More than just a sleep aid for humans, Melatonin can play a vital role in certain canine health conditions. This often leads to a dog owner asking us the question "Can you give dogs melatonin?" and the answer is yes, you can give dogs melatonin. Beyond its common use for treating sleep disorders, melatonin's use in dogs extends to dermatologic conditions like alopecia, immune-mediated diseases, cognitive disorders such as dementia, anxiety-related issues, and even potential benefits in gastrointestinal functions. Continue reading to learn more about using melatonin in dogs.

🩺 Vet's Key Points

  • Melatonin is beneficial for various health conditions in dogs, including sleep disorders, dermatologic issues, cognitive dysfunctions, and immune-mediated diseases.
  • While melatonin is generally safe for dogs, it can cause side effects and should only be given under the guidance of a veterinarian.
  • The average dosing of melatonin for dogs typically ranges from 1 to 9 mg, varying with the dog's size and the specific condition being treated.
  • Melatonin supplements should be from reputable brands to ensure quality and avoid harmful additives like xylitol.
  • Melatonin gummies are not recommended for dogs due to risks like xylitol toxicity and inconsistent dosing.

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone that has many roles and is key in controlling different body functions in dogs. It is made naturally by the pineal gland, a tiny gland in the brain. Melatonin mainly manages the sleep-wake cycle and the body's rhythms that change with the seasons. It is made more when it's dark to help with sleep, and less when it's light to help with staying awake.

In dogs, melatonin's functions extend beyond sleep regulation. It plays a role in mood stabilization, regulation of the reproductive system, and sleep-wake cycles. Interestingly, melatonin is also made in the gastrointestinal tract and affects many functions, from skin cell renewal to adjusting immune reactions.

What are the benefits of melatonin for dogs?

Melatonin's many uses in veterinary medicine show the many ways it can benefit different diseases and conditions in dogs.

1. Dermatological conditions

Melatonin is notably effective in treating certain skin disorders in dogs. It acts as a non-specific hair cycle inducer, encouraging hair regrowth and improving the quality of the coat.

Conditions like Alopecia X, follicular dysplasia, post-clipping alopecia, and seasonal flank alopecia can respond to melatonin treatment.

2. Cognitive dysfunction and sleep disorders

Melatonin, a serotonin derivative, plays an important role in managing sleep-wake cycles and has been used to help alleviate symptoms of cognitive dysfunction in dogs. This includes treating conditions like night-time anxiety, phobias, and noise-related fears. Its influence on the sleep/wake cycle can significantly improve night-time waking in dogs.

As other conditions can cause nighttime anxiety and pacing in dogs so please speak with your veterinary to rule out these conditions before starting melatonin supplementation.

3. Atypical' Cushing's disease

Melatonin might be a helpful option for treating a unique kind of Cushing's disease in dogs called Atypical Cushing's disease. This form of the disease doesn't show up on typical hormone tests for Cushing's disease.

Although not all vets agree, some have seen good results, such as better hair growth and changes in blood hormone levels in dogs treated with melatonin.

4. Immune-mediated conditions

Anecdotally, melatonin has been used in dogs with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia and hemolytic anemia. While controlled studies are lacking, their application in these conditions suggests a broader immunomodulatory role.

5. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

Melatonin exhibits antioxidant actions and regulates white blood cell function, contributing to inflammation control. This indicates potential benefits in managing acute and chronic inflammatory conditions in dogs. Further research and studies are required however to learn more about its effects.

dog in field

How much melatonin can I give my dog?

Determining the correct dosage of melatonin for your dog depends on the specific condition being treated, as well as the dog's weight.

Here's a guide on how much melatonin you can give your dog for various conditions:

Dermatologic Issues (such as alopecia)

For dogs weighing less than 20 kg: Administer 3 mg every 12 hours.

For dogs weighing more than 20 kg: Administer 6 mg every 12 hours.

Anxiety and stress

The dosage can vary depending on the dog's size and the severity of the condition. Generally, administer 1 to 4 mg per dog every 12 hours. This dosage is meant for short-term use while transitioning to longer-term therapy.

Night pacing

For managing night pacing, administer 3 to 9 mg per dog as needed. Your veterinarian may recommend a single nighttime dose, or divided into two doses. This can be adjusted based on the dog's response and the severity of the symptoms.

Immune-mediated disorders

For dogs under 20 kg: Administer 3 mg every 12 hours.

For dogs over 20 kg: Administer 6 mg every 12 hours.

Remember to consult with your veterinarian before starting melatonin treatment. They can provide personalized advice and adjust the dosage based on your dog's specific needs, overall health, and concurrent medications.

Are there any side effects of using melatonin in dogs?

Melatonin is generally considered safe for use in dogs when administered in appropriate amounts. However, like any medication, it can have side effects, especially if given in excessive doses.

While melatonin is generally considered safe for use in dogs, the following are rare, yet potential side effects:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Cramping and itchiness
  • Confusion
  • Fertility issues in breeding dogs

Additionally, melatonin should be used cautiously or avoided in dogs with autoimmune diseases, as it may reduce the effects of corticosteroids and other immunosuppressive medications.

Choosing the right melatonin supplement

Since melatonin is not regulated by the FDA and product quality can vary, it's important to choose a reputable brand. We recommend brands like Nature's Bounty® that comply with national verification programs such as USP in the US. This ensures that the product contains the labeled amount of melatonin.

We also recommend reading the ingredient list to make sure there are no harmful additives such as xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs and can result in life-threatening hypoglycemia.

Are melatonin gummies safe for dogs?

We do not recommend giving melatonin gummies to your dog. This is because some formulations of melatonin gummies contain xylitol, a very toxic sweetener to dogs.

Additionally, research has shown that the actual melatonin content in supplements can vary from what is stated on the label. This inconsistency is particularly risky for dogs, as precise dosing is crucial for safety and effectiveness.

Lastly, besides xylitol, other ingredients in gummies, such as certain flavorings or preservatives, might be harmful to dogs. Dogs have different sensitivities and metabolic pathways, making some human-safe ingredients potentially toxic for them.

It is best to use a product recommended by your veterinarian, often in pill, capsule, or powder form.

In conclusion, melatonin is a supplement that can be safely administered to dogs for various conditions, including sleep disorders, dermatological issues, cognitive dysfunction, and immune-mediated diseases. However, consulting with your veterinarian is important to determine the appropriate dosage and to rule out any underlying conditions. While generally safe, melatonin can have side effects, and it's recommended to choose reputable, pet-safe products, avoiding those with toxic additives like xylitol. Gummies are not recommended for dogs due to potentially harmful ingredients and dosing inconsistencies.

If you are thinking of giving your dog melatonin, or if your dog is already taking it and you have questions, please contact your veterinarian.