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A dog that took melatonin, sleeping.

The essentials

  • Melatonin may help your dog rest — Dogs who have trouble catching zzz’s might benefit from melatonin, a hormone naturally found in your dog’s body that helps them know when it’s time to sleep.  
  • Melatonin is also used for alopecia and anxiety — This supplement helps your dog relax and may keep them calm despite stress triggers like fireworks and thunderstorms. Melatonin lowers cortisol levels, which may also help your dog combat alopecia. 
  • You can give your dog melatonin meant for humans or animals — As long as the supplement doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients like xylitol, your dog can take a melatonin supplement formulated for humans. Just ask your vet first for the correct dosage, and don’t give it to pregnant or lactating dogs, or puppies 12 weeks or younger.

Like humans, dogs can experience insomnia. However, the condition is rare in canines, and usually stems from an underlying illness such as dog dementia. Shifting schedules, time zone changes, and other environmental stimuli might also have your dog’s circadian rhythm out of whack. If your dog has chronic trouble sleeping, your vet might recommend a supplement like melatonin to help them regulate their hormones and promote relaxation. Melatonin also suppresses cortisol, a stress hormone that can cause alopecia and anxiety at high levels. Although not FDA-approved, melatonin has been anecdotally successful in helping dogs recover from alopecia, relax during stressful events, and get a good night’s sleep.

Melatonin at a glance

  • Medication type: Hormone supplement
  • Availability: Non-prescription
  • FDA approved: Not approved for pets
  • Brand names: Regulin®, Circadin®
  • Common name: Melatonin
  • Life stage: Dogs and cats over 12 weeks old

What is melatonin?

Your dog’s body naturally creates melatonin to regulate their sleep cycles. A melatonin supplement can help your pup if they suffer from disrupted sleep cycles or cognitive disorders like dementia by boosting their melatonin levels and lowering cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress responses. The hormone supplement is either made from synthetic chemicals or the pineal gland of a cow’s brain, but you can also give your dog food that’s rich in melatonin, such as oats and fatty fish. Some dog chews also contain melatonin, but most likely your vet will prescribe a low dosage of a dog or human supplement.


The effects of melatonin for dogs

Trouble sleeping is the main reason why melatonin may be prescribed to dogs, humans, and even cats. Although melatonin isn’t FDA-approved for dogs, most vets consider it to be safe in low doses.    

Benefits of melatonin for dogs

Your vet might prescribe melatonin to give your dog better sleep, but they might also suggest its calming qualities to ease your dog’s anxiety. There’s also a theory that melatonin might be helpful for dogs with alopecia. Here are some of the reasons why melatonin might be a good fit for your dog: 

  • Alleviate some symptoms of dementia. If your dog has dementia, they might become confused between night and day. Canine cognitive disorder takes a toll on sleep directly, sometimes resulting in a disruptive sleep cycle where your dog may get up several times during the night. Giving them a melatonin supplement may help them get a good night’s sleep. 
  • Ease your dog into a new routine. If you’ve been on the road with your dog and they’ve confused their days and their nights, you might try to give them melatonin the first few nights they’re back home to help their bodies reacquaint with regular sleep schedules. 
  • Calm your dog in the storm. Summer days can bring more fun time for your pup, but they also host a greater number of fearful events like fireworks and thunderstorms. You might try giving your dog some melatonin about 30 minutes before the storm rolls in so that they’ll be a little calmer by the time the lightning strikes. Try to settle them in a windowless room on their favorite bed/blanket, and give them lots of love and praise. Never yell at them for being afraid because that may reinforce their belief that storms are scary.
  • Treat alopecia. Excessive amounts of cortisol can result in alopecia, or hair loss, in dogs. Melatonin may counteract hyperadrenocorticism by lowering your dog’s cortisol levels. Some vets may recommend melatonin for alopecia first because it’s a cheap, non-prescription drug.  
  • Reduce the amount of anesthesia required for surgery. Studies have shown that giving melatonin just before general anesthesia may result in a lower dose. Anesthesia is a common and relatively safe drug, but it does come with risks. The less your dog needs, the better.

Potential side effects and risks of melatonin for dogs

Although melatonin has been deemed generally safe for humans and animals, it does come with some risks. While melatonin’s side effects are typically mild and rare in the general population, the supplement isn’t recommended for pregnant or lactating animals, or dogs younger than 12 weeks old. Although more studies need to be conducted, melatonin appears to have a negative impact on fertility. In fact, some cat owners even use it to suppress heat cycles in female cats. Here are some general risks that have been associated with the supplement: 

  • Gastric upset. Melatonin generally doesn’t cause stomach upset, but you might alleviate any issues by giving your pup melatonin with a meal. 
  • Sleepiness. Melatonin is generally used to help your dog sleep, so it’s only natural that they might be a little drowsy after taking it. 
  • Increased heart rate. Although rare, increased heart rate has been mentioned as a side effect that shouldn’t be ignored. Call your veterinarian if your pet’s heart is beating much faster than normal, or if they appear exceedingly restless. 
  • Itching. Unlike fatigue, which is expected, itchiness can actually be a sign that your pup is intolerant to their supplement. Talk to your vet if your dog suddenly can’t seem to stop scratching. 
  • Confusion. A dazed expression could be a sign your pet is tired, which is a good thing, but it could also be a sign of intolerance. Note if the confusion is accompanied by itching, as well as how long it lasts after giving them the supplement. 

⚠️ Always ask your vet which melatonin supplement is safe for dogs. While melatonin itself won’t cause any harm, some supplements contain xylitol, which is toxic to dogs and cats.

Giving your dog melatonin

You should always ask your vet before giving your dog melatonin. Although it’s generally considered safe, it can interact with certain drugs such as warfarin, benzodiazepines, and succinylcholine. Tell your vet everything your dog is currently taking, including other supplements, before starting them on melatonin.

Finding the correct dosage for your dog

Melatonin dosage is typically determined by size. Just remember that this supplement isn’t meant for puppies or pregnant or lactating females, and your vet may recommend a different dosage based on your dog’s individual health. For example, your dog may only need a low dose at bedtime to treat insomnia as opposed to a higher dose several times a day for alopecia.

Pounds Milligrams Times Per Day
~10 lbs. 1 mg. Up to 3x
10-25 lbs. 1.5 mg. Up to 3x
26-100 lbs. 3 mg. Up to 3x
100 lbs.+ 3-6 mg. Up to 3x

Different forms of melatonin for pets 

Your dog may take melatonin orally in pill or chew form, or in rare circumstances, as an implantation injection. As long as the supplements don’t contain any harmful ingredients like xylitol, your dog may take human or animal melatonin supplements. Your vet can assist in picking out the best choice.

Other ways to help your dog rest

Your dog should be getting roughly 12-16 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, with most of their slumbers taking place during nighttime hours. It’s important to note that dogs have shorter sleep cycles than humans, so they might get out of bed every couple of hours during the night. This is normal, and shouldn’t be mistaken for a sign of a sleep disorder. However, it might be a symptom if they don’t go back to sleep shortly after returning from their midnight rendezvous. Dogs can develop sleep disorders, but most times, a disrupted circadian rhythm results from an underlying condition such as dog dementia, or an environmental issue such as lack of a sleep schedule. While melatonin may help your dog sleep, here are some other ways to help Fido get some rest:

Take them for a walk before bed. Going on a late night stroll can expend the last of your dog’s energy for the day and eliminate their need to go potty in the middle of the night. Both of these factors should tremendously help your dog’s sleep. If you get in the habit of taking your dog out right before bed, they might even begin to associate their last walk of the day with feeling tired. 

Establish a bedtime routine. Give your pup some clues that the day is coming to a close by creating a bedtime routine they can look forward to. Calming night-night treats might help, as well as “tucking” them into bed with their favorite blanket or chew toy.

Give them valerian root. Valerian root is a natural alternative to melatonin that’s also used to treat anxiety. You might try valerian root as a supplement or as an ingredient in a treat. Just consult your vet first, and never give to pregnant or lactating dogs, or young puppies.

Frequently asked questions

How much melatonin can I give a dog?

Melatonin dosage is determined by your dog’s size and the reason for treatment. Always talk to your vet before beginning any new medicine or supplements to make sure it won’t interfere with other drugs. You also shouldn’t give melatonin to pregnant or lactating dogs, or puppies younger than 12 weeks.  

Is human melatonin safe for dogs?

Unlike most human medicines, a melatonin supplement meant for humans is probably fine to give to your dog in an appropriate dosage as long as it doesn’t contain xylitol or other toxic ingredients. Ask your vet how much melatonin your dog needs, and let them help you find the best form of melatonin that doesn’t have any dangerous added ingredients. 

What would happen if my dog ate melatonin? 

Likely, they’ll take a good nap. Melatonin shouldn’t hurt your dog if they ate only a small amount, but they might feel tired or have mild indigestion. However, you should call your vet at once if they ate more than 6 mg. at one time, or if the product contained xylitol, or any other toxic ingredient. 

What are the side effects of melatonin in dogs? 

Melatonin is generally acknowledged as a safe supplement for dogs, but it can cause side effects such as tiredness, stomach upset, confusion, or itchiness. While it’s natural for your dog to feel sleepy after taking melatonin, it’s not normal for them to be confused or to suddenly itch all over. These are typically symptoms of melatonin intolerance. You should let your vet know if your dog experiences these side effects as soon as possible so you can discuss alternate treatment options.