Can I Give My Dog Melatonin?
Here's what to know about melatonin and dogs.
Melatonin is a natural hormone supplement most commonly used by people who have insomnia or other sleep-related issues. But can dogs have melatonin, too? And if so, how much is safe? Before administering any type of medication to your pup, talk with your veterinarian about the proper dosage amount and any other concerns you may have.
The short answer is yes, melatonin is considered safe for dogs. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), melatonin supplements can be used to treat anxiety, behavior disorders, stress from noise like fireworks and thunderstorms, canine hair loss, and Cushing’s disease (which occurs when the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol in a dog’s body).
In a study published by The Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Linda Aronson, a registered veterinarian and dog behaviorist, reported positive results in about 80 percent of dogs suffering from noise-related fears after they were treated with melatonin.
However, there are some things you should know before giving your dog melatonin.
We spoke with Dr. Claudine Sievert, a registered veterinarian and consultant for Stayyy, to find out more about melatonin and dogs.
Can dogs have melatonin?
“Yes, melatonin is safe for dogs. In fact, both humans and dogs produce melatonin naturally, which is why it’s considered a safe supplement,” Dr. Sievert told The Dodo.
That being said, the answer does come with a few caveats, according to Dr. Sievert:
- Avoid giving melatonin to pregnant dogs and puppies under 12 weeks old.
- Never give your dog melatonin more than three times a day (and don’t give two doses of melatonin to dogs in one sitting).
- Make sure to read the supplement label to ensure it doesn't contain added fillers or coatings — or xylitol, which is toxic for dogs — with the potential to cause low blood sugar and liver injury.
- If your dog’s hyper or has anxiety, consider trying calming treats as an alternative.
Do you need to get special melatonin for dogs?
While purchasing dog-specific melatonin supplements isn’t necessary, Dr. Sievert noted, “It’s important that you read the label carefully to ensure it's free of added fillers or coating that could be harmful to dogs, especially the sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to your pup.”
If you have trouble finding a human melatonin supplement without additives, Dr. Sievert suggested buying one made specifically for dogs or asking your veterinarian for a recommendation.
Melatonin dosage for dogs
Melatonin dosage is determined by the size of your dog.
“The correct dosage is about 1 [miligram] of melatonin per 20 pounds of your dog's weight,” Dr. Sievert said. “Please consider that it takes about 30 to 45 minutes to take effect, and it will last for about eight hours.”
However, before giving your dog any supplements, talk to your veterinarian first to determine efficacy and accurate dosing.
When to give your dog melatonin
Melatonin is known to help ease discomfort related to sleep disorders, mild symptoms of Cushing’s disease and prevention of hair loss, and even cognitive discomfort in senior dogs.
In fact, since Dr. Aronson’s study was first published in the 1990s, she has continued to use melatonin to treat senior dogs with cognitive dysfunction, day-night reversal (essentially, sleeping during the day and awake during the night) and other sleep issues.
When given before a stressful situation, like fireworks, thunderstorms or leaving the house, melatonin can help your dog relax and sleep better.
Side effects of giving melatonin to dogs
While side effects are rare, changes in fertility, stomach upset, increased heart rate, itching and confusion have been reported. Your pup may also experience drowsiness and fatigue after taking melatonin. Also, avoid using the supplement if your dog has diabetes, as melatonin has been known to cause a resistance to insulin.
It should be noted that limited studies have been performed on the effectiveness of using melatonin to treat dogs, and when administering any sort of medication to your dog, you should talk with your veterinarian first.
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