A gray pitbull sleeps on the floor highlighting The Dig’s article about melatonin and dog safety

Health & Wellness

Is melatonin safe for dogs?

If served correctly, the supplement can be beneficial for pups

Melatonin, a hormone that people's bodies produce naturally, signals when it is time to rest. It also comes in supplement form for those who struggle with winding down, relaxing and sleeping through the night. This begs the question: Can melatonin be as helpful to dogs as it is for humans?

The short answer is yes, melatonin is generally considered to be safe for dogs when dispensed appropriately — aka, with your vet’s blessing and instructions. Fetch by The Dodo’s on-staff veterinarian Dr. Aliya McCullough explains the best way to give your dog melatonin so they can chill and rest up.

Can melatonin help dogs?

With your vet’s guidance, melatonin is used to treat several conditions that impact dogs, including:

  • Insomnia: Pups that have difficulty sleeping, like elderly dogs with dementia, may benefit from safe levels of melatonin by getting restful sleep. 
  • Anxiety: Melatonin can help dogs that struggle with anxiety relax, thanks to its drowsy effects. 
  • Hair loss: If your dog suffers from seasonal, non-allergic hair loss (this condition is common for Pomeranians), melatonin may improve their fur coats. 

What are the side effects of melatonin for dogs?

Your dog may experience drowsiness or an upset stomach after ingesting melatonin. Watch out for other changes, too, including allergic reactions like vomiting, diarrhea or general itchiness. Contact your veterinarian if your dog starts showing any of these signs.

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How to safely give a dog melatonin‍

Always talk to your vet before giving your dog melatonin. A professional is best equipped to decide if the supplement is safe for your pet. Plus, they’ll know if melatonin will interfere with any other medications, like heart medications or steroids, that your pup may be taking. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s health status to see if there’ll be any negative interactions. 

A vet should recommend the right brand for your dog, too. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements, which is why some brands contain harmful ingredients to dogs. Brands that come in the gummy, fruit-flavored form or quick-dissolve tablets may include the artificial sweetener, xylitol, which is very toxic for dogs. Only give your dog melatonin supplements designed for people if your vet clears the product first (and if you're sure it doesn't contain xylitol).

You can give your dog melatonin as a pill, liquid or capsule, with or without food — just be sure to follow your vet’s serving size recommendations. If your pup suffers from a stomachache or vomiting after eating melatonin on its own, try serving the supplement with food next time (just as long as your vet gives you the OK to give them melatonin again). With your vet's OK, it’s generally safe to give your dog melatonin every day. 

Now you know the ins and outs of melatonin for dogs. Our expert-backed advice should help you navigate a conversation with your vet. Hopefully, you will find melatonin to be a safe tool in helping your dog relax and live a more healthy and happy life.

Photo by Trent Jackson on Unsplash

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