Melatonin for dogs side effects and alternatives
Melatonin is a hormone that’s released by the pineal gland during the night. People who lack production of this hormone suffer from sleep disturbances.
Besides troubles of getting enough sleep (insomnia), low melatonin levels are also observed in other diseases, such as:
- Mood disorders
- Severe pain
- Diabetes type 2
Melatonin supplements are used to treat these disorders at both the therapeutic level and for prevention.
How about dogs?
Can dogs be treated with melatonin supplements, and would it be safe?
What diseases or disorders in dogs can be treated with melatonin supplements?
What is melatonin for dogs?
Though generally used as an over-the-counter medication for insomnia in people, melatonin also has many benefits for dogs. In dogs, it can help treat conditions including:
- Separation anxiety
- Alopecia or loss of hair
- Canine epilepsy
Insomnia and/or depression in dogs can also be treated with melatonin.
Is it safe?
Preliminary clinical tests established that melatonin is safe for dog consumption. In a study involving castrated dogs, melatonin administration was seen to have the ability to increase antioxidant activities of the body and decrease oxidation processes.
The statistical analysis in the study has also shown that the use of melatonin has no adverse effects on liver enzymes and kidney function.
- Natural substance
Melatonin is a naturally produced substance. As such, it is increasingly considered by pet owners who are looking to avoid synthetic medicines that cause harmful side effects like painful urination and tightness in the neck or jaw.
However, just like other supplements produced for canine or feline use, it is necessary that you check the content. Some supplements contain fillers and other substances that can put your pet in danger. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener that’s toxic to dogs, is included in some formulations.
Even if you yourself are using melatonin, it is important to make sure that it does not contain xylitol, and if your dog has accidentally eaten melatonin, check out first if it contains xylitol.
Call your vet immediately and don’t waste time bringing him to the clinic, as xylitol can dangerously reduce its blood glucose level, and may even cause death. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning include seizure and incoordination.
Melatonin without xylitol can only make your dog sleepy. If ever he ate a whole bunch of it, the worse that it can get is vomiting or he might just feel a little sick. Take note that melatonin is mainly a “sleep drug”, so there’s really nothing that you should worry about when an accidental ingestion happens.
- Melatonin for dog pain
Melatonin is also effective for pain management, and is used in various animal models of pain. Its effectiveness as an analgesic has led to its use as a clinical pain control agent in different pathological conditions and in patients who are undergoing surgery.
There is increasing evidence that melatonin may play a role in pain modulation, and experts are exploring the connection between sleep and pain.
A neuroscientist of McGill University in Montreal pointed to the findings showing that the structure in the brain associated with sleep is also the same structure involved with pain. The scientist added: when one does not sleep, the condition decreases the threshold of pain.
Dosage of melatonin for dogs
Gradually increasing the dosage as needed is often recommended by vets. Usual dosage is as follows:
- Less than 10 pounds of weight – 1 mg
- From 10 to 25 pounds – 1.5 mg
- From 26 to 100 pounds – 3 mg
Those weighing over 100 pounds can take as much as 6 gm per administration. These recommended dosages must not be given more than three times over a 24-hour period.
Side effects of melatonin for dogs
Make sure your dog doesn’t have heart issues while taking melatonin, as it can cause the heart to beat faster than normal, a condition called tachycardia.
Other side effects, though these happen in really rare cases, include:
- Changes in fertility
- Confusion (perhaps, due to the sleepiness effect)
- Gastric issues like stomach cramps (common issues with pets taking new substances)
Cost of melatonin supplements
Most brands are sold for less than $20 per bottle, which usually contains 100 tablets. At the lower range, you can find prices as low as $8 up to the higher end of $13.
Make sure you are clear with the form of medication – tablet, pill, treats, liquid form – and how much melatonin each serving contains.
When reading reviews of these supplements, you will find that most buyers consider using them for helping their pets lower their anxiety for strange sounds or overcome sensitivity to huge sounds like thunderstorm.
When recommending to your friends, you can say that the supplements are safe and can be used, not necessarily always, for serious conditions.
Interaction with other drugs
Unfortunately, melatonin interacts with a host of substances. Check your medicine cabinet for any presence of these drugs/supplements:
- Narcotics (for pain)
- Stomach medications
- Heart and blood pressure medications
- St John’s wort
- Vitamin B12
It is important that you list everything that your dog is currently taking, and clearly give the information to your vet, so he can rule out any possibility of harming your dog due to the use of melatonin.
Ingredients in melatonin supplements
Any honest manufacturer should care to inform consumers of what is contained in their formulation. They should give buyers information on the label detailing the ingredients in their ads.
For melatonin supplements, besides melatonin as the main ingredient, you will see names such as:
- Silicon dioxide
- Vegetable stearate
If you are concerned with pain in your dog, you have other alternatives:
- NSAIDs – Talk about this with your vet, but usually, these will be the last to be recommended for pain relief. They have bad side effects that don’t show within months or years of use, but after quite some time of usage, your pet will suffer from digestive, or kidney or liver damage.
- NSAIDs are also for human medication and people also experience the same bad effects, so be careful and talk with your vet seriously before giving any of these meds to your pet.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – Incorporating fatty acids is a great way to combat pain in dogs. Try out omega-3 rich foods such as mackerel, tuna and salmon. These are excellent additions for dogs with joint pain and arthritis.
- CBD – Not to forget CBD, which is available in oil-based formulations in the market. For pain, it can help in that condition without any of the side effects common in NSAID medications.
CBD is not only used for pain treatment in dogs. You can consider this effective treatment for serious conditions like cancer and tumor.
Skin conditions such as warts are also treatable with CBD, along with infections such as those that occur in the ears and extremities.
Any condition that involves the brain and the nerves (seizures, epilepsy, anxiety, etc.) may also find relief in treatments using CBD.