Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the pineal gland from the amino acid tryptophan. Its involvement in the regulation of circadian rhythms has made it one of the most common oral supplements in humans and pets.
Although most of the time, it is associated with the reconciliation of sleep, melatonin has other equally important properties. However, such functional versatility, together with its non-synthetic origin and easy acquisition, should not encourage abusive use.
Most common applications of melatonin in dogs
- Sleep disorders. Although melatonin is not the only substance involved in the regulation of normal sleep patterns, there is evidence that its deficit tends to cause insomnia, especially in old age. Therefore, melatonin can be of great help in elderly dogs or even those who, due to vision problems, are unable to distinguish between hours of light and darkness.
- Areata. Scientific studies have proven the relationship between this hormone and coat renewal. Melatonin works both at the cellular level in the hair follicles themselves and at the central level in the regulation of melanocyte-stimulating hormone or prolactin. This relationship in the regulation of the molt is due to the fact that in many mammals, it is associated with the photoperiod, with a clear example of hair loss in the minks in the seasons with more hours of light.
- Anxiety. As in humans, stress and distress are common problems in pets, and more when they are alone at home. Taking advantage of the sedative properties of this hormone, veterinarians can advise its use in situations of nervousness or phobia, such as that caused by storms.
- Cushing ‘s disease. Normally linked to the existence of benign tumors in the pituitary, it produces a hormonal mismatch that increases cortisol levels. Among the symptoms caused include hair loss, lack of appetite, and insomnia. Therefore, within a mild severity, melatonin is an alternative to more aggressive medications.
Dosage and possible side effects
Establishing an adequate dose of melatonin is essential to avoid the appearance of associated disorders. For this, the animal health professional will take into account the size of the dog and the condition to be treated. In addition, although usually administered orally, other options such as subcutaneous implants that progressively release the hormone may be advisable.
In the case of being taken as a supplement, it can be ingested with some food to avoid being regurgitated, while the number of shots will depend on both the schedule and the effectiveness.
As for implants, they usually tend to be repeated several times a year, for which it is necessary to go to the veterinary office. However, some owners end up learning to inject them by themselves.
Statistics show that the side effects associated with the administration of melatonin are minor when the oral route is chosen. Even so, there are a number of possible adverse reactions beyond daytime sleepiness.
Some of those reflected by the owners are confusion, itching, gastric discomfort, heartbeat disorders, changes in fertility, and small abscesses in the case of implants.
Despite the existence of these negative effects, the owners are usually responsible for their tendency to overdose. Given this situation, it is essential to go to the veterinarian despite the fact that most of the problems caused are gastric.
As a general rule, for pets and for the human being, one must be aware that any medication or supplement has to be administered in an appropriate dose. The natural origin does not exempt a possible rejection, as it will depend on the conditions of each subject.