Melatonin Side Effects in Dogs
While melatonin is regarded as safe for most dogs, it’s still important to talk to your veterinarian before administering it to your pet.
Dosage will depend on the size of the dog and his sensitivity to the drug. It’s also important to run the supplement’s ingredient list by your veterinarian. Some brands of melatonin contain xylitol, which is poisonous to dogs, Haynes says.
The biggest side effect to melatonin is drowsiness. It can also cause digestive upset and, in some animals, an increased heart rate. It may also affect the reproductive cycle of female dogs and can cause insulin resistance in diabetic animals.
It’s also important to speak to your veterinarian to make sure the supplement doesn’t interact with other medicines your dog is taking.
And just like any medication, melatonin could cause an allergic reaction in your dog, Morgan says. “I’ve never seen it happen, but it’s something to watch out for.”
Find food that fits your pet’s needs
If you have a pooch who tends toward anxiety, you may wonder if melatonin is safe for them. In fact, veterinarians prescribe melatonin for dogs to help relieve sleep disorders and mild anxiety, as well as other issues. Read on to find out how melatonin may help dogs. As always, speak with your vet before giving your pet any type of medicine or supplement.
In mammals, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the brains pineal gland that regulates sleep cycles, alerting the body to when its time to sleep and wake up. Melatonin levels are highest at night and lowest during the day.
Most melatonin supplements are synthetic. However, so-called natural melatonin supplements are sourced from animals pineal glands.
Final thoughts on melatonin for dogs
While melatonin is a natural supplement that can be given to dogs, owners should never treat any ailments in their dogs without consulting a trained veterinarian. Studies about melatonins effectiveness for dogs are few, and most successful results are anecdotal.
Theres a tiny chance for adverse reactions when supplementing with melatonin, but potentially an even greater risk when given to dogs already on medication for other illnesses. Pregnant dogs and young puppies must never be given melatonin as this can cause serious issues.
We say this a lot but always consult your vet. When it comes to the health and wellbeing of your canine companion, a vet should naturally be your first point of contact before trying to administer treatment yourself. A vet will know what melatonin dose, if any, is appropriate for your dog and which brand of melatonin supplement to use that doesnt contain ingredients that could harm your dog. Share this Article
Is human melatonin safe for dogs?
This week’s guest post comes from Dr Sarah Robinson. Sarah attended veterinary school at Oklahoma State University receiving a DVM in 2008. Sarah’s longtime interest is to help people to better communicate with their pet companions, and in doing so, to help them to strengthen their relationships with their dogs and cats.
If these problems ring a bell, then one option that may be useful to settle your dog is an over the counter supplement called melatonin. The benefits of melatonin for dogs include that it is a non-prescription product, with a low risk of side effects, and it can help your fur-friend to relax.
Then let’s look in more detail about the melatonin dosage for dogs and the possible effects.
First up is to see if melatonin for dogs is something that should be on your shopping list. It may interest you that melatonin is most commonly used in people to help with jet lag or sleeping relating problems. So how is this relevant to dogs?
Unfortunately anxiety in dogs is far more common than you might suppose. Indeed many antisocial activities, such as barking at strangers, are actually a manifestation of anxiety. This is because the dog that feels insecure decides to keep that person at paws length by barking at them.
Other dogs may be afflicted with a more general fear of life. This is commonly the result of inadequate socialization as a pup and lack of exposure to different people and places. This is especially distressing as it is linked to puppy mills and puppies that were kept isolated in cages for the early weeks of their life.
Another form of anxiety that can be extremely difficult to live with, for dog and owner alike, is separation anxiety. This is where a dog forms a strong bond with the pet parent, and then when the owner has to leave the dog alone, the latter has an anxiety attack. This can take the form of defecating and urinating in the house, destructive behavior such as chewing furniture, or constant barking that makes you unpopular with neighbors…even a block away.
Building these distressed dogs’ confidence takes time, patience, and a protocol put in place by a trained behaviorist. However, in the short term you may feel that the dog is so unhappy that they need a ‘first aid’ treatment. This is where melatonin for dogs may have a use to take the edge of the dog’s anxiety and help them rest more peacefully.
Some elderly dogs have disturbed sleep patterns because they have lost the knack of sleeping at night and waking during the day. This can lead to the dog asking for food, walks, or play in the small hours of the morning when the whole house should be slumbering.
Melatonin may be helpful in that it works by telling the brain it’s time to sleep (For this reason melatonin is nick-named the “sleep hormone”) so giving a low dose may reset that time clock. However, this should only ever be attempted after your dog has had a thorough check over by the vet and any underlying health issues corrected.
Bear in mind that a sore joint, toothache, or the need to toilet are all real problems that could wake a dog and need sorting out in order for the dog to get a good night’s sleep. Giving melatonin in these cases is unlikely to work and may actually cause the dog to be uncomfortable for longer if the underlying problem is ignored.
Alopecia is the scientific term for baldness, and this often dramatic looking form of coat loss principally affects the Pomeranian. Unfortunately, despite extensive research these bald buddies often remain that way because no definitive reason for their fur falling out has been identified.
However, what has happened is that various therapies have caused an improvement in some cases, although there seems little rational explanation as to why. Melatonin is one of those therapies. Some dogs that were given a melatonin supplement went on to develop a new growth of plush fur. Scientists aren’t sure why and are inclined to say it was a coincidence. Whether you give this a try for your dog with Alopecia X will depend on whether you prefer the evidence of tried and tested science or are prepared to take a punt.
For some dogs taking melatonin has the side effect of stimulating their hunger. Whilst this isn’t great news for an overweight hound on a diet, if your dog is a poor eater then the extra interest in food could come as a relief.
As with those dogs that wake at night, be sure to get your pet pal checked by a vet, since any health problems that cause the dog to lose their appetite much be redressed.
This all sounds very interesting but you’re left wondering what melatonin is. We’ve already mentioned it has the nickname the “sleep hormone” and this is because it’s a naturally produced hormone that is especially plentiful in the blood during sleep. The pineal gland in the brain pushes out melatonin at night, which leaves the question: Is this the chicken or the egg? Do high levels of melatonin make us sleep, or do we produce it because we’re asleep?
Whichever way round the explanation is, people take melatonin to help readjust their sleep patterns after a long haul flight or the irregular hours of shift work. It is for this reason that giving melatonin supplements made the jump of being given to dogs.
You want to help your dog, not harm him, so it’s wise to know can dogs take melatonin or not. Indeed, because melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body, it is considered a supplement rather than a drug. In this respect it is generally considered safe and relatively free from side effects.
When they do occur the side effects tend to be mild and wear off quickly as blood levels go down once the melatonin is stopped. The main side effects to watch out for are:
When wondering “Can I give my dog melatonin and see what happens?” just remember that any underlying problems that might wake your pet or explain the symptoms, should be corrected first. As with any medication or supplement you’re thinking of giving to your dog, first give your vet a quick call and check it’s OK to do.
Before we get carried away it’s important to understand the melatonin in dogs is considered experimental. There are no scientifically tried and tested benefits, and no guarantee that taking melatonin will help your dog. Indeed, many scientists argue any apparent results are just a coincidence…so make your decision to dose or not, with an open mind.
With no formal clinical trials into the melatonin dosage for dogs, the recommendations are based on extrapolations for the dose given to people. This also means that it’s best to play it safe and not give it to those dogs that are more vulnerable such as:
Indeed it should be noted that melatonin seems to be linked to blood clotting problems in some patients, and so should not be given with:
Melatonin tablets come in a variety of strengths from 1mg to 10 mg. Typically; around 3 – 6 mg per dog is advised, given two to three times daily. The tablet form is widely available from pharmacies and health food outlets, without prescription.
For dogs with Alopecia X a slow release form of melatonin is ideal in order to stimulate hair growth. The implant, Dermatonin, can be injected by your vet in the skin under the dog’s scruff. Each implant works for about four months at a time.
And finally, know that melatonin is not a magical answer to your dog’s sleeping or anxiety disorders, but may help as part of a wider program to retrain or get to the bottom of health issues. On the other hand, when melatonin is easy to obtain and relatively free from side effects, you may decide this is a case of what have you to lose by giving it a go?