If there's one thing that Wild Earth pet parentts have in common, it's the desire to do thorough research and make well-informed decisions about their dog's health. They look for the best foods to feed them and the best method to use when switching their dog to a new food. They learn about the necessary vitamins and minerals a dog should get in her diet.
We pride ourselves in helping parents learn all about their pup's body and how to nurture good health!
Read on to learn more about dogs and melatonin, the potential benefits and side effects it can produce, and how to safely help your dog relax and catch some much-needed Z's.
What Is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that both humans and their dogs produce. It is produced in the pineal gland and helps our bodies to regulate our sleep schedule and, to some degree, our feelings of stress or anxiety.
At times, the body doesn't produce enough melatonin or doesn't release it at the proper times. That's why some people will take a melatonin supplement once a day for short periods of time. This allows them to get back on track with a proper sleeping pattern.
The question is, can you give dogs melatonin and will it work the same way?
Can Dogs Have Melatonin?
The short answer is that yes, you give melatonin to dogs. However, you should never do this without first consulting your veterinarian.
For most dogs, the use of melatonin will not cause major issues.
The problem is that if your dog is already taking other supplements or medications, melatonin may cause adverse effects. Additionally, it may worsen certain medical conditions. Finally, it is not good for dogs who are pregnant because it may pose risks to both her and her puppies.
While it's unlikely that your dog will have a severely negative reaction to melatonin, it is in your best interest to create an action plan with the help of your vet!
Uses of Melatonin for Dogs
For what reason would you give a dog melatonin? Actually, there are a few.
Ultimately, one of the biggest appeals of using melatonin to treat dogs is that it's natural.
Some vets have had luck prescribing melatonin to dogs who have conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, Cushing's disease, and alopecia. It often lessens some of the symptoms associated with these disorders while producing negligible side effects. Read on to find out more about these disorders and decide whether or not you should talk to your veterinarian about treating your dog with melatonin.
An estimated 20-40% of dogs suffer from some level of separation anxiety. Beyond the distress this causes the dog, it can also lead to behavioral issues and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Some owners return from work to discover that their pup has chewed up her bedding or has been obsessively cleaning the same spots on her paws.
In addition to separation anxiety, some dogs experience situational anxiety, from the fear of car rides to the fear of thunderstorms.
Some owners have found success with using melatonin to treat their dog's anxiety. It can help them to mellow it in times of stress, lowering the chances of behavioral problems or unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Who knew that people weren't the only ones who could suffer from insomnia? Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or sleep soundly. Too many nights of disrupted or unrestful sleep can lead to other issues throughout the day, such as an increase in anxiety or feelings of lethargy.
Dogs who suffer from insomnia often have cognitive dysfunctions that disrupt their natural biorhythms. This can lead to unusual sleeping schedules or limited sleep overall. In this case, owners may use melatonin to help their dogs sleep through the night and feel more alert and active during the day.
Cushing's disease occurs when your dog's body is producing too much of the hormone cortisol. Normal levels of cortisol help regulate stress responses and the immune system. Too much cortisol can lead to issues such as frequent urination, low energy and muscle weakness, and various skin conditions.
In certain cases, melatonin can help ease the symptoms of Cushing's disease. If the disease is caused by a tumor on the adrenal or pituitary gland, melatonin will block the uptake of excess cortisol. Many vets will go for a melatonin-based treatment before opting for other medications that can cause severe side effects.
Some dogs experience what is known as seasonal flank alopecia in the winter months. For no clear reason, they lose patches of hair on their lower backside near their tail. It is not accompanied by other skin disorders, which is part of what makes this phenomenon so mysterious.
There are vets who will prescribe melatonin to treat this hair loss, although it's not a clearcut solution. While the hair often grows back for dogs treated with melatonin, there's inconclusive evidence that it wouldn't grow back without melatonin. However, it is a harmless solution for most dogs and can bring owners the comfort that they are actively trying to combat the alopecia.
Melatonin Dosage for Dogs
What kind of melatonin should you use for your dog, how much should you give them, and how should you administer the supplement?
Once again, you will need to talk to your vet about these questions. As far as choosing a brand, you'll want to find one that isn't cut with a number of other active ingredients and always avoid supplements that include xylitol. For the most part, melatonin supplements have a short list of ingredients that are safe for dogs to consume but you should still talk to your vet about the brand you've got before you use it.
Determining the proper dosage will depend on your dog's weight.
A general rule of thumb is that a dog that weighs less than 10 pounds should take 1 milligram. Dogs that weigh 10 to 25 pounds can have 1.5 milligrams. Dogs that are between 26 and 100 pounds can have up to 3 milligrams and dogs over 100 pounds may be able to have up to 6 milligrams.
However, weight alone cannot determine your dog's dosage. Other factors such as preexisting conditions must be taken into consideration. No matter the size of the dosage, you should never give your dog melatonin more than 3 times a day.
While melatonin does not have to be taken with food for medical reasons, what better way is there to get a dog to take her medicine than to mix it with food? If you are using a tablet or capsule, dip a spoon in yogurt or peanut butter and place the supplement inside. If you are using a powder or liquid form, you can add it to a small bowl of water or to a treat as long as you know that they consume the full dosage.
It tends to take about 15 to 20 minutes for melatonin to kick in and the effects will last about 8 hours. If you are using it to help your dog sleep through the night, you can give it to her immediately before bedtime and it will do the trick.
Melatonin Side Effects for Dogs
For most dogs, they won't experience serious side effects. This is why vets and owners alike tend to prefer melatonin over other sleep aids such as tranquilizers.
You may notice a bit of lethargy in your dog during her waking hours. She may also experience an increase in itchiness or digestive upset. More serious side effects include an elevated heart rate, cramping, and confusion.
The best way to track the way your dog's body is reacting to melatonin is to start with a low dosage and increase it over the span of a few days. If any of these side effects present themselves, consult your veterinarian before continuing with the process.
Natural Solutions Create Naturally Healthy Dogs
Can dogs have melatonin? The answer is yes, as long as you talk to your vet first and follow her exact orders. Melatonin is a natural supplement that can help your dog build up her health without the use of chemicals or medications.
If you love natural solutions that improve your dog's health, check out Wild Earth's collection of plant-based dog food and treats! We use natural ingredients that you'll actually recognize and that will support your dog's physical development and digestive health.
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