While you may continually search for ways to improve your sleep, you may also want to think about how your dog can achieve better sleep too—especially if they’re overactive at night and seem sluggish during the day. Just like humans, dogs have circadian rhythms and can experience sleep issues as well.
“Dogs certainly sleep more than us humans do (lucky them!), but they follow a similar pattern to us in that they are typically active in daylight and asleep in the darkness of night,” says Rebecca Greenstein, veterinary medical advisor for Rover.
Since we share these similarities with our canine companions, you might be wondering, “Can dogs take melatonin? And is it safe?”
We asked Greenstein to weigh in on melatonin for dogs. This article will explore everything pet parents need to know about whether melatonin is safe for dogs.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin, often referred to as “the sleep hormone,” is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. When it’s dark outside, the brain knows to manufacture melatonin. During daylight, the body slows down the production of melatonin.
In other words, it’s the hormone that controls circadian rhythm or the “sleep-wake” cycle. This is the same in humans as it is in dogs—and nowadays, it can be taken in supplement form to support sleep.
How does melatonin affect dogs?
As seen in some studies, melatonin can actually have a calming effect on dogs. It can also affect them in other ways.
“We tend to think of melatonin as a natural sleep aid, but in fact, its applications are fairly wide,” notes Greenstein. “Research is just starting to scratch the surface on the wide range of potential therapeutic uses of this compound,” and this can also be true for dogs.
“Melatonin has been used for its calming effects to help with sleep and anxiety/behavioral issues, but more scientific research is still needed to fully understand its effects in pets,” Greenstein shares. “It also has been used to treat certain skin conditions like hair loss, modulate reproductive hormone levels in unneutered and unspayed dogs, and it might be helpful in managing certain immune diseases of blood cells.”
Although more study is needed, it could prove helpful to our four-legged friends.
Is melatonin safe for dogs?
So, can you give a dog melatonin?
While the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that melatonin is generally safe for dogs, Greenstein says there are some cautions to heed. And it all starts with talking to your veterinarian.
“Supplements such as melatonin have been used anecdotally—but always consult your vet first before starting any supplement or product to make sure they’re appropriate and safe for your pet,” she says.
She adds that if your dog is on certain medications such as cortisone, heart medications, or antidepressants, to name a few, melatonin may interfere with their efficacy and might be dangerous.
While melatonin is considered fairly safe in otherwise healthy dogs, it all depends on the individual dog and their medical history, says Greenstein.
She explains that some dogs can experience excessive sedation, lethargy, and nausea. Accidental, large overdoses can be more dangerous and require medical intervention. Dogs who have a history of liver or kidney disease, neurological conditions, or are very young, pregnant, or planning to be bred, shouldn’t take melatonin.
To prevent purchasing a melatonin supplement that could be potentially toxic to your dog, Greenstein has this advice: “Since supplements are not considered pharmaceuticals and do not require a prescription, they are unfortunately not subject to the same rigorous testing and quality control, so it’s best to talk to your vet before buying or administering anything to your dog.”
She adds, “I would caution pet parents from using human products for their dogs. Some forms of melatonin, like liquids and gummies, can contain sweeteners like xylitol, which can be fatally toxic to dogs.”
This is why it’s imperative to speak with your veterinarian and get a specific recommendation for a pet-safe form of melatonin. (Learn whether CBD is safe for dogs.)
How much melatonin should you give your dog?
As for a normal dose of melatonin for dogs, Greenstein says it depends on the weight and size of your dog and the intended usage.
“Rather than Googling a dose that might not be appropriate for your specific pet, ask your family vet directly for the safest and most accurate and reliable dosing information,” she advises.
When should you give your dog melatonin?
Certain scenarios might warrant giving your dog melatonin. While melatonin could potentially help their sleep, veterinarians tend to recommend it for other conditions.
For instance, Greenstein says certain types of skin and hair conditions and immune diseases could benefit from taking it, but your pet’s unique situation needs to be carefully investigated and accurately diagnosed by a vet “before even considering trying melatonin presumptively.”
It’s most often suggested for help with anxiety, such as separation anxiety and other forms of anxiety.
“Separation anxiety is becoming a more frequent topic of discussion at vet practices these days since the boom in pandemic puppies who essentially only knew life in lockdown and 24/7 human companionship,” Greenstein observes. “If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, noise phobias, car anxiety, cognitive decline, or erratic sleep patterns, talk to your vet to see if a trial of melatonin could be right for your pet.”
Just be careful with your expectations. “Parents of pets with severe behavioral disorders should not rely on supplements alone since they may not be adequately effective and other more efficacious approaches exist,” says Greenstein. “Highly anxious dogs should be evaluated by a veterinary professional who may advise multimodal therapy, including training and pharmaceuticals and possibly supplements when appropriate.”
How much melatonin can I give my dog?
This depends on the dosage your veterinarian recommends. As Greenstein cautions, don’t rely on Google to tell you the correct dosage for your dog’s weight and needs—the dosage should come directly from a vet.
What happens if a dog has melatonin?
While there are some benefits associated with giving dogs melatonin, such as less anxiety and improved skin issues, a dog can experience adverse effects as well, including excessive sedation, lethargy, and nausea. Again, this is why it’s key to speak with a veterinarian before considering a melatonin supplement.
Can dogs have melatonin for anxiety?
Can you give dogs melatonin for anxiety? The short answer is yes, but this will depend on your pup’s medical history, background, needs, and of course, the opinion of your veterinarian, who may have alternative medications and therapies to recommend.
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