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Is Melatonin Safe For My Dog?

June 6th, 2019
Is Melatonin Safe For My Dog?

Dogs and humans have one major thing in common: their bodies synthesize a chemical called melatonin. The pineal gland is majorly responsible for creating this chemical in your dog’s body. You may not know it, but most vets use the chemical to treat various medical conditions.

Your vet may prescribe it for anxiety, insomnia, or even Cushing’s disease. It is the perfect cure for a number of different mood and behavioral problems in dogs. 

If you search for it, you might find that there is a lack of scientific evidence on the effect of melatonin for dogs. Even so, many vets prescribe the drug for various treatments. This is because it is deemed safe by most pet doctors. If given in the correct amount, it can be quite effective against certain behavioral conditions.

While it is completely possible for your dog to overdose on melatonin, it can be easily prevented by constant monitoring of the drug. But what is melatonin? And how does it help your dog?

If you want your pup to be happier and healthier than ever, then keep reading. Find out exactly what melatonin does for your dog.

What Is Melatonin for Dogs?

Our bodies have various glands that secrete chemicals called hormones. One such gland is the pineal gland. It is basically a small pea-sized gland located in the brain of both animals and humans. The pineal gland secretes the hormone melatonin, which performs various functions in the body.

The chemical is responsible for regulating our need to sleep. It is responsible for telling us when we should sleep and when we should be awake: or, as most experts put it, it helps regulate the circadian rhythm of your body. In case the melatonin does not develop in a sufficient amount, it can lead to sleep problems. Even in humans, insufficient production of the chemical can lead to conditions such as insomnia.

If you’ve suffered from insomnia, you know how difficult it can be. Now think about your beloved pet who cannot even speak. Not being able to sleep is a fate some say is even worse than death. To combat the insufficient production of melatonin, vets often prescribe the drug.

Even in humans, the drug is used as a natural supplement in the diet to aid sleep. However, that’s not all. It can combat other problems as well with as little side effects as possible.

How Does Melatonin Work on Canines?

Melatonin works in dogs and humans in a similar way. It regulates your sleep cycle or your circadian rhythm. The natural cycle is that once it gets dark, the body gives a signal to the pineal gland. The pineal gland starts to increase the production of the chemical. This increased melatonin is responsible for making you feel sleepy.

Similarly, the brain also signals the gland when the sun comes up. This way, the gland decreases the production of melatonin, causing you to wake up. This is called the circadian rhythm.

Most people who suffer from sleep disorders do not receive sufficient melatonin. This results in a disrupted sleep cycle which can often lead to a spiral of different diseases. This is also the case with dogs. Their pineal glands might not be producing sufficient melatonin which can cause sleep disorders.

Imagine if your dog was deficient on calcium. You’d probably give him calcium supplements to makeup for the deficiency. Similarly, if your dog is deficient in the production of melatonin, it’s only common sense that you would give him melatonin supplements.

With proper doses of the drug, you’ll find that your dog’s body can easily regulate its sleep cycle. You’ll be sleeping more peacefully knowing that your dog is sleeping peacefully too. Since it induces sleep, it may also be used as a sedative to treat hyperactivity and other behavioral problems.

Uses of This Medicine

You might wonder about why you should use melatonin for your pooch. The answer is that it can act as the perfect supplement and can help treat a number of different disorders. The best part is that it is a natural and chemical-free product that your body already makes. Thus, you are not injecting your body with a bunch of different foreign chemicals. Instead, you’re taking in a substance that your body already makes.

All in all, melatonin can be used to treat the following diseases:

1. Cushing’s Disease

An imbalance in your dog’s hormones can eventually lead to an increase in the production of cortisol. This condition is identified as Canine’s Cushing disease. The disease is often associated with tumors within the pituitary gland leading to inefficient operation of the gland.

Humans tend to suffer from this condition as well. However, in their case, the condition is operable and can be eliminated completely. However, dogs are not so lucky. Some dogs even suffer from the condition because their adrenal glands have tumors.

These tumors can be benign as well as malignant. Whatever the case, the condition tends to leave behind a ton of different symptoms including

  • Obesity
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
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    Insomnia

You might want to give your dog traditional medicine. However, the drugs can be quite harsh as they come with a plethora of adverse effects that can end up harming your dog instead of helping him. These can include side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, and even something as severe as kidney and heart failure.

Furthermore, regular and proper doses of melatonin can help ease the symptoms of the disease and regulate the hormonal balance in the dog’s body.

2. Anxiety

Think about how happy your pooch is everytime you return home. The main reason is that he may be anxious when you leave him alone in the house. This is often termed as separation anxiety. Separation anxiety isn’t the only form of anxiety dogs suffer from.

Whatever the cause, melatonin can help calm them down and assist these dogs. This is because it acts as a sedative and induces sleep and laziness. As a result, it tends to soothe and calm them down.

Some dogs even have reactions to extremely loud sounds such as thunderstorms and fireworks. For them, the drug works like a miracle. It calms them down and reduces their anxiety. This way you won’t have to worry about leaving him alone in the house or general anxiety attacks.

3. Sleep Disorders

The most common use of melatonin combating against sleep disorders such as insomnia. Sleeping disorders are more common in older dogs. However, when you give your pooch a dose of melatonin, it helps regulate the sleeping cycle. Furthermore, the drug puts their body in sync with the circadian rhythm.

Dogs that do not produce a sufficient amount of the chemical often suffer from these disorders. These supplements can help them sleep for the appropriate amount of time and at the appropriate time as well.

4. Alopecia

Some dogs seasonally shed a lot of fur. However, a number of dogs may shed too much and may be a victim of alopecia which is a hair loss condition. Melatonin can help regulate these seasonal hair losses.

Main Benefits of Melatonin for Dogs

The main benefits of giving your dog melatonin are:

  • It can help control the sleeping pattern of your dog. Some older dogs may suffer from various sleep disorders where they cannot sleep or do not sleep at the correct time.
  • The drug is quite beneficial for those dogs that suffer from anxiety issues such as separation anxiety.
  • It helps in combating seasonal hair loss such as alopecia.
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    Melatonin is quite effective against all kinds of phobias.
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    The drug is effective for gaining weight as well, especially if your dog has lost weight due to surgery or disease.

Is This Medicine Safe For My Canine?

The quick answer is that yes, it is completely safe for dogs just as it is safe for humans. The reason being it is a naturally occurring compound already present in the body. It’s quite different from ingesting foreign chemicals.

However, as with all drugs, it is important that you consult with your vet first. They can help you find the accurate dose for your dog. Furthermore, your dog may already be on medications that can react with excessive melatonin or your dog may suffer from some conditions where melatonin can harm them.

So, only your vet can tell you if melatonin is the correct answer to your problems. The key to successful melatonin treatment is proper and accurate doses. Your vet can tell the accurate dose for your dog. It depends on their size and weight as well as the severity of the condition you use the melatonin for.

Although melatonin is non-FDA approved, it is still an over-the-counter drug. You can find it any store or even online. Still, it is important that you consult with your vet and get a prescription for the medicine before you even think about giving it to your dog.

Melatonin Dosage

Like many other medications, the proper dose of the chemical depends on a number of different factors which include the weight, size and the age of the dog. Another important factor happens to be the general health condition of the dog. Some dogs may already be suffering from a condition and the drug may elevate the symptoms. In such cases, it is important to monitor the dosage of the drug.

Only your vet will be able to prescribe the correct amount of melatonin for your dog based on these factors. Otherwise, you can risk the health and happiness of your dog. Some dogs are not quite well equipped to handle melatonin while others may show signs of better health from the first dose.

Typically, most vets follow these dosage recommendations based on the weight of your dog:

  • If your dog weighs less than 10 pounds, then a dose of 1 mg is highly recommended.
  • 1.5 mg of melatonin is appropriate for dogs weighing anywhere from 10 to 25 pounds.
  • If your dog weighs between 26 and 100 pounds then administer 3 mg of melatonin.
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    For dogs weighing more than 100 pounds, vets usually recommend about 3–6 mg of the substance.

Do not give these doses more than three times a day.

Side Effects of Melatonin for Dogs

The best part about the drug is that side effects are quite rare. You’ll rarely find a dog reacting adversely to the drug. Also, the side effects are quite a few and mediocre. Still, as a pet owner, it is your responsibility to educate yourself on all kinds of adverse reactions your dog can have to the medicine.

It is especially important as your dog can accidentally overdose on the drug by chewing on the bottle. It is imperative that you recognize the warning signs immediately. This allows you to respond quicker which can often mean the difference between life and death.

The main side effects of melatonin for dogs are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insulin resistance for dogs that suffer from diabetes
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    Upset stomach including vomiting and diarrhea
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    Loss of coordination
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    High blood pressure
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    Seizures
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    Weakness
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    Loss of fertility

Another important thing to note is that you should always thoroughly check with the vet about which kind of melatonin to give your dog. Some supplements often have a compound called Xylitol mixed in them. This chemical is toxic to dogs and can result in severe complications.

What to Do When Your Dog Overdoses

As we mentioned, it is important that you educate yourself about the symptoms of an overdose. Most often, the symptoms are quite similar to the side effects; however, they happen to be much more severe. If your dog has overdosed on too much medicine, it can result in extreme symptoms such as severe diarrhea or constant vomiting.

When you are giving your dog melatonin, it is important that you pay attention to your dog and monitor him throughout the day. In case, any severe symptoms show up, we recommend that you instantly call the Poison Control Helpline or contact your vet.

Here’s what you can do to prevent an overdose:

  • Keep all medications in a safe place that your pet cannot reach. Mostly, we recommend that you keep it locked in a cupboard.
  • In case you miss a dose, never give your dog double doses. Simply, give him his normal dose when it’s time for his next dose.
  • Ask your vet for the correct dose of melatonin as well as any other instructions regarding it.
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    If your dog has accidentally overdosed on the drug, try to induce vomiting while calling for the vet or the Poison helpline.
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    Ensure all members of the house are aware of the accurate dose and timings.

The chances of an overdose might scare you off from using the drug for your dog. However, put your worries to rest. As we already mentioned, the side effects of the drug are rare and an overdose is unlikely to occur. In fact, it is perhaps the safest supplement you’ll find to melatonin.

Forms of Melatonin

Melatonin is available in a number of different forms such as:

  • Chewable tablets
  • Pills
  • Injections
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    Drops

The best choice is to administer the drug using pills or chewable tablets. Some brands come with flavored chewable tablets that make it easier for the pooch to eat them. In case it is not, you can try giving it to him with a treat to ensure he does regurgitate the tablets.

If you choose to give your dog melatonin in the form of drops, it is important to ensure that he drinks up all the drops. Another unique method of giving your dog melatonin is through injectable implants. These are implanted under the chin. They help maintain a steady level of melatonin in the blood by injecting the dog with a specific amount of the drug over a set period of time. It also helps eliminate any chances of missed doses or overdoses. 

The Final Verdict

Melatonin is a great supplement that can help your dog battle a wide variety of conditions including anxiety and various sleeping disorders. In fact, you can find various choices online. However, we do recommend that you consult with your vet before choosing these generic brands. They can often end up harming your dog more than helping him.

Also, do not go for supplements that are tailored to humans or other pets. Consult with your vet about the correct dose and keep a lookout for signs and symptoms of an overdose. This safe and healthy alternative can help you keep your dog at peace by eliminating all the symptoms related to various diseases.

Think about it. Who wouldn’t want to invest in a healthy and happy pet? The bonus point is that when your pet is happy, you’re happy as well.