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Melatonin, Pets and Other Animals
Dogs, Cats, Ferrets, Horses and Sheep - all on this page

Sleep Disturbances in Pets in General

"Sleep disturbances can result from painful conditions such as osteoarthritis, an altered biological clock, anxiety and fear of the dark, discomfort from pain or being cold, and less rapid-eye-movement sleep.

"Management options for improving an older pet's sleep include providing a warm and comfortable bed, use of a night light, playing the radio softly, offering a bedtime snack or warm milk, or taking the pet for a brief walk before bedtime.

"Administering hydroxyzine or melatonin or a two-week analgesic trial are other options. 'One of my concerns is that we miss a lot of (signs of) pain in older pets because it's not so obvious,' Dr. Fortney said." ("Chronic Dysfunction Syndrome Among Manageable Behavioral Problems", American Journal of Veterinary Research, AVMA News, September 15, 2005, USA)
Dogs
"Recently, melatonin was reported to be effective in the treatment of one case of noise phobia. The decision to use drugs should be made on the advice of a veterinarian." (Pets.ca, Montreal, Quebec, Canada)
"Before the fireworks begin, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine, suggests taking your dog to the most insulated room in the house. The best bet is a basement. Blast the stereo so you drown out the fireworks. Your dog will probably remember from past years that the flashing lights of fireworks are followed by big booms, so the flashing lights prime his fear. Prevent this by closing the shades so the dog can't see outdoors.

"... Dodman adds that melatonin is safe and can be given to any anxious dog. A 40-to 50-pound dog should be given an adult dose. A very small dog should receive about a third to half that, and similarly, a larger dog should be given 1-1/2 times or twice that dose." (The San Diego Union Tribune, "Animal House - Pet news, views and tips you can use," July 1, 2004, San Diego, California, USA)
Using melatonin to treat thunder phobia is discussed by Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue. The article recaps an account by two veterinarians treating a collie: "The effect of the melatonin was dramatic. The dog simply stopped being afraid instead of tearing around the house and digging at the carpets. The melatonin did not put her to sleep, she stayed awake and alert -- just not bothered by the thunder." Their recommended dosage for normal-sized dogs is 3 mg. (Hudson, Massachusetts, USA)
"Melatonin is a homeopathic remedy used to relieve anxiety and insomnia. Anecdotal research demonstrates that melatonin may have beneficial effects in relieving canine anxiety. The recommended dosage is one 3 mg tablet three times per day." (Comprehensive Pet Therapy, Inc., Georgia, USA)
"Melatonin ... can be dosed at 1.5 mg per dose for dogs under 30 pounds, and 3 mg per dose for dogs over 30 pounds. Repeat, if needed, 2-3 times a day. I would not recommend continuous dosing for weeks at a time, but during a stormy day or two, you can do it for the duration. Again, it may not be enough for the severe thunder-phobe." (Grassmere Animal Hospital, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
"I have had considerable success in treating dogs with melatonin for thunderstorm phobia. Surprisingly they do not sleep usually, but lay relaxed but aware through the storm. I would certainly try the approach if presented with a cat that was afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks. The hormone is very safe, and I have seen no side effects with my canine patients. I use a canine dose of 3 mg for an average sized dog, 1.5 mg for anything under 25 lbs, and may increase the dose to 6 mg if they’re over 100 lbs. ... Dose to be repeated as needed up to three times a day.

One effect that I am beginning to see, is that dogs can actually learn to overcome the effects of thunderstorm phobia on melatonin. Dogs sometimes present which are fearful of surfaces (especially linoleum or polished wood) or stairs, but I have not seen such fears in a cat." (Pet Shrink, "a veterinary practice focusing on behavioral problems," Berlin, Massachusetts, USA)
In addition to thunderstorm phobia, and in general helping dogs sleep through the night, The Epi Guardian Angels recommends melatonin to control seizures in canine epilepsy. (California, USA)
A search on the word "melatonin" at The Whole Dog Journal lists the following articles:
      · "Reducing Your Dog's Anxieties"
      · "Chill Pills"
      · "Stop the Panic"
      · "Bring In Da Noise"
- among others. (Palm Coast, Florida, USA)
Melatonin works wonderfully well to calm nervous dogs. I have a Schipperke who is frightened of fireworks and thunderstorms. My friend has a big Akita scared of the same. Both take melatonin. Another friend gave her Pit Bull melatonin to calm him during a move. I tell every dog owner I know. It works far better than Valium for nervous dogs and seems to have no side effects. I first used it for my dog, who was a mental wreck during fireworks, after reading a recommendation about it in a newspaper column by a vet 8 years ago.

I also use melatonin personally for jet lag and when I sometimes lose my sleep pattern. It restores normal sleep.
Cats
"Cats do not present for fearful behaviors nearly as frequently as dogs, although as a species they are probably every bit as fearful. However, when faced with a fear-inducing stimulus the cat’s natural tendency is to flee, and hide. In this way they tend to deal with their fears, and not lay them at their owner’s feet as dogs do.

"... For a cat, I’d probably start with about 0.75 mg [of melatonin]. Dose to be repeated as needed up to three times a day." (Pet Shrink, "a veterinary practice focusing on behavioral problems," Berlin, Massachusetts, USA)
"The most common signs of [Chronic Dysfunction Syndrome] can be remembered by the acronym DISH: disorientation, less social interaction, altered sleep patterns, and house soiling. It's unusual to see all four signs in an animal, and the diagnosis can be made on the basis of only one sign.

"In cats, common clinical signs include aggression against the owner, strangers, or housemates; inappropriate elimination; increased vocalization; disturbances in the sleep cycle; excessive grooming; and disorientation or confusion. Many causes of CDS exist for cats."

[Among treatments options is melatonin, according to the article.] ("Chronic Dysfunction Syndrome Among Manageable Behavioral Problems", American Journal of Veterinary Research, AVMA News, September 15, 2005, USA)
Ferrets
"There are several options for the treatment of adrenal disease in ferrets. Most will agree that surgery is the best option; however, surgery is not possible in all cases ... Fortunately, there are several non-surgical options and this article will discuss one of those options - the use of melatonin for both the treatment of adrenal disease and the possibility of using it as a preventative measure." (Ferret Health Care, Miami, Florida, USA)
"I have used more than 200 melatonin implants. I have used these after surgery to regrow the hair coat faster, and to increase the appetite and put weight back on." (Ferrets Magazine, Jerry Murray, DVM, Dallas, Texas, USA)
Horses
"Melatonin is a hormone which has gotten lots of press lately because of its many claims, one of which is to help people sleep. In horses Melatonin has been used to simulate short day cycles. (Kind of approaching the estrous/anestrus subject from the opposite end.) Lights shorten anestrus and hasten the onset of estrous.

"Melatonin, if given in mid summer, shortens estrous and hastens winter anestrus. Once properly exposed to short days, the mare can then respond to lights or the stimulus of long days. Consider this therapy if you find your mare not pregnant this summer. If such a mare was given Melatonin at that time, followed by lights next November, regular cyclic activity could be achieved early next season." (Oregon Equine, Ron Friedman, MS, DVM, Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA)
"Melatonin is the primary endocrine signal in the horse that produces the effects of season on other parts of the body e.g. reproductive cycle. The circulating melatonin level is highly dependent on light, it increases in concentration during periods of darkness (night). Seasonal head shakers (spring onset) can be treated with melatonin. Daily administration of melatonin mimics the winter conditions of melatonin kinetics and thereby may decrease the seasonal body changes which lead to the development of headshaking." (VetPro, Kumeu, New Zealand)
"Headshaking is a mysterious problem in horses. Recent research suggests that it can be caused by a variety of factors: it can be behavioral (a vice or disobedience) or biological (caused by physical discomfort arising from tack, teeth or ear problems, allergies, nerve stimulation, sensitivity to light, and a variety of other possible causes).

"Some researchers theorize that melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, may play a role in photic headshaking. 12 mg melatonin per 1000 lbs, in concert with antihistamines or alone, may help your horse. Consult with your vet before trying this, as melatonin is a powerful supplement and can act as a sedative." (Lisa Jadwin, Rochester, New York, USA)
Sheep
"Melatonin can induce early onset of the breeding season in ewes." (Noted in The Canadian Veterinary Journal)

See also our selection of
recommended books on pets and health supplements.



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"For many years I have woken around 3am and found difficulty getting back to sleep again. I now take two Melatonin 1.5gm Sustained Release tablets every night and have had no more broken nights... Thank you WWL!" - H.C., United Kingdom

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