Melatonin for dogs

Melatonin is a sedative hormonal supplement that is commonly used by people as a sleep aid. However, Melatonin can be a helpful supplement for any dog owner whose pet struggles with anxiety, hyperactivity or restlessness. Under normal circumstances, this hormone is produced by the pineal gland. Keep in mind, however, that melatonin has its risks and owners should always consult with a veterinarian prior to giving it to their animal. But when used properly, melatonin will help your hyper or anxious dog get some rest. 

Melatonin For Dogs

Benefits of Melatonin for Dogs

Anxiety

Chances are that if you’ve ever owned a dog you’ve had to deal with some form of anxiety they experience, such as separation anxiety or stress from the sounds of thunder or fireworks. A dose of melatonin will soothe your dog and gradually leave them into a relaxed state. When taken prior to scary or stressful situations like flying or visiting the groomer, or even before undergoing surgery with anesthesia, melatonin will help calm your dog, making the situation easier for all involved.

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Insomnia

Although not as widely discussed, insomnia also exists in canines. Older dogs with cognitive dysfunctions or hormonal problems sometimes need help regulating their sleep patterns. Much like humans, melatonin can be used to help dogs settle into a normal sleep pattern by regulating the internal processes that tell their body when to sleep. 

Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s Disease occurs when a dog produces too much cortisol for their body. Cortisol functions as a response to stress, control weight, fight infections and keep blood sugar levels balanced. Importantly, experts are now studying the effects of melatonin on Cushing’s Disease. Compared to more traditional medications, melatonin is gentler way to treat the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease. Other treatments can cause harsh side effects, including kidney failure, vomiting and diarrhea. 

Alopecia

One lesser known use for melatonin is to treat alopecia (hair loss) and seasonal alopecia (also known as flank alopecia) in canines. While it’s not known what causes the condition, it is also not clear how melatonin helps with seasonal alopecia either. Regardless, the calming effect of the supplement typically provides relief to our furry companions. 

Side Effects of Melatonin on Dogs

As with most supplements and over-the-counter treatments, it’s important to know that there are potential side effects with melatonin. While it’s generally considered safe, pet owners should still always talk to their veterinarian about the possibility of side effects occurring prior to use. 

Drowsiness

The most common side effect of melatonin is drowsiness – although this is considered to be a desirable effect when it comes to treating insomnia or anxiety in dogs. Drowsiness will usually kick in about 10 to 15 minutes after the dose has been taken. To avoid potential complications it’s best to apply the dose close to bedtime. 

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Upset Stomach

Like other over-the-counter medication, melatonin can potentially cause upset stomach in canines. Melatonin can be taken with or without food, so an upset stomach can still occur in either case. It is recommended to provide your pet with access to water and to cease the use of melatonin at the first sign of upset stomach. 

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Increase Heart Rate

While rare, melatonin can cause an increase in heart rate in dogs. Pet owners should be sure to watch for the signs of increased heart rate. For example, if your dog shows shortness of breath, dehydration, or seems to faint or collapse, you will want to contact your vet’s office as soon as possible. 

Worsening Other Medical Conditions

While it cannot be stated enough, dog owners should never administer melatonin to their dogs without consulting a vet. Though melatonin is a natural supplement and available over-the-counter, dogs suffering from other medical conditions or that are taking other types of medication can be at risk. For instance, melatonin is known to affect the reproductive cycle in female dogs and can cause insulin resistance in diabetic animals. Dog owners should also take care to read the ingredients listed in their bottle of melatonin to make sure it doesn’t contain an artificial sweetness called xylitol. Xylitol is toxic to dogs. In addition, dog owners should never give melatonin to pregnant dogs or puppies. 

Melatonin is a natural supplement that is readily available over-the-counter at any drug store. While it’s availability makes melatonin popular with dog owners, it’s still important to talk to your dog’s veterinarian before giving it to your animal. Your vet can screen your dog’s medical history to make sure melatonin is a safe treatment for their anxiety or other problems.

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