Updated - Jul 15th, 2022
If you have a dog that isn’t sleeping well or is wandering around aimlessly during the night, you may have considered giving them one of your melatonin supplements. While melatonin is safe for dogs, the human version may not be. Let’s look at all the reasons melatonin can help our canines, how to use it safely, and which melatonin ingredients you need to know about.
What is melatonin?
At the base of all mammalian brains is a cone-shaped gland called the pineal gland. The gland’s purpose is to produce melatonin, aka a hormone that helps our bodies, (and our dogs’ bodies) respond to light.
Production of melatonin helps set our sleep and wake cycles, also called our circadian rhythms. We produce more melatonin at night so we can relax and sleep, and less during the day, so we remain awake and alert.
Melatonin also has effects on other hormones in our bodies like estrogen, cortisol (the stress hormone), progesterone, and testosterone. We’ll get into that in a minute.
There isn’t much research about the benefits of melatonin for dogs. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests it helps. The VCA states it can assist a range of health and behavior issues, but consult with your veterinarian prior to offering it to your dog.
What are the benefits of melatonin for dogs?
There are excellent uses of melatonin, and veterinarians often prescribe melatonin supplements (synthetic melatonin) to dogs rather than risk an adverse reaction to harsher medications. The big three are sleep cycles, anxiety, and hair growth. Let’s look at all the reasons melatonin may benefit your dog.
Dog Anxiety: Studies show that many dogs show anxiety in some form. It may be from noise phobias like fireworks and thunderstorms, to fear of a new situation, and the big one – separation anxiety. Melatonin produces a calming effect in the brain and may be helpful in reducing the incidence of bad coping techniques in dogs with anxiety.
Sleep cycles: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping soundly is called insomnia, and both humans and dogs can suffer from it. Supplementing melatonin can help restore a regular sleeping pattern, preventing a host of health problems that can be caused by sleep loss.
Tip: If you find your dog wandering the house, or waking up frequently during the night and not going back to sleep, there could be cognitive dysfunction (especially with senior dogs) similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s in humans. We recommend a vet visit to determine if there are no pain or illness issues before your resort to melatonin.
Alopecia: Seasonal flank alopecia is a medical condition that can affect dogs during the winter months. Dogs with this condition will lose patches of hair on their lower behind, near the tail. This is different from the normal shedding that occurs in the spring and fall and happens for no apparent reason. Most dogs’ hair will regrow without the melatonin, but anecdotal evidence suggests that melatonin will help with regrowing of hair.
Cushing’s Disease: Cortisol is a hormone that regulates the stress response and supports the immune system. When a dog has Cushing’s Disease, they produce too much cortisol, which negatively impacts almost every organ in the body. Melatonin can reduce or alleviate the symptoms of mild or atypical Cushing’s disease because it appears to inhibit the intake of excess cortisol that tumors on adrenal or pituitary glands may cause. Melatonin should not be used for Cushing’s disease in dogs without the supervision of a veterinarian.
Epilepsy: A study conducted in 2017 showed Melatonin to have beneficial anti-convulsive effects in dogs with epilepsy. However, melatonin interacts with other drugs and natural hormones found in your dog’s body. For that reason, your vet should always supervise the use of melatonin in dogs with seizure disorders.
Other benefits of melatonin include reducing stress caused by surgery. Evidence has also shown melatonin helps improve gut health by stimulating the growth of good gut bacteria and increasing the immune system response in various organs in your dog’s body.
So all good things, but what about side effects? Is it safe for your dog?
Is melatonin safe for dogs?
The short answer is yes, melatonin is safe for your dog. However, some synthetically produced melatonin supplements contain added fillers or substances that can make dogs sick. Melatonin also interacts with certain drugs and can disrupt hormone production. The FDA doesn’t regulate melatonin supplements, so giving human melatonin to your dog can make them sick. This is especially true for melatonin supplements that contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s extremely toxic to dogs.
Potential side effects of melatonin:
- Cramping and upset stomach
- Digestive problems
- Drowsiness or confusion
- increased heart rate or tachycardia
- Fertility issues
- Insulin resistance (Melatonin causes insulin resistance and is not recommended for diabetic dogs)
Is human melatonin safe for dogs?
Veterinarians do not recommend human melatonin for your dog. There are several dog-friendly chews and oral forms of melatonin available that are safer. But if you must give your dog a human version of it, check the ingredients label carefully to avoid any toxic fillers and substances.
Minimal documentation is available for correct dosages of melatonin, but we know it interacts with drugs, disrupts hormone production, and can make some dogs sick. For that reason, getting the dosage and frequency correct is vital. You can expect melatonin to work in 15-20 minutes after ingestion.
Talk to your vet about what melatonin dosage and frequency are best for your pooch. We have prepared a list of the best melatonin dog supplements as drops, pills, and tasty chews.
Top melatonin supplements for dogs
K9Select 3mg Melatonin for dogs
Made in tasty, beef-flavored chewable tablets, these are just melatonin, with no additional calming ingredients. Good for anxiety, as a sleep aid, reducing cortisol levels, and a natural immune booster.
Zesty Paws Calming Soft Chews for Dogs
For dogs suffering from anxiety, this formula includes both melatonin and the herb ashwagandha, known for being a medicinal herb that helps calm the brain. The soft chews are turkey-flavored with an advanced complex blend of ingredients proven to help dogs with anxiety.
Pet Wellbeing Melatonin for dogs
These bacon-flavored drops have melatonin as their primary active ingredient, with organically grown, or selectively wild-harvested herbs. They made the packaging from recycled materials, making this choice not only carbon-footprint friendly but effective at providing all the benefits of melatonin.
Nootie PROGILITY Calming Chews
Manufactured using a cold press method, these chews maintain the maximum efficiency of the broad spectrum ingredients since they do not expose them to heat.
In conclusion, melatonin serves many valuable functions in your dog’s health. But giving your dog the correct dosage at the right frequency is crucial. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog any new supplement.
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