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Melatonin (Melatonex®)

By: Dr. Nicholas Dodman

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  • Behavioral disorders in dogs and cats are a common reason for veterinary visits. Unacceptable or dangerous animal behavior problems are also a common reason why owners elect to have their pets euthanized.
  • Recently, veterinarians have placed greater emphasis on training and behavior, and specialists working in the field of animal behavior have increasingly adopted drugs used in human behavior for animal use. Melatonin is one of those drugs.
  • Melatonin is a neurohormone and is also an antioxidant that combats "free radicals." Free radicals have been attributed to brain deterioration.
  • Melatonin is best known for its ability to regulate body rhythms and reproductive cycles, but it also appears to have uses as a sedative and anti-convulsant.
  • Melatonin is available over the counter but should not be administered unless under the supervision and guidance of a veterinarian.
  • This drug has not been specifically approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but may be prescribed legally by a veterinarian as an extra-label drug.

    Brand Names and Other Names

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Melatonex® (SunSource)
  • Veterinary formulations: None

    Uses of Melatonin

  • Melatonin is used to help manage separation anxiety in dogs and cats.
  • It is also used to treat other fearful conditions, such as noise phobias.
  • Melatonin has been used to help induce sleep in pets that are hyperactive at night and to treat elderly pets suffering from an impairment in their biological clock (resulting in so-called "sundowner syndrome.")

    Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, melatonin can may side effects in some animals.
  • Melatonin should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Melatonin has very few side effects and is very safe. However, it may disrupt desirable hormonal influences in bitches.
  • Melatonin may interact with other medications. Consult your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with melatonin. Such drugs include sedatives and tranquilizer, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and corticosteroids.

    How Melatonin is Supplied

  • Melatonin is available as a 300 mcg, 1mg and 3 mg tablet.

    Dosing Information

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • For small dogs, melatonin is dosed at 0.5 to 1 mg per dog orally whenever necessary up to every 8 hours.
  • For medium-sized dogs, melatonin is dosed at 1 to 3 mg per dog whenever necessary up to 8 hours.
  • In large dogs, melatonin is dosed at 3 to 9 mg dog orally whenever necessary up to three times a day.
  • In cats, melatonin is dosed at 0.5 to 0.8 mg per cat orally whenever necessary up to every 12 hours.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to medication and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless specifically directed otherwise by your veterinarian.

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