It goes without saying that we all want what’s best for our doggos. Whether it’s ensuring they get enough exercise or a healthy diet.
However, our pets may sometimes experience health or behavioural problems requiring additional care and attention. Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced and helps regulate sleep patterns.
It’s also commonly used in humans to help with insomnia, jet lag, and anxiety. On that note, many pet owners are now turning to melatonin to help their dogs who struggle with anxiety, hyperactivity or restlessness.
But is melatonin safe for dogs? And where can you buy it in the UK? Let’s find out.
What exactly is a “melatonin supplement”?
As you now know, melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. This hormone is released in response to darkness, which triggers the body to prepare for sleep.
Like humans, dogs also produce melatonin in their bodies. However, the amount can vary depending on their age and breed. For example, older dogs may produce less melatonin than younger mutts.
When given appropriately, melatonin can help reduce anxiety and stress in dogs and improve their quality of life.
1. Is melatonin safe for dogs?
As with any medication or supplement, you must consider the safety and potential risks before giving it to your dog.
Melatonin is generally safe for dogs when given in appropriate amounts. However, you must consult your vet before giving your dog melatonin to ensure it’s safe and appropriate for your dog’s needs because it can interact with certain medications and medical conditions.
2. When to avoid giving melatonin to dogs?
There are some situations where it should be avoided. Pregnant or nursing dogs should not be given melatonin; it should also be avoided in dogs with liver or kidney disease.
Additionally, melatonin may interfere with the effectiveness of some medications, such as anticonvulsants and sedatives.
How much melatonin should a dog have?
The appropriate melatonin dosage for your dog will depend on its size, weight, and overall health. It’s crucial to consult with your vet before doing anything by yourself.
In general, the recommended dosage of melatonin for dogs is 1 to 4 mg, depending on their size for common sleep disorders. Start with a lower dosage and gradually increase it over time to avoid potential side effects. Your vet may increase the dosage up to 6mg based on the severity of the issue.
It is also essential to give your dog melatonin in its pure form. Some melatonin supplements may contain additional ingredients (added coatings or fillers such as xylitol and other sweeteners) that could harm your dog.
Do note that the research regarding melatonin’s appropriate dosage for dogs is somewhat limited. For in-depth dosage knowledge, refer to page 778 of Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook.
Generally, Plumb’s Handbook suggests 0.1 milligrams of melatonin per kilogram of body weight for dogs suffering from anxiety disorders.
What are the benefits of melatonin for dogs?
Melatonin has been shown to have several benefits for dogs, from reducing anxiety and stress to regulating sleep and even providing anti-inflammatory properties.
1. It reduces anxiety and stress.
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.
It’s often used as a natural supplement for reducing anxiety and stress in dogs because it regulates their cortisol. By reducing cortisol levels, melatonin can help calm your dog and make them feel more relaxed.
When taken before scary or stressful situations like flying, visiting the groomer, or even undergoing anaesthesia surgery, melatonin will help calm your dog, making the situation easier for all involved.
A study from September 2019 concluded that using melatonin for pre-op reduced the need for stronger anaesthesia for dogs going through surgery.
Cushing’s Disease: Compared to more traditional medications, melatonin is a gentler way to treat the symptoms of Cushing’s Disease. Other treatments can cause harsh side effects, including kidney failure, vomiting and diarrhoea.
2. It helps with sleep.
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.
Like humans, melatonin can help dogs settle into a normal sleep pattern by regulating the internal processes that tell their bodies when to sleep.
3. It aids in curing arthritis.
Melatonin has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for dogs that suffer from conditions such as arthritis.
4. It helps resolve cognitive dysfunction.
Melatonin has also been shown to benefit dogs that suffer from cognitive dysfunction (a condition similar to Alzheimer’s). It can improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms such as confusion and disorientation.
While more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of melatonin for dogs with cognitive dysfunction, it is a promising area of study.
5. It helps with 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 unknown what causes the condition, it is also unclear how melatonin helps with seasonal alopecia. Regardless, the supplement’s calming effect typically relieves our furry companions.
What are the side effects of melatonin in dogs?
As with most supplements and over-the-counter treatments, it’s important to know that melatonin has potential side effects. While it’s generally considered safe, pet owners should always talk to their veterinarian about possible side effects before use.
The most common side effect of melatonin is drowsiness – although this is considered desirable when treating insomnia or anxiety in dogs. Drowsiness will usually kick in about 10 to 15 minutes after the dose. To avoid potential complications, it’s best to apply the dose close to bedtime.
2. Upset Stomach
Like other over-the-counter medications, melatonin can cause upset stomachs in canines. Melatonin can be taken with or without food, so an upset stomach can still occur. It is recommended to provide your pet with access to water and to cease using melatonin at the first sign of an upset stomach.
3. Increase Heart Rate
While rare, melatonin can cause an increase in heart rate in dogs. Pet owners should be sure to watch for 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.
4. Worsening Other Medical Conditions
While it cannot be stated enough, dog owners should consult a vet before administering melatonin.
For instance, melatonin affects the reproductive cycle in female dogs and can cause insulin resistance in diabetic animals. Dog owners should also read the listed ingredients to avoid artificial sweeteners that may be toxic to dogs.
Where can you buy melatonin for dogs in the UK?
It’s available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, and liquid drops. In the UK, you can find melatonin for dogs both over-the-counter and by prescription.
A. Over-the-Counter Options
Melatonin supplements for dogs can be found in most pet stores and online retailers. However, it is essential to note that not all over-the-counter melatonin products are suitable for dogs. Read the label carefully and choose the production specific to dogs.
You can also find melatonin supplements in health food stores or online retailers specialising in supplements.
B. Prescription Options
If you are looking for a stronger or more specific dose of melatonin, your veterinarian may prescribe it for your dog.
Prescription options may include higher doses of melatonin or a combination of melatonin with other medications, such as anti-anxiety medications.
C. Online Purchasing Considerations
When purchasing melatonin for your dog online, it is essential to be cautious and research. Look for reputable retailers that specialise in pet supplements and have good customer reviews. Always check the ingredients and ensure the product is specifically intended for dogs.
Be wary of purchasing melatonin from unregulated sources or overseas, as these products may not meet UK standards for safety and quality. Additionally, always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any new supplements, even if they are available over the counter.
Important Stuff You Must Know
1. How long does melatonin take to work in dogs?
For some dogs, melatonin may work within 30 minutes; in others, it may take several days or weeks to see the desired effects. It’s important to follow the dosage guidelines recommended by your veterinarian and to be patient when waiting for the medicine to take effect.
2. Can I give my dog human melatonin?
Giving your dog human melatonin is generally not recommended as the dosage and ingredients may not be appropriate for their needs. Dogs have different melatonin requirements and tolerance levels than humans, so it’s best to consult a veterinarian before giving your dog any melatonin supplement.
3. Can I buy melatonin for my dog without a prescription?
In the UK, melatonin is classified as a veterinary medicine and can only be prescribed by a veterinarian. However, some online retailers may sell melatonin supplements for dogs without a prescription. We recommend avoiding those retailers to ensure your dog’s safety.
4. How should I give melatonin to my dog?
Melatonin supplements for dogs come in various forms, including tablets, capsules, and liquid. Follow the instructions on the product label or as directed by your veterinarian.
5. Can I give my dog melatonin every day / night?
The frequency of melatonin administration will depend on the reason for giving the supplement and the dosage. Always consult with your veterinarian for the appropriate dosing and frequency of administration.
6. Can you get melatonin naturally?
Generally, foods high in tryptophan (an amino acid) can help boost melatonin levels in the body. Some examples include turkey, chicken, pumpkin seeds, and bananas. However, it is important to note that the levels aren’t high enough to significantly impact.