Melatonin, a naturally occurring neurohormone, has long been thought to work as a sleeping aid in humans. Now there's some evidence it may be useful for several canine conditions. Its sedative properties have been helpful in treating separation anxiety in dogs, as well as stress from noise like fireworks, thunderstorms or other noise phobias. According to Linda Aronson, DVM, who published a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, she has seen successful results in about 80 percent of canine patients treated with melatonin. Other evidence suggests that melatonin successfully treats some forms of hair loss in dogs (canine alopecia).
Is Melatonin Safe for My Dog?
While some pet owners like the natural properties of melatonin as opposed to chemical medications, you should talk to your veterinarian before deciding on a melatonin regimen. There has not been much study of its side effects and safety, nor has it been approved by the FDA for use in animals.
Side effects of melatonin in dogs, although rare, include:
- Changes in fertility
- Gastric upset and stomach cramps
- Increased heart rate
However, if you and your vet determine that melatonin is a good option for your dog, you may find it treats a range of anxieties and phobias, as well as sleep problems.
How Much Melatonin Should I Give My Dog?
Your vet will help you determine the correct dose, but, in general, dosage depends on your dog's size and the condition you're treating. According to Dr. Aronson, these are safe recommended dosages:
- Dogs under 10 pounds: 1 milligram
- 10-25 pounds: 1.5 milligrams
- 25-100 pounds: 3 milligrams
- Over 100 pounds: 3-6 milligrams
Some sources recommend starting at the lowest possible dose. Although melatonin is available over the counter, please talk to your vet first. He may want you to use a specific prescription and dosage.
None of us like to see our canine pal suffer from having stress, fear, or anxiety. If you and your vet decide melatonin is worth a try, it may be just the thing to calm your dog and ease his fears.