Pet Health

Melatonin for Dogs: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects

Melatonin is used to treat many kinds of anxiety, hyperactivity, restlessness, and other conditions in dogs. Learn more about common side effects, uses & dosage.

6
min read

Dogs and melatonin may seem like a strange mix to most pet owners looking for supplements, but it has proven effective in some treatments if used appropriately. Some readers may already know a few of the effects melatonin has on humans, including better sleep and anxiety management. Still, you might be surprised to learn that dogs and melatonin supplements work surprisingly well together. 

Certain negative behavioral traits can arise in dogs, and melatonin can (and often does) help pet owners to manage those traits better and even eliminate them. 

While scientists haven’t studied melatonin for all the possible effects it can have on a dog’s body, veterinarians consider it safe enough to recommend in some instances. However, since melatonin can be purchased in regular stores, pet owners must understand what it is, how it works, and the effects it could have on their dogs before they administer the first dose.

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What Is Melatonin?

Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the human brain. It’s thought that the pineal gland starts to produce it within our bodies in response to darkness, playing an essential part in a person’s natural sleep cycle. In fact, darkness is so important to melatonin production that light interrupts the rest process. A common reason for insomnia and other sleep troubles in the modern age is the abundance of light sources that we interact with daily. 

Thankfully, labs can produce synthetic melatonin, which they regularly supply to retail stores as a dietary supplement that helps troubled sleepers. Often, people use the supplement to recover from jet lag or more quickly adjust to shifts in their work schedules. However, there have also been anecdotal reports of melatonin helping soothe anxiety and stress.

Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?

Melatonin proves to be just as effective in dogs as humans, providing many of the same benefits. Anxiety and restlessness are just as prevalent in dogs, and melatonin can help them.

While the supplement hasn’t been thoroughly tested for every possible side effect, the consensus is that it’s safe for dogs to consume as long as it’s administered with care.  

However, we still recommend that you get a vet’s opinion before you give your dog their first dose. Like humans, no two dogs will react the same way to melatonin treatments. Differences in their internal systems could mean that one dog receives the full beneficial effects of the supplement while the other resists it entirely. 

Something else you should watch out for is the brand of melatonin you purchase. Because melatonin is qualified as a dietary supplement rather than medicine, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate it as strictly. 

What the lack of regulation means for buyers is that manufacturers don’t use a universally approved formula or process to produce melatonin supplements. In exchange for being available over-the-counter, buyers have to be extra vigilant about what brand they buy melatonin from because each can vary wildly in ingredient quality and effectiveness. 

Each brand’s effect on your dog depends on the formula the manufacturer uses, so it’s essential to research each company thoroughly before buying its product. 

Uses of Melatonin for Dogs

We’ve already mentioned that melatonin provides many of the same health benefits to dogs as it does humans, but what does that mean for your furry friends’ overall wellbeing? Well, there are neurohormones present in dogs, and melatonin interacts with those already present to promote better physical and mental health outcomes than owners could achieve through training alone. 

While there isn’t a comprehensive list of potential health changes due to a lack of in-depth research into melatonin, professionals have documented some health outcomes in the past. 

Can Dogs Have Melatonin for Anxiety?

For dogs, melatonin works as a mild sedative that induces a relaxed state of mind. Giving the supplement to more anxious canines reduces their stress levels when going through normally adverse experiences. 

A routine of melatonin can help your furry companion conquer pervasive phobias, like a fear of loud noises, or reduce panic in certain situations, like being without their owner for extended periods. 

Can Dogs Have Melatonin for Restlessness?

Because they work as dog sleeping pills,  melatonin supplements can also help restless dogs fall asleep easier and quicker. Dogs who suffer from sleep disorders are often older and have trouble producing a naturally occurring sleep hormone in their brains. 

Taking melatonin can help your dog regulate their sleep schedule, granting them a healthier circadian rhythm. Fuller and more restful sleep can give even old dogs more energy when they wake up, making them more energetic throughout the day. 

Can Dogs Have Melatonin for Cushing’s Disease?

There’s some extenuating evidence that melatonin treatments can even help ease the symptoms of certain diseases. Cushing’s Disease, for example, is characterized by overproduction of cortisol within the brain.

The symptoms of Cushing’s Disease in dogs include:

  • Reduced appetite
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Loss of appetite 

These symptoms occur because cortisol is a stress hormone that causes the body’s internal systems to respond a certain way to tense situations. Since melatonin is a sedative, it can restrict the body’s natural production of cortisol to healthier levels, reducing the severity of the symptoms. 

How Much Melatonin Can I Give My Dog?

There are many factors to consider when determining the dosage of melatonin that’s right for your dog. Due to the variety in formulas of over-the-counter melatonin supplements and the different needs of each dog, we advise scheduling a supplement regimen according to a licensed veterinarian’s recommendation. 

The standard dosage for dogs is determined based on size: 

  • Dogs 10 to 25 pounds usually take 1.5 mg of melatonin 
  • Dogs 26 to 100 pounds take 3 mg 
  • Dogs over 100 pounds may take 3 to 6 mg, depending on its effectiveness

A good rule of thumb to determine the optimal amount for melatonin supplements (and avoid giving your dog too much, too soon) is to start with much smaller doses than recommended. Then, observe your dog for any notable changes in behavior and, if nothing happens, slowly increase the dosage until you find the one that works best for them. 

Side Effects

There are very few side effects reported when using melatonin to treat your dogs’ anxiety or restlessness, to the point where owners prefer it to regular pharmaceuticals. However, some dogs are more susceptible to the supplement’s side effects than others, so knowing how to recognize them will allow owners to make more informed decisions about continuing treatment. 

The side effects include:

  • Cramps and other intestinal problems
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Increased itching
  • Hair loss

Conclusion

In conclusion, melatonin is an excellent alternative to more traditional medicines when treating noise phobias and acting as a sleep aid for dogs.

As a pet owner, you likely only want the best for your pet which includes their health. Melatonin is nearly side-effect-free and shows strong evidence of relaxing even the most skittish of dogs without the harsh chemicals of traditional medicine. You can talk to your veterinarian for more information about if melatonin is right for your dog.

There are certain medical issues prevalent in dogs, and melatonin can often help them. But in a medical emergency, it’s good to have pet insurance to ensure the continued health of your canine companion. Use Fursure to buy the best pet insurance for your pet, here!