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31 January 2013

The Use Of Melatonin In The Dog and Cat.

My dog accidentally ate a lot of my Melatonin tablets, is this dangerous or likely to be toxic for him or her? What should I do? What is the dose rate for Melatonin in the dog and cat? What is Melatonin used for in dogs and cats? Is Melatonin safe for dogs? Is there an implant? Can human over the counter Melatonin be given to dogs? What are the side effects of Melatonin in dogs? What if my Melatonin contains Xylitol?

1. Uses: Melatonin is a class of drug called a neuro-hormone, it has a number of potential veterinary uses such as sedative properties, it has been used in the past as an anticonvulsant, and it is known to help regulate your dog's body rhythms and reproductive cycles.

But it also appears to have uses as an antioxidant which will combat free radicals which may be important in some disease conditions. This drug is freely available over the counter in a number of countries in the world but is not specifically licensed for animal use, that said many vets have found it to be of use in the following specific situations.

A. Melatonin has been used in the treatment of separation anxiety in dogs.

B. It is also used to treat other stressful conditions, such as noise anxieties related to fireworks etc.

C. Melatonin has been used to help sleep patterns in pets that are very active at night and not sleeping at the right time. This can sometimes occur in older dogs ( Sundowner Syndrome ) Basically it helps re-sets the animal's biological clock.

D. It has been used to treat various other behavioural problems in dogs and it is known to have sedative properties.

E. Melatonin is sometimes used in dogs to treat some specific causes of baldness in the dog such as Bilateral Canine Flank Alopecia.

F. Melatonin has also been used in treatment for dogs with blood { platelet } disorders.

E. Suppression of estrus in cats


2. Dose rates: for Melatonin in the dog { Tablets } :

For smaller dogs Melatonin is given at up to 1 mg per dog three times a day orally.

For medium-sized dogs a dose of up to 3 mg per dog three times a day has been used orally.

For larger dogs consider a dose rate of up to 9 mg dog orally again given three times a day.

Also be aware Melatonin implants are available which can be injected subcutaneously in dogs by your vet, these can have a very long duration of action, sometimes more than six months and up to a year. This can be a very convenient way to give the drug.

The length of the course would depend on the response to treatment and any side effects which may or may not be observed. That said his drug has often been safely used in dogs when given for long periods of time.

Cats: In cats, melatonin is dosed at between 1.5 to 6 mg per cat orally { total daily dose, not weight dependant } whenever necessary, up to every 12 hours. The 18 mg implant has been used to suppress estrus in cats for 2 to 4 months.


3. Side effects: This drug is generally considered to be very safe and few side effects have been noted, but like any drug allergic reactions are possible in a very small number of individuals. With a very small number of individuals excessive lethargy or paradoxically nervous behaviour was noted, but should this occur it is not likely to be serious. Lastly, some authorities are concerned that it can interfere with a female dog's reproductive cycle.

As far as overdoses go I have known dogs accidentally swallow a great number of melatonin tablets and not suffer any adverse side effects of any sort. As I said this drug has an extremely high margin of safety in the dog. So in the event of an overdose, it is usually safe enough just to observe your dog for the time being and then contact your vet if you become further concerned. But this would be generally unlikely, you may perhaps see a minor stomach upset, but that's about it.


4. Xylitol: Be aware that some brands of over the counter human Melatonin contain the artificial sweetener Xylitol, { It should be on the bottle } and this would be your main worry if a dog has accidentally swallowed a few Melatonin tablets which contain Xylitol as this sweetener can be seriously toxic to dogs. If in doubt on this point contact a local ASAP.


5. Drug interactions: Minor drug interactions are possible with such drug which your dog might be already taking such as sedatives, steroids and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

I hope you have found this article useful.


Dr Scott