Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?

on March 14, 2022

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the brains of animals--dogs included! Melatonin as a supplement, however, may have additional potential uses but also side effects.

Read on to learn about using melatonin for your fur baby. 

What is Melatonin?

When an animal goes to sleep, a little gland in the brain, the pineal gland, makes the hormone melatonin. The pineal gland is shaped like a tiny pinecone (that’s where it gets its name!) and is part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is the hormone system of the body. Dogs have this same system, and most of the same hormones as humans!

Much of what we know about the function of melatonin comes from research on other animals, but it’s assumed that these functions work similarly in all mammals.

At night, the pineal gland produces melatonin. It helps your dog fall asleep. This routine of sleep and awake is called circadian rhythm. When it goes well, the brain and body get to rest, restore, and get ready for the next day.

It’s also thought that in the wild, changes in the length of the days (and thus in circadian rhythms) help animals know when it is mating season.

Why Give Your Dog a Melatonin Supplement?

So if the brain naturally produces melatonin, why would you give it to your dog? What are the benefits of melatonin?

Essentially, the sleep-like qualities you want may be possible with a melatonin supplement. Of course, sleep itself is super important for health and well-being. But the benefits of melatonin for your dog go far beyond just a good night's sleep! 

While research is ongoing, some of the potential benefits of melatonin for dogs include:

  • Longer sleep
  • More quality, restful sleep
  • Greater calm and/or increased relaxation
  • Decreased symptoms of separation anxiety
  • Reduced reaction to noise stress/phobias, such as to fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Treatment of dog hair loss (canine alopecia)
  • Improved recovery from change or other stress/anxiety

Based on this evidence, if your dog suffers from sleep trouble, anxiety, stress, phobias or hair loss, it may be worth supplementing with melatonin.

Is Melatonin Safe for Dogs?

When it comes to any sort of safety issues with products for your dog, remember this hard-and-fast rule: only use products intended for dogs.

In general, since melatonin can be obtained from natural sources, and is a naturally occurring substance, it is safe. However, products intended for humans may have ingredients which are toxic to dogs. For example, xylitol, a common sweetener, harms dogs.

So before deciding you will try melatonin for your pet, ensure you get a quality, natural supplement intended for use by dogs.

Another good rule of thumb for the safe use of supplements for your dog is to seek veterinary advice first. You want to rule out any medical reason for your dog’s health concerns or behavioral changes. If there’s no medical reason not to, it’s probably safe to try melatonin for your dog.

Side Effects of Melatonin for Dogs

Melatonin may be natural, but it still has a few potential side effects. You should monitor your pet for side effects when giving any supplement or medicine, particularly when they first start a new regimen.

Potential side effect of melatonin include:

  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Gastric upset or stomach cramps
  • Itching
  • Increased heart rate

If your dog experiences any of these side effects, you should discontinue use and seek advice from a veterinary professional.

What’s the Best Way to Give Melatonin to Your Dog?

You can give your dog melatonin temporarily, or as an ongoing routine.

For temporary uses, such as before fireworks season, a big life change (like a move), or new stress (like family visiting), start your melatonin routine at least two weeks in advance.

For all uses, follow this general advice:

  1. Use only a product for dogs.
  2. Read packaging and be sure you understand dosage instructions. This includes ensuring you know your pet’s weight.
  3. Start with the lowest effective dosage.
  4. Be consistent. A supplement is not a drug. Effects may take several weeks before you see them. 
  5. Only increase dosage a little bit at a time. Maintain the new amount for at least one week before going up again. Never exceed recommended dosage.
  6. Continue to monitor your pet for side effects, particularly when increasing dosage.

If you follow those simple steps, your pet can do great with melatonin!

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