Melatonin is a medication that has grown in popularity in human medicine over the past ten years. It only takes a quick google search to see there seems to be conflicting advice for how and when to use it, especially in children. Therefore, it is no surprise that pet parents may wonder, is melatonin a safe supplement for my dog too?
If you have wondered whether melatonin is safe for your pup, maybe you have a dog that keeps you up at night or suffers from a hormonal disorder. Or it may be you have a friend or family member taking this treatment for a similar issue that has reported its benefit to you.
However, it is always important to remember your furry companion is not just a small human (however easy it is to see them that way). For this reason, what goes for people isn’t always the case for dogs. So, let’s delve into the details to address what is okay and what is not when it comes to melatonin use in dogs.
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- Made for dogs over 12 weeks of age.
- Available as a soft chew.
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What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone primarily released by a gland within the brain’s center called the pineal gland.
What Is The Role Of Melatonin In The Body?
The pineal gland’s primary role is sensing light-dark information from the environment. This, in turn, is then translated into the secretion of the hormone melatonin. In humans and animals, melatonin serves several different purposes:
Circadian rhythm is the body’s natural internal clock. This runs in an approximately 24-hour cycle and is impacted by environmental cues such as light and temperature. Circadian rhythms are trainable. Think about that gradual adjustment when you experience jetlag after a long-haul flight. Circadian rhythms are found in all types of living creatures, from humans and animals to plants and even some types of bacteria.
A growing body of evidence suggests melatonin has roles as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that work to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to our bodies on a cellular level.
The effects of melatonin on the immune system have been documented after experimental procedures to impair the pineal gland’s function. It has been found that melatonin is produced outside the pineal gland by organs associated with the immune system, the body’s natural defense system for fighting disease.
There is a recent research paper suggesting that melatonin may serve a role in helping to combat obesity in people through action on hormone release from fat tissue. This anti-obesity effect has been demonstrated in animal models, but at this time, we do not have evidence to support the use of melatonin in dogs with obesity. Dietary management and exercise regimes continue to be the most appropriate approach.
A large body of information demonstrates the importance of melatonin for non-human animals whose fertility cycles are driven by daylight hours to allow for seasonal breeding schedules. Newer evidence suggests it may also have a role in fertility in humans despite non-seasonal cycles, and anecdotally there is a suggestion it may improve fertility in dogs. Still, there is no research to confirm this.
Why Do Humans Take Melatonin?
Humans take melatonin for managing sleep disorders in the blind, delayed sleep disorders, insomnia, and jet lag. Experimentally there has been some suggestion of benefit in the use of melatonin in several diseases of the nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Still, there is no strong evidence proving this benefit.
Can Dogs Take Melatonin?
There is no FDA-approved veterinary melatonin product for dogs and, therefore, no regulation surrounding melatonin products used in veterinary medicine.
That said, melatonin has been given to dogs, and there are anecdotal reports of success in melatonin therapy in dogs. This comes with a big caveat that dog melatonin supplementation should only ever be given under the guidance of your veterinarian. Mainly because the recommended safe dosage for your dog will differ from the instructions on the human supplements’ packaging.
Additionally, given the poor regulation surrounding melatonin-containing products, some supplements may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Your veterinarian can work to diagnose your pup and then ascertain whether melatonin is a suitable supplement to trial for your dog or if a more effective treatment is available.
Is There Melatonin For Dogs?
Yes, there are melatonin supplements that are specifically designed for dogs. It is often described as helpful for calming canine anxiety. However, they are not regulated either by the FDA, and dosage should be discussed with your vet before starting this or any medication. You will also want to make sure it is not going to interfere with any medications they are currently taking.
Uses Of Melatonin For Dogs
In dogs, melatonin has been used as a part of the management protocol for several different conditions:
- Sleep disorders
- Mild anxiety
- Hair loss disorders (A recent study found limited efficacy for this use)
- Cushing’s disease
- Cancer or chemotherapy
At this time, there is no strong evidence to suggest there is any benefit to melatonin in these conditions, so it may be that your veterinarian does not recommend it to you. As discussed, it is not advisable to give your dog melatonin unless your veterinary surgeon advises it.
How Is Melatonin Given To Dogs?
Melatonin is available in tablet, liquid, and capsule form. It is usually advised to give it on an empty stomach unless this causes your dog to vomit. There is a veterinary implant product that is used in farm animal species. Your veterinarian can place this under the skin. Any of these formulations are given “off-label” as there is not currently a brand of melatonin that has been appropriately tested to gain licensing for use in dogs.
Melatonin supplements are not currently tightly regulated by the FDA, meaning additional ingredients within the supplements may not be listed. Some substances are safe for people but highly toxic for dogs. As such, it is advisable to always discuss a melatonin supplement with your veterinarian before giving it to your dog to avoid accidental intoxication.
Again, you can purchase Melatonin for dogs over-the-counter, but it is wise to discuss it with your vet before you start giving it to your pet to make sure it is safe and you have the dosage amount correct.
What Side Effects May Be Seen With Melatonin?
As the studies into melatonin use in dogs are minimal, there is not much information about safety data or side effects. Reported side effects include sleepiness, weight gain, and alterations in fertility. Melatonin should never be given to a dog with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to the medication. Melatonin implants are not appropriate for pregnant or young animals, and there is no safety data for melatonin use in general for pregnant or lactating animals. The melatonin implant has been associated with non-infectious abscess development.
Melatonin may interact negatively with other drugs. Examples include sedatives, tranquilizers, and corticosteroids. Additionally, melatonin should be used cautiously in pets with liver, kidney, heart, or brain disorders. This advice is extended from current recommendations in human medicine, and we do not have available studies in veterinary medicine.
Your dog should never be given melatonin without discussing its use with your veterinarian. This is to ensure that melatonin is safe for your pup and that there isn’t an underlying medical condition leading to your dog’s clinical signs needing more specific therapy. By working with your veterinarian, you can be assured your dog is receiving the most appropriate treatment and reduce the risk of side effects or adverse drug interactions.
What Should I Do If My Dog Has Eaten My Human Melatonin Tablets?
If you suspect your dog has ingested your melatonin medication, or indeed any human medicine, contact your local veterinary clinic or their out-of-hours emergency provider immediately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use human melatonin for dogs?
You should always speak to your veterinarian before giving a human supplement to your dog. Caution could be taken when giving human supplements to dogs. Melatonin is no exception. This is because the dosages are very different for dogs compared to humans, and some human supplements can contain additional ingredients that are toxic to dogs.
What is melatonin used for in dogs?
There is no evidence to suggest melatonin is beneficial for treating medical conditions in dogs. Still, anecdotally melatonin has been used as part of treatment for sleep disorders, mild anxiety, non-hormonal hair loss, fertility issues, and Cushing’s disease.
How is melatonin given to dogs?
There is no licensed melatonin supplement for dogs at this time. Melatonin preparations are available as tablets, capsules, liquids, and implants. Melatonin should only ever be given under guidance from your veterinarian.
However, dog melatonin can be purchased over-the-counter but check with your vet before administering this or any supplement.
Currently, there are very limited studies to support the use of melatonin in animals, but there are anecdotal reports that it may be beneficial for some conditions in dogs. There are times when melatonin may not be helpful or could be potentially harmful to your pooch. For this reason, it is always advisable to speak to your veterinarian before giving melatonin to ensure it is safe for your pup and that there isn’t a more suitable or effective therapy available.