Melatonin for Dogs Side Effects & Alternatives
What Is Melatonin for Dogs?
Melatonin is a hormonal supplement that has a sedating effect used for conditions such as:
- Anxiety due to noise or separation – this may be observed as pacing, having an accident indoors despite being house trained, trembling, whimpering and loss of appetite.
- Canine Cognitive Dysfunction that causes difficulty in sleeping
- Cushing’s Disease – Melatonin helps the body block increased cortisone levels released due to the presence of a tumor in the pituitary or adrenal gland.
In older dogs, Melatonin may also be given to improve disrupted sleep patterns. Some even use this supplement as an aid for epilepsy and some types of alopecia.
Although Melatonin is a drug that can be purchased from your local pharmacy, it is also actually a hormone that is already being manufactured in the body by the pineal gland. It is for this reason many pet owners and veterinarians are comfortable with giving this supplement to their dogs because they feel that this has less side effects and artificial chemicals.
Melatonin can be purchased over the counter; however, dog owners should be aware that it is actually not FDA-approved to be used for dogs. To be safe, we must never give our pets any medication or supplement without consulting a licensed veterinarian first.
Dosage of Melatonin for Dogs
The proper dosage for Melatonin will be determined by your veterinarian, depending on the condition that is being addressed. Some veterinarians are also conservative in that they start the dosage off at low then gradually increase it depending on the response of the dog.
The general guide for dosage strength depends on the dog’s weight, as follows:
|Weight of the Dog||Dosage Strength|
|Below 10 pounds||1 mg|
|10 to 25 pounds||1.5 mg|
|26 to 100 pounds||3 mg|
|Over 100 pounds||3 to 6 mg|
The effect of a single dose of Melatonin usually lasts for 8 hours, so it is imperative that it is given not more than three times in a day. This supplement takes effect in the body in just 10 to 15 short minutes, so dog owners usually opt to administer it before bedtime.
Melatonin can come in liquid, tablet, powder and capsule forms. It can be taken with or without meals.
Side Effects of Melatonin for Dogs
Melatonin has very little known side effects when taken correctly, and when the correct dosage is carefully followed. Because of this, many veterinarians prefer it over tranquilizers or other manufactured drugs.
However, there are still dogs who might not react well to Melatonin. If any of the below symptoms is observed, you must notify your veterinarian immediately. A lower dose might be given or a different treatment may instead be recommended.
- Fertility changes
- Upset stomach and cramps
- Tachycardia or elevated heart rate
- Itching or other allergic reactions
- Insulin resistance
Be sure to read the drug information on the label of the supplement before giving it to your dog. Some forms of Melatonin come with the artificial sweetener, Xylitol. Xylitol is known to be toxic for dogs.
Furthermore, Melatonin should not be given to puppies and pregnant dogs as there may be adverse effects.
Lastly, be aware that Melatonin has not yet been extensively and formally studied on its effects on canines.
Cost of Melatonin
Here are some of the top Melatonin products for dogs on Amazon.com:
- K9 Choice Melatonin – a bottle contains 100 pieces 3 mg Melatonin tablets. One bottle costs $11.99.
- Naturvet – Quiet Moments Calming Aid for Dogs Plus Melatonin – A resealable cup can come in 3 sizes:
180 soft chews for $21.99
70 soft chews for $13.99
65 soft chews for $11.99
Interaction with Other Drugs
Since Melatonin for dogs has not yet been extensively and formally studied, we cannot really say how exactly it interacts with other medications. There is no published literature on this as of date.
Because of this, some precautions a dog owner can take are simply not giving the dog any medication without running it first by a veterinarian, and to be observant for any side effects that may arise shortly after giving a new drug.
Ingredients in Melatonin
Depending on the brand of the product, melatonin may come with the following active ingredients aside from pure Melatonin
- K9 Choice Melatonin – only lists 3mg Melatonin as its active content.
- Naturvet – Quiet Moments Calming Aid for Dogs Plus Melatonin – this product includes the following active ingredients:
150 mg Chamomile
100 mg Passion Flower
100 mg Thiamine Mononitrate
100 mg Ginger
30 mg L-Tryptophan
120 mcg Melatonin
L-Tryptophan and Thiamine helps lower stress
Melatonin promotes relaxation
Ginger helps the supplement to be gentle on the stomach
If you are one of those dog owners who are not comfortable with giving Melatonin or if your dog doesn’t respond well to it, here are some alternatives you may try.
Top of the list is giving hemp oil. Hemp oil is 100% organic and derived from hemp plant. Hemp plant has been used for thousands of years for various reasons – from making ropes to medicines.
Fortunately, out of these myriad of benefits, one of them is anxiety relief for dogs. According to dogsnaturallymagazine.com, hemp oil’s mode of action is that it targets the endocannabinoid system. This interaction induces the release of serotonin which gives dogs a feeling of calm.
Another plus to hemp oil is that unlike THC or tetrahydrocannabinol, it enhances the dog’s body’s natural ability to feel calm without the “high” associated with marijuana.
Hemp oil may come in various forms such as topical creams, tinctures, extracts and treats. How do you then know that you are giving the best possible kind for your dog for anxiety relief? Here are the things to look out for:
- Hemp oil must be organic – this means that it has been harvested from an organically grown hemp plant with the toxins removed using a pharmaceutical grade ethanol.
- Safely processed – this means that the manufacturer did not make use of solvents such as butane and hexane. These petroleum-based substances are toxic for dogs.
- With testing done – a certificate of analysis from an independent laboratory must be easily verifiable with the product inserts or literature. This is to ensure that the product is authentic and safe.
- Low THC level – the THC level found in the hemp oil must be lower than 0.03% in order for it not to cause adverse psychoactive effects.
All of the above qualifications must be present in a good choice of hemp oil in order for a dog owner to feel secure that the hemp oil he will give his pet will be effective and safe.
Another tell-tale sign of a quality hemp oil is that it must not be very inexpensive. Because of the delicate process of extraction, a bottle of good hemp oil is expected to be around $50.
Aside from hemp oil, some other supplements that you can give your dogs to aid in sleeping are Diphenydramine and Doxylamine.
- Mike Clark, Dogtime.com, https://dogtime.com/dog-health/59583-melatonin-dogs-uses-dosage-side-effects
- Amazon, https://www.amazon.com/slp/melatonin-for-dogs/7xqo56fhm3vk4xw
- Megan Sullivan, PetMD, March 13, 2017, https://www.petmd.com/dog/general-health/melatonin-dogs-it-safe
- Jen Phillips April, Dogs Naturally, https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/cbd-oil-for-anxiety-can-it-calm-your-anxious-dog/
- ASPCA, January 29, 2019, https://www.aspca.org/news/rest-easy-getting-facts-pet-safety-and-sleep-aids