You take melatonin supplements to help you fall asleep at night. They're effective and they're "natural," so you feel good about taking them. You're wondering if you can use them on your pup to help him fall asleep as well.
Before giving him any, find out what exactly the effects of melatonin are on a dog's body and what impact it can have on his life.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone in your brain that regulates your sleep cycle. You can purchase it at a drug store over the counter and use it as a sleep aid if you have trouble going to bed at night. It will cause drowsiness and should help you fall asleep for a certain number of hours. You (as a human) can take melatonin supplements in the form of pills, liquids, or gummies.
Can I give melatonin to my dog?
It is generally regarded as safe to give a dog dog melatonin as a sleep aid, but schedule an appointment with your vet first to check in about the safety and dosage. (Melatonin is also sometimes used to treat alopecia, which is non-allergic hair loss.) While melatonin could ease some of your dog's symptoms, it is not FDA-approved for animals and there have not been many studies done on the effects of melatonin.
Melatonin supplements typically come in 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg. Do not give your dogs the gummies, as the sugar is not good for them. Additionally, do not give them anything with xylitol in it, as it is extremely toxic to dogs and can lead to major health problems.
Before purchasing any melatonin supplements, you should consult with your veterinarian to make sure it's safe. You don't want it negatively interacting with any other prescriptions your dog is on or causing health issues. It's always best to check with a vet when changing anything having to do with your dog's health regimen.
Side effects of melatonin
There are some side effects of melatonin that pet parents need to be aware of being administering the supplements to their dog. Though these side effects are rare, your dog could experience confusion, lethargy, itching, an increased heart rate, changes in fertility, and stomach cramps. If you notice your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, be in touch with your veterinarian right away. Thankfully, melatonin will only stay in your dog's body for 24 hours in case there are any issues.
Treating a dog with anxiety
If your dog is experiencing anxiety, don't turn to melatonin unless your vet explicitly tells you to. First you'll need to figure out the root cause of the issue. For example, perhaps your dog gets upset when you leave your house and destroys things, or he's stressed out when he hears loud noises or there are a lot of people around. Once you know what is bothering him, you can think of solutions.
If loud noise is causing anxiety in your dog, you could invest in an anxiety vest he can wear, such as the Thundershirt. Another option is to use a white noise machine, or put on white noise videos, to block out the loud sounds. If your dog gets scared when there are many people around, you could put his dog bed and crate in another room that's quieter so he can hang out in there. You may also want to hire a trainer to address any issues your dog has. They can show you how to use positive reinforcement training to address the issues.
If you believe your dog has separation anxiety, this is an issue that needs specialized help. Check out our article What to Do if Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety, and know that you will likely need to call in the help of a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.
There also could be other health issues going on, so if your dog's anxiety changes severely or suddenly, call your vet first to eliminate any health issues that may be causing it.
Melatonin supplements can be used on dogs, but you should get clearance from your vet first. If your pup has anxiety, alopecia, or other certain issues going on, then melatonin could potentially help, but working with your vet is crucial.