Melatonin is commonly used as a sleep aid for humans looking to better regulate their circadian rhythms and sleep deeper. But this hormone supplement can also be given to dogs for a variety of conditions beyond just sleeping issues. Melatonin may be able to help treat separation anxiety, noise phobias, and even seasonal alopecia.
Wondering how much melatonin you can give your dog for anxiety or other conditions? Read on for more about melatonin and if it may be right for your dog. As always, consult your veterinarian before introducing melatonin into your pet’s routine.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone created in the pineal gland of the brain; it helps regulate sleeping cycles based on exposure to light. Essentially, the gland produces melatonin when it’s dark, telling your body it’s time to sleep. This hormone makes the body feel drowsy, and it also helps regulate other hormones.1
Melatonin supplements made in labs are an option to help manage a messed up circadian rhythm or other sleeping conditions. However, it’s important to note that dietary supplements are not tightly regulated by the FDA. This means a brand doesn’t have to prove safety, effectiveness, or consistent ingredients in order to sell supplements in the U.S..2
Melatonin can be used as supplemental treatment for a variety of conditions or lifestyles. If you’re considering melatonin for your pup, work with your veterinarian to choose a reputable supplement brand and make a treatment plan, including dosages and timing.
Melatonin’s most common use is, of course, regulating the sleep schedule. Dogs who have trouble settling in or sleeping through the night may benefit from melatonin supplements. Since melatonin makes dogs drowsy, it may help reset their circadian rhythm and tell their bodies when it’s time to sleep.
Since darkness can be a catalyst that tells the body to create melatonin, blind dogs may have poor melatonin regulation. This can lead to a poor circadian rhythm. Giving blind dogs melatonin before bedtime may help them feel drowsy and better regulate their sleep schedule.
There’s some evidence that melatonin can help treat different types of anxiety in your dog. Melatonin can cause drowsiness, so when used as a light sedative, it might be able to calm your anxious dog. As stated before, it is recommended to consult with your vet before giving melatonin to your pup. Here are a few ways you might use melatonin to treat anxiety:
- Before anesthesia to reduce the dosage needed
- Before a stressful situation such as fireworks or a car ride
- Before leaving your dog alone to ease separation anxiety
While the scientific link between melatonin and dog fur hasn’t been studied, it’s said to help promote hair growth in pets. Because of this, many vets might suggest melatonin to help treat alopecia.3 While the most common type of hair loss in dogs is seasonal alopecia, dogs can also experience hair loss from other conditions such as Cushing’s disease. Melatonin may help your dog grow a thick and healthy coat of fur.
There are a few different ways to administer melatonin. The supplement is typically offered as a gummy, liquid, pill, or implant.
The oral forms are generally low dosages and available over-the-counter. Oral forms are typically used to treat sleep or anxiety conditions.
Meanwhile, the Dermatonin implant is only available through a vet. It’s injected under the skin to release melatonin over a continuous time period, usually up to 6 months. The implant is primarily used to treat alopecia, not anxiety or sleep conditions.4
Generally, over-the-counter melatonin is between 1 to 6 milligrams. How much your dog needs and the frequency you give it to them will depend on what you’re treating and what your vet recommends. Melatonin can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours to kick in, so you’ll want to build in some time before sleep or any anxiety-inducing events to give the supplement time to work. Consult with your veterinarian to determine a safe and effective dosage and routine.
Melatonin can generally be a safe and natural option for managing your dog’s sleep or other conditions. Many pet owners prefer it over putting their dogs on prescription medications. However, there aren't many studies on the supplement’s effectiveness, side effects, and safety in dogs specifically.5 The FDA also hasn’t formally approved it for dogs.
Melatonin is typically safe even in high doses, so it’s hard to overdose on it. However, if your pet consumes a massive dose, you may want to call the pet poison helpline. Depending on their symptoms, they may need hospitalization and treatment.5
Here are some potential side effects that high doses of melatonin may have on your pet:5
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Change in fertility for dogs not spayed or neutered
As with any new supplement, it’s important to understand any potential drug interactions before you start your dog on melatonin. Talk to your vet about any prescription medications and supplements your dog takes to make sure the melatonin won’t affect them. Melatonin may increase the effects of the following drugs:2
- Benzodiazepines (Xanax)
If you have a dog with anxiety, sleeping disorders, or even hair loss, it’s worth a vet visit to get them checked out. With the guidance of a veterinarian, melatonin for dogs may help calm anxiety, establish healthy sleep schedules, and promote hair growth. Of course, the cost of vet visits adds up.
MetLife Pet Insurance is here to help dog parents with covered health expenses. Depending on your policy, dog insurance may help cover vet bills, supplements, or other treatments.6 Plus, our Wellness Plan add-on covers regular vet appointments.7 Get started with a free quote today.