hormones.
  • Confusion (some dogs may be overly sensitive to the sedative properties of Melatonin).
  • Insulin resistance (problematic for dogs suffering from diabetes).

Generally, giving Melatonin to your dog seems relatively safe and risk-free, and this may be because it’s a naturally occurring hormone that's already being produced by your dog. 


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About the author

Graeme Hall

Graeme is the founder of Doggytastic! which is where he blogs about dog training, health, nutrition and anything else related to keeping a dog happy and healthy. Want to know a little bit more? Make sure to check out his full bio.

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