You've probably heard of melatonin before. It's a chemical synthesized naturally in your own body and in your dog's as well.
Melatonin supplements for humans are widely available in health food stores, convenience stores, and even grocery outlets, so they're not difficult to get your hands on. But is melatonin safe for dogs? And is giving your dog a melatonin supplement a good idea?
In human patients, melatonin is usually given as a sleep aid because of the way it helps to regulate the sleep/wake cycle. The chemical has the same effect on your dog. But the truth is that it can also offer other benefits for your four-legged friend.
So, can you give a dog melatonin? Yes, but it's not as simple as giving your dog the melatonin supplement you take to help you sleep. Let's take a closer look at how melatonin works in dogs and whether or not it's safe.
How Does Melatonin Work?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced by the pineal gland, a tiny, pea-sized gland in the brain of both humans and dogs. It is then distributed throughout the body where it performs various functions, including helping to regulate the sleep cycle.
Melatonin regulates your circadian rhythm, or your natural rhythm of sleeping and waking up. When it gets dark outside, the body gives a signal to the pineal gland to produce more melatonin, which makes you feel tired. When the sun starts to come up, your brain receives the signal to decrease the production of melatonin, helping you to wake up.
A synthesized form of melatonin has been produced by laboratories for many years. It's most often given to human patients as a supplement to help regulate sleep, especially in cases of insomnia, jet lag, or other conditions. And it turns out that it can help dogs regulate their sleep cycles, too, especially if they're melatonin-deficient.
What Are the Uses of Melatonin for Dogs?
The main use of melatonin for dogs is, as you can imagine, regulating the sleep cycle. But veterinarians prescribe melatonin to dogs for other reasons, too. And since it's a naturally occurring, chemical-free hormone that a dog's body already produces, dog owners can feel good about giving their pet something that's naturally occurring.
Melatonin can help treat conditions and disorders like:
- Sleep disorders. Sleep problems like insomnia are often caused by an insufficient amount of melatonin in the system. So, adding a melatonin supplement can help regulate your dog's circadian rhythm and help them sleep at night as they normally would. This is especially helpful for older dogs, who sometimes have more trouble sleeping through the night than their younger counterparts.
- Anxiety and phobias. There are all sorts of anxieties and phobias that dogs suffer from, including separation anxiety, thunderstorm anxiety, and fear of loud noises, just to name a few. Thanks to the calming effect of melatonin, it can work as a solution to help your dog settle down and feel more comfortable.
- Alopecia. Alopecia, also known as hair loss, is something that many dogs suffer from. It can be caused by a variety of disorders, and melatonin products are a common solution. That's because one of the "side effects" of melatonin is the promotion of hair growth.
- Cushing's disease. Cushing's disease is a hormonal disorder in which your dog's body produces too much cortisol. Many dogs who suffer from the disease have tumors in the pituitary gland, making the gland function improperly. Since melatonin helps to regulate the hormonal balance in the body and can help with issues like insomnia and hair loss, it's sometimes prescribed for dogs suffering from Cushing's disease.
Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?
Since melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that your canine companion's body already produces, it's generally safe. However, there can be side effects associated with melatonin, especially in dogs with pre-existing conditions. Take note that it is not an FDA-approved drug, even though it's available over-the-counter and online.
Possible side effects of melatonin in dogs include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Digestive issues like upset stomach or abdominal pain
- Behavioral changes
- Changes in the reproductive cycle in females
- Insulin resistance in dogs with diabetes
Additionally, certain dogs shouldn't take melatonin, or they should be closely monitored by a veterinarian if they are prescribed melatonin. This includes pregnant dogs, young puppies, and dogs suffering from medical conditions like kidney or liver problems, brain disorders, allergies, seizures, and bleeding disorders.
Certain medications or supplements, such as painkillers like carprofen or meloxicam, can interact poorly with melatonin, so it's always best for a veterinarian to sign off on any dog taking melatonin just to make sure it's completely safe. You might also consider offering your dog another type of calming aid, such as calming chews.
Understanding Melatonin Dosage
Can you give a dog melatonin supplements that are made for humans? Although the active ingredient in a human melatonin supplement is the same as the active ingredient in a canine melatonin supplement, there are two main problems.
One, the dosage may not be correct. Secondly, some melatonin supplements for humans are made with xylitol, an artificial sugar substitute that can poison dogs.
It's not a good idea to give your dog a melatonin tablet made for humans. It's far safer to stick to one made specifically for dogs. This way, you can be sure that the dosage is correct and that there will be no additional additives, like xylitol, that could cause harm.
Most of the time, dosage recommendations correspond with your dog's weight. A veterinarian will be able to recommend the correct amount for your dog.
Your bet might recommend that you administer this dosage to your dog only once per day or that you give your dog the full dosage multiple times in a day. It all depends on your dog's condition and why they're taking melatonin in the first place.
Technically, it is possible for a dog to overdose on melatonin, although it isn't common. A small overdose will probably just lead to an upset stomach and drowsiness, but a major overdose could cause more serious symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, loss of coordination, and even seizures. That's why it's so important to follow your veterinarian's instructions to the letter when administering melatonin to your dog.
Melatonin for dogs comes in various forms, including pills, chewable tablets, and even drops and injections. Work with your veterinarian to figure out what form of melatonin will best suit your canine companion.
Can You Give a Dog Melatonin? Yes, With Your Vet's Permission
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in your dog's pineal gland. Whether your dog is deficient in the hormone or they need it to help manage or treat a condition, melatonin is prescribed to dogs regularly and is generally considered a safe option. Most often, it's prescribed by veterinarians to help dogs regulate their sleep cycles and sleep comfortably through the night.
Be aware that melatonin can cause various side effects in dogs, and may not be suitable for certain dogs depending on pre-existing conditions, age, and other factors.
It's even possible for dogs to overdose on melatonin if too much is given at once. That's why you shouldn't give your dog melatonin — especially a supplement designed for humans — without the express permission of your veterinarian. But when given in the proper dosage with the approval and guidance of a veterinarian, melatonin is a safe option for your pet.
Would you like more information on your dog's health and wellness needs? Visit the PetHonesty blog.