People commonly take melatonin supplements to help themselves sleep better at night. Known for its role in regulating circadian rhythms, melatonin is often regarded as the hormone that’ll make you feel sleepy.
Melatonin supplements are recommended for pets with sleep disorders, but the hormone’s uses extend much further than that. Check out the many ways melatonin can promote full-body wellness in your pet.
- General stress: Pets can take melatonin supplements to better cope with stressful situations. Anything could potentially trigger a stress response in pets, especially loud noises and interactions with strangers. Melatonin blocks the production of cortisol, a hormone that creates feelings of stress. Melatonin is more effective at relieving stress when owners administer the supplement prior to a stressful event. For instance, pets who are scared of thunderstorms should take a dose of melatonin before the weather gets really bad.
- Adrenal support: Dogs with adrenal problems like Cushing’s disease often have high levels of cortisol, which leads to a host of unpleasant symptoms. Because melatonin blocks the production and uptake of cortisol in a dog’s body, supplementation can serve as a holistic treatment for Cushing’s disease.
- Separation anxiety: Your vet may recommend a melatonin supplement if your pet frequently experiences separation anxiety. This type of anxiety occurs when the pet is left alone for any length of time. Melatonin doesn’t just make pets sleepy—it has a calming effect on the mind. The hormone reduces separation anxiety by relaxing the nervous system. To treat separation anxiety, a dose of melatonin is best given right before you leave the house.
- Cognitive function: Pets can experience cognitive decline later in life. As they get older, the brain slows melatonin production. Senior pets that regularly take melatonin supplements stay mentally sharp, have a better memory and can obey basic commands more easily. Cognitive decline has also been linked to sleep disturbances, so improved cognitive function can help senior pets sleep better at night.
- Gut health: Melatonin benefits more than the brain. The hormone directly impacts your pet’s digestive system, because a large volume is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Increased melatonin levels are linked to greater diversity of good bacteria in the microbiome. A well-balanced microbiome can reduce the frequency of gastrointestinal upset such as constipation and diarrhea. For this reason, owners should speak with a vet about melatonin if their pet has been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome or another digestive disorder.
- Immune system: Melatonin supports gut health, which in turn strengthens the immune system. A high number of healthy bacteria protects the body from viruses and pathogens. Therefore, pets who take melatonin supplements on a regular basis experience fewer skin and respiratory infections. Melatonin might even guard against cancerous tumors and other foreign cells within the body. Overall, the hormone can reduce your pet’s risk of both short-term and chronic illness.
- Oxidative stress: Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when unstable molecules called free radicals attack normal body cells. This results in cell damage, which increases the risk of cancer over time. Antioxidants like melatonin neutralize free radicals and safely remove them from the body. Lower oxidative stress extends a cell’s lifespan, creating an anti-aging effect in your pet.
Ask your vet about proper dosage
Every pet is different, which means every pet needs a different melatonin dose. As a general rule, smaller breeds require smaller doses, while larger breeds require larger doses. However, pet parents should always ask a vet about exact dose measurements to avoid giving their cat or dog too much melatonin. The hormone isn’t life threatening but may cause unpleasant symptoms if administered in wrong amounts.
Melatonin supplements are generally regarded as safe among cats and dogs. Side effects rarely occur, and when they do, they’re usually mild. Rare side effects associated with melatonin supplements include an upset stomach, itching, disorientation and changes in fertility for intact animals. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, stop giving them melatonin and consult your vet about other possible treatments.
The last thing to consider is that melatonin can interfere with certain medications. The hormone can prevent medications from working properly or combine with them to create an adverse reaction in your pet. Specific medications that don’t mesh well with melatonin include steroids, anticonvulsants and pills for diabetes management. Additionally, female pets shouldn’t take melatonin supplements if they’re pregnant or producing milk for their litter.
Overall, melatonin is a natural supplement that can support various parts of the mind and body. Your pet has been producing melatonin their whole life—supplements simply replace what the body has lost over time. From poor sleep to tummy aches, every pet has something to gain from melatonin. Next time your fur baby seems less than great, melatonin might just be the solution you’re looking for!