If you’re dealing with jet lag, insomnia or anxiety that’s interfering with your sleep, you might take a melatonin supplement to help regulate your sleep cycle. But did you know that melatonin can have a similar benefit for pets?
If your four-legged friend is experiencing anxiety, sleep cycle troubles or dementia, a synthetic, natural melatonin supplement might be all they need to relax and get a good night’s rest. Here’s what you should know about this supplement and how to safely administer it to your cat or dog.
What is melatonin?
Much like in humans, melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the pineal gland in pets. This hormone helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle and the body’s natural clock, which directs other bodily processes. After taking melatonin, most pets begin to feel sleepy and relaxed.
In addition to controlling the sleep cycle of pets, melatonin may also be useful in supporting the adrenal glands and controlling levels of the hormone cortisol in dogs, aiding in the regulation of hair growth, appetite and urination. Melatonin might also naturally assist in hormone stability for dogs with Cushing’s disease.
How to ensure melatonin is safe for pets
Melatonin that’s formulated for pets is widely believed to be safe for dogs and cats. Melatonin may be able to be given alongside other prescription medications, meaning it can safely act as a natural sleep or anxiety aid for pets with some health problems.
The side effects of melatonin are typically few in number and mild. Drowsiness is the most common effect, but some pets might experience an upset stomach, itching and increased heart rate. Side effects may be more likely if your give your pet more than the recommended dose.
Some animals might be allergic to melatonin supplements. If you’re giving melatonin to your pet for the first time, keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction, including excessive itching, vomiting and diarrhea. Pets that are allergic to melatonin should not continue its use.
Although specially formulated pet melatonin is safe for most animals, it’s always a good idea to discuss melatonin administration with your vet before giving it to your furry friend. Your vet may recommend you not administering it if your pet has certain health ailments. They will also be able to discuss the proper dosage you should give your pet based on their weight and age.
Melatonin best practices
If you’re interested in giving melatonin to your pet, keep these few best practices and tips in mind.
- Choose specific melatonin for pets: Always use melatonin that’s been specially formulated for pets, rather than the human melatonin tablets you may already have in your medicine cabinet. Pet melatonin is often synthetically made to prevent the risk of viral transmission with animal-derived melatonin. It should also be free of toxic ingredients like xylitol, which might be present in human supplements. Additionally, human melatonin often comes in pill form, which can be difficult for pets to swallow. Instead, pet melatonin is often formulated into a liquid and enhanced with a pet-preferred flavor.
- Use for anxiety or stress: One of melatonin’s best uses is on pets with separation anxiety or significant stress. This might include acute forms of stress, such as thunderstorms or fireworks; travel-, vet- or groomer-related anxiety or aggression; or chronic separation anxiety when you leave the home. Providing melatonin prior to the stressful event or before you leave can help your pet relax for a more pleasant experience.
- Use for sleep: Melatonin’s drowsy effects also make it a good choice for pets that need to achieve a regular sleep schedule. One of the most common uses in this area is for older pets with dementia, who might experience insomnia and roam the house while crying. Puppies over the age of 12 weeks who are still adjusting to your family’s sleep schedule might also benefit from a nighttime dose of melatonin, so they fall and stay asleep more easily.
- Administer it at the right time: Melatonin can take between 30 and 60 minutes to begin working for your pet. For most pets, administer the melatonin around one hour before a stressful event begins or before bedtime. This gives the supplement time to work in the body and produce its relaxing, sleepy effects, so your pet is calm when the time is right. Make sure you follow the instructions on the supplement for future doses. Most supplements should only be given once every eight to 12 hours.
As with all supplements, make sure you research the type of melatonin you want to give to your pet and the company selling it to make sure it’s of a high quality. If you have questions concerning melatonin and your pet, always ask your vet before administering it to ensure your pet’s safety. With the right supplement, your pet will benefit from melatonin’s calming effects.