The research is clear! Melatonin may be the single most important substance in your dog’s body. It can prevent a wide range of diseases … and it slows down the aging process.
You might know melatonin as the anti-jet lag hormone … because it helps control the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is also an important hormone for energy. It helps protect the mitochondria – organelles that supply the cells with energy. And, as a powerful antioxidant, it may help in cancer prevention.
Melatonin for dogs has countless other benefits. And unless your dog’s melatonin is depleted, he makes it himself, in his own body.
Where The Body Makes Melatonin
The pineal gland secretes melatonin in response to darkness … so it’s sometimes called the hormone of darkness. The pineal gland regulates the sleep-wake cycle. So supplementing with melatonin has become popular to help with sleep disorders.
According to the Journal of Pineal Research …
The melatonin secreted by the pineal gland enters every cell in the body. It can even cross the blood-brain barrier.
But the pineal gland isn’t the only part of the body that produces and secretes melatonin. Melatonin also comes from the …
- Salivary glands
- Stomach lining
- Intestinal lining
In fact, a 2017 French study reported … that melatonin in the digestive tract was 10 to 100 times higher than in the blood (1). And there was 400 times more melatonin in the gastrointestinal tract than in the pineal gland.
This means that melatonin can do much more than help with sleep problems. In this post I’ll cover some of the ways melatonin supports your dog’s health.
This natural hormone plays some key roles.
A melatonin deficiency can increase overall inflammation in the body. It can also deplete the immune system.
Both of these problems create more risk of chronic disease. So it’s vital to maintain your dog’s natural melatonin levels.
Several aspects of today’s lifestyle (for us and our dogs) can cause melatonin depletion. And they’re hard to avoid.
Glyphosate (the herbicide best known as Roundup) is everywhere. It’s in our food, our water and it’s in our air. You may not use Roundup in your backyard, but some of your neighbors probably do. And it’s used in many agricultural crops that provide our food in the US.
Glyphosate harms the body in countless ways, one of which is that it depletes melatonin.
MIT scientist Dr Stephanie Seneff spends a lot of time researching glyphosate. And one thing she’s found is … glyphosate interferes with the gut bacteria’s ability to make the amino acid tryptophan.
Tryptophan is a building block of both melatonin and serotonin (the mood-regulating hormone). The brain also uses serotonin to make melatonin. So glyphosate can impact your dog’s melatonin levels.
Feeding organic foods can help minimize your dog’s exposure to glyphosate. Avoid pesticides like Roundup … even if you can’t stop your neighbor from using them.
Electromagnetic Frequencies and Radiation (EMF-EMR)
This is another common environmental toxicity. EMF-EMR depletes melatonin levels in all bodies (human and canine). This is man-made electromagnetic radiation from …
- Smart meters
- Cordless phones
- Cell phone towers
EMF-EMR exposure can cause melatonin deficiency that leads to sleep disorders. This is even happening to dogs, who are showing signs of cognitive dysfunction.
One easy change to make is to turn off your Wi-Fi router at night and when you leave the house.
Light suppresses melatonin production … which is okay in daylight. But the body starts producing melatonin after dark. This means that electric lighting at night can delay the start of melatonin production. CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) suppress melatonin production by 40 percent.
Other causes of low melatonin include:
- Lack of sleep
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Smoking (secondhand smoke for your dog)
- Certain pharmaceutical drugs
Lack of exposure to daylight is also a big factor … so get your dog outside for plenty of walks and outdoor time in sunlight!
It’s also thought that melatonin production declines with age, though some experts disagree. But it would help explain why older dogs (and people) sometimes sleep less at night.
With these unavoidable factors in mind, what can you do to maintain your dog’s melatonin levels?
How To Promote Natural Melatonin
Healthy lifestyle habits support the body’s production of melatonin. And that starts with food.
Feed Melatonin-Boosting Foods
Foods that are rich in tryptophan help boost melatonin. For properly fed raw food fed dogs these include:
- Grass-fed meats
- Pastured poultry
- Wild game
- Fresh eggs from pasture-raised chickens
- Wild fish like halibut
- Raw milk from grass-fed cows (though some dogs don’t tolerate dairy well, so use caution).
Veggies like asparagus, broccoli and Brussels sprouts also help melatonin production. Calcium helps the body make melatonin. So calcium-rich foods like raw meaty bones, sardines and dark green leafy vegetables can also help.
If your dog likes fruit, good choices are bananas, pineapple and tart cherries (remove the pits first!). Just don’t overdo the fruit … because you’ll be feeding too much sugar. It’s best given as a melatonin boosting treat!
For all foods, buy organic whenever you can, to avoid pesticides like glyphosate.
Sleep When It’s Dark
Good sleep habits also help with melatonin production. The body produces melatonin at night. So your dog (and you) should go to bed and get up with the sun, as much as possible.
Dim the lights in the evening (especially LED and CFL bulbs). Turn off computers and Wi-Fi. This allows the body to wind down for sleep. Sleep in a dark room and remove electronics from the bedroom or wherever your dog sleeps.
Exercise can also boost melatonin levels. So, get out for plenty of walks with your dog – again, during daylight hours.
Benefits Of Melatonin For Dogs
Melatonin has several uses in dogs. The most common ones are to manage problems like:
- Cognitive disorders
- Digestive issues
Melatonin For Insomnia
Canine insomnia can be a problem for you as well as your dog!
If your dog isn’t sleeping well, he may be restless during the night. You might hear him moving around, whining or panting. And of course, this can affect your sleep too!
Even if your wakeful dog doesn’t disturb you … you may notice he seems extra sleepy or sluggish during the day. He may even seem a bit disoriented (just like us when we’re sleep deprived).
Because melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, it can help your dog rest better at night.
Melatonin For Anxiety
Melatonin can have a calming effect on your anxious or fearful dog.
I mentioned serotonin earlier. Serotonin itself is the “feel-good hormone” that can brighten your dog’s mood. But on top of that … serotonin helps the body create melatonin, which has proven calming effects.
Melatonin can help some dogs with phobias like thunderstorms or fireworks. It can also help a dog with separation anxiety.
Melatonin For Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD)
I prescribe often prescribe melatonin for CCD … quite a common disorder in older dogs.
Your senior dog may show signs of sleep disruption, panting and pacing at night. Or he may tend to get disoriented or confused or show other unusual behaviors. He may even have accidents indoors.
Melatonin can help with CCD. Its ability to moderate the sleep-wake cycle can help your senior get a better night’s rest. CCD dogs can also feel anxious and, as I’ve already commented, melatonin can have a calming effect.
And because melatonin production can decrease with age … depletion of the hormone could also be a factor in your dog’s CCD.
Melatonin For Gut Health
Melatonin is produced in large amounts in the gastrointestinal tract, where it supports microbiome health.
A 2018 study in mice showed that melatonin helped stimulate diversity of good gut bacteria (2). In the same study … melatonin’s antioxidant effects improved oxidative stress resistance in the mice.
Melatonin can also aid regular bowel movements, helping control both constipation and diarrhea. Melatonin may also have antifungal properties. It’s been shown to help control candida (yeast). It can also help repair leaky gut syndrome. This means it can be useful in resolving skin conditions and other chronic problems.
Melatonin For Immunity
Melatonin shows important benefits in strengthening the immune system.
A 2013 Spanish study examined melatonin’s effects on various infections (bacterial, viral and parasitic) (3). The study looked at inflammatory or autoimmune conditions … as well as their immunomodulatory actions in the immune response.
The researchers noted that many species of mammals and birds have melatonin receptors … in a wide variety of organs and immune cells. They concluded that… “the role of melatonin as an effector that can modulate the immune system is undeniable.”
Some studies also suggest melatonin has promise in helping control cancer … especially breast and prostate cancers.
Melatonin For Hair Loss
Some dogs experience hair loss (alopecia). It’s often seasonal, and the hair loss mainly happens on the flanks and back.
Because alopecia is common in the spring, it may be due to lack of sunlight over the winter. In fact, even conventional veterinarians will prescribe melatonin for this condition. (Mink farmers also give melatonin in winter to stimulate the animals’ thick coats!)
Melatonin For Vital Organs
Melatonin has protective benefits for many important organs in the body.
The liver can get damaged when it’s bombarded with too many toxins. Melatonin’s antioxidant effects help protect the liver. It can reduce inflammation, prevent cell death and support mitochondrial health. This activity can help prevent the build-up of toxins.
Like the liver, the kidneys can get overwhelmed from too many toxins … such as pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals. Melatonin’s antioxidant properties may help protect the kidneys from damage.
Melatonin can pass through the blood-brain barrier. Its neuroprotective abilities can protect the brain.
By stabilizing the blood-brain barrier … melatonin may limit brain damage from stressors like traumatic brain injury or stroke. It may help with brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
It may also help prevent damage from EMF-EMR exposure. And remember, EMF-EMR also depletes melatonin.
I mentioned melatonin’s a powerful antioxidant and immune modulator. These roles mean it may also help protect the lungs from viral and other pathogens.
Melatonin has been linked to protecting the lung from oxidative injury, pro-inflammatory cytokine release and inflammatory cell recruitment.
(Not relevant to dogs, but researchers speculate that melatonin could be a useful adjunct treatment for COVID-19) (4).
Animal studies report melatonin may help protect the thyroid gland from dysfunction. And its role as an immunomodulator may be a factor. Autoimmune thyroid disease is the most common type of autoimmune condition … often a result of over-vaccination of dogs.
Melatonin may help prevent cardiovascular damage from oxidative stress.
It may help lower blood pressure. It can prevent the heart from enlarging (heart failure). And it may inhibit fibrosis (scarring) of heart tissue.
Other Melatonin Benefits
Melatonin can also help with …
Melatonin’s powerful antioxidant capacity and ability to suppress cortisol … mean it’s a good anti-aging and anti-stress agent.
In a study, rats given melatonin had higher bone volume, with thicker bones (5). They also had more of the collagen “scaffold” that the bones are built on, called trabeculae. The bones of the melatonin group were stronger and less likely to break.
Melatonin helps with heavy metal chelation. It’s also advised as a supplement for those with electromagnetic sensitivity. I see many cases needing it for the two big environmental toxicities … glyphosate and EMF-EMR.
These uses are dose-dependent … so always consult an expert before initiating therapy.
Melatonin Dose For Dogs
For other uses of melatonin in dogs, here are suggested dosing guidelines:
- Dogs under 25 lbs: 1.5 mg
- Medium to large dogs, 26 to 99 lbs: 3 mg
- Dogs over 100 lbs: 6 mg
You can give these amounts once or twice daily. If you’re dosing once a day, give melatonin in the evening.
Melatonin Supplements For Dogs
With all melatonin’s amazing attributes … you may be tempted to run out to your health store and stock up on melatonin. But natural melatonin (created in the body) is the best way for your dog to get the benefit of this hormone. Melatonin supplements (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) are synthetic so they may not be well absorbed.
Follow the melatonin-boosting guidelines above to make sure your dog’s melatonin levels don’t get depleted. If you do need to give a supplement … make sure you buy a good quality, pure supplement.
Look for one without additional ingredients. Some supplements also contain serotonin, which shouldn’t be given as a supplement. Others may contain fillers or even a sweetener like xylitol (deadly to dogs), so shop carefully.
Ask your holistic vet if you’re unsure about which brand and dosing is best for your dog. Otherwise follow the above dosing guidelines, using those levels as a maximum dose.
Specifically to help with EMF exposure … expert Dr Dietrich Klinghardt recommends Biopure Liposomal Melatonin.
There’s also a homeopathic form of melatonin that can help with insomnia and other disorders. Again, ask your homeopath if you’d like to try this.
Safety Of Melatonin
Melatonin has a very safe track record. There are few reports of adverse events … especially at low doses between 0.5 milligrams (mg) and 5 mg. Time-release melatonin is very safe if taken in normal doses.
Safety of long-term use isn’t clear, so give melatonin for short-term use only.
Don’t give melatonin with these drugs:
- Anticoagulants and anti-platelet drugs
- Diabetes medications
- Immunosuppressants (steroids)
Avoid melatonin for pregnant or lactating animals.
I haven’t even mentioned everything melatonin can do in the body. But there’s no doubt that melatonin is our biggest multitasking biochemical.
1. Tordjman S, et al. Melatonin: Pharmacology, Functions and Therapeutic Benefits. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2017 Apr;15(3):434-443.
2. Li Y, et al. The Role of Microbiome in Insomnia, Circadian Disturbance and Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Dec 5;9:669.
3. Carrillo-Vico A, et al. Melatonin: buffering the immune system. Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Apr 22;14(4):8638-83.
4. Bahrampour Juybari K, et al. Melatonin potentials against viral infections including COVID-19: Current evidence and new findings. Virus Res. 2020 Oct 2;287:198108.
5. Tresguerres IF, et al. Melatonin dietary supplement as an anti-aging therapy for age-related bone loss. Rejuvenation Res. 2014 Aug;17(4):341-6.