Veterinary background provided by Dr. Jennifer Coates DVM
Published October 2022
Many pet parents who have trouble sleeping will seek safe, effective sleep aids to help them get the rest they need. Did you know dogs can develop insomnia too? Whether it’s the result of anxiety, underlying health issues or changes in their routine, your dog could go through a period of sleep trouble that leaves you searching for a solution. Fortunately, there are methods and medications to help fight insomnia in dogs, and some of them may be familiar to pet parents—such as melatonin.
One well-known solution for helping restless people get some shuteye is melatonin, which is known for being gentle but effective. If melatonin has worked wonders for your sleep schedule, you may wonder whether it could help your pup. Is melatonin safe for dogs? We have good news. According to our veterinary consultants, melatonin can generally be considered harmless for dogs and may help your pup get the rest they need. As always, you should talk to your veterinarian before giving your dog melatonin or starting any other new supplements. And if you have questions about why, when and how to administer melatonin for dogs, keep reading.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally created in the bodies of people and pets alike. Melatonin production is activated by darkness, and it helps regulate our circadian rhythms so that we can drift off to sleep at night. Synthetic melatonin taken as a supplement mimics the effects of naturally produced melatonin in the body, helping induce feelings of calm, restfulness and drowsiness. It’s available in many forms—though tablets and tinctures are some of the most common—and can be purchased over the counter.
Can dogs have melatonin?
Is melatonin safe for dogs? Melatonin is typically fine to give to dogs and may help treat their sleep or anxiety issues—even hair loss that comes from seasonal alopecia. The ASPCA considers melatonin to be very safe for pups, though caution is advised in selecting the correct form and dosage of melatonin for dogs. Some forms of this supplement that are marketed for people contain ingredients that could be extremely dangerous for dogs, including Xylitol and other common additives. Always check the ingredients, ensure it’s designed for dogs and talk to your veterinarian about the best form of melatonin to give your pet.
How much melatonin can I give my dog?
The correct dosage of melatonin for dogs is somewhat subjective, as your pet’s size, weight and other factors can all influence how much melatonin they can handle. For this reason, we recommend checking with your veterinarian about how much melatonin your specific pup requires.
The good news is that a little too much melatonin is unlikely to create any very serious health issues, as long as you have made sure to give your dog melatonin in a harmless form that doesn’t contain xylitol or other unsafe ingredients. You should ask your vet to confirm that melatonin is okay for your dog, especially if they are on any other medications or supplements.
How often can I give my dog melatonin?
Can dogs have melatonin every day? As long as your veterinarian says it’s okay, melatonin can be given to your dog daily—or, more likely, nightly. You may even be able to find a specific form of melatonin for dogs that is guaranteed not to contain harmful additives. Melatonin is usually mild enough to become a regular part of your dog’s relaxation routine and may be effective for restlessness, anxiety and insomnia.
How do I give my dog melatonin?
While melatonin for dogs can have a positive effect on sleep-deprived pups, it’s important to give your dog the right formula at the right time of day for maximum efficacy. If your vet recommends melatonin for hair loss, anxiety or restlessness, they may recommend that you give your dog melatonin in the morning or during the day as well as at night. If your dog’s main issue is sleeplessness, you’ll probably give melatonin in the evening or a couple hours before bedtime.
Since some melatonin supplements that are intended for people contain ingredients harmful to dogs, the answer to the question “is melatonin safe for dogs?” can be complicated. One of the best ways you can make sure your dog is only taking melatonin in a harmless form is by giving your pet a specially-made melatonin for dogs that comes in the form of a chewable tablet or soft chew that your dog will eagerly eat.
You may also be able to find a tablet or capsule that can be hidden in a spoonful of peanut butter or a liquid that can be added to canned food or broth. While pet insurance may be needed to cover some of your dog’s prescription medications, melatonin is typically easy to obtain over the counter and is usually relatively inexpensive.
What are the possible side effects of melatonin for dogs?
According to the American Kennel Club, side effects of melatonin for dogs can, in rare cases, include such symptoms as upset stomach, itching and increased heart rate, among others. However, melatonin is known for having relatively mild side effects and many dogs develop no negative side effects at all. In fact, if your dog tends to scratch or experience gastric distress as a result of anxiety, you may find that melatonin actually decreases these symptoms.
The most common side effect you may see in your dog after giving them melatonin is lethargy—which, if you’re giving your dog melatonin for sleeplessness, is probably a good thing. It’s important to note that pre-existing kidney and liver issues may exacerbate the side effects of melatonin for dogs. That’s why it’s important to always speak with your veterinarian before starting to give your dog melatonin or any other new treatment—even if it’s a mild, over the counter remedy.
Are there any notable drug interactions of melatonin for dogs?
Though the answer to the question “is melatonin safe for dogs?” is usually a decisive “yes,” there are certain situations in which melatonin isn’t the best choice for your pup. Prescription drugs, such as benzodiazepines, succinylcholine and warfarin, don’t mix well with melatonin, and some vitamins and supplements interact negatively with melatonin for dogs too.
Ask your veterinarian whether your dog can have melatonin based on their medical history and what other medicines and remedies they may already be taking. No matter how much, how often or what form of melatonin you give your dog, make sure you avoid formulations that include Xylitol as an ingredient. This sweetener is harmless for most people in small doses, but it can be toxic to dogs in even small amounts.
Whether melatonin is your first foray into wellness options for your dog or simply the most recent treatment you’re considering as an attentive pet parent, we believe that the best way to make sure your pup is able to get the support they need is by enrolling them in a pet insurance plan. You shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for unexpected medical mishaps or make difficult financial decisions that could affect your pet’s future in the middle of a crisis. Get a pet insurance quote and compare plans to find coverage that works for your pet’s needs and your budget.
Now that you know the answer to the question, “can dogs have melatonin?” we hope you feel better equipped to make a good decision for your pet’s wellbeing. If you believe that melatonin could benefit your dog, talk to your veterinarian for advice on the correct dosage, formula and frequency that will help your pup feel better. Monitor your dog closely once they begin taking melatonin so you can keep an eye out for negative side effects.
Pregnant or nursing dogs should not take melatonin except under the supervision of a veterinarian, and melatonin supplements that contain Xylitol should never be given to dogs. With the right melatonin regimen, your restless dog could be on their way to deeper, more peaceful sleep—and with that stress off your mind, you may find yourself sleeping a little better too.