I adopted a four-year-old Maltese mix several months ago. He has a very sparse amount of hair on his chest area and inside of his legs. The rest of his hair is fine and thin. I thought this might be due to stress and diet. He eats well and is a very happy dog. I read that sometimes melatonin can help a dog regain a fuller coat. Is this true and if so, what dosage?
— RK, Boynton Beach, Florida
Melatonin is what people take to sleep at night, but some veterinarians may suggest it for extra-label use in dogs with thinning coats.
To get more information, I called Dr. Linda Aronson of Petshrink.com in Berlin, Massachusetts. Through the years, Dr. Aronson has collected a lot of data on dogs and melatonin and I thought she would be a good resource for its efficacy and safety. In the data she’s collected, she said only four dogs out of 1,000 had side effects and none of them were serious. (One dog was reportedly hyperactive, and the other dogs were just more tired than normal.)
Dr. Aronson says melatonin is “very safe for dogs,” but in the instances of hair loss “results are not immediate, and it can take up to six months before you know if it’s effective or not.”
While you can try melatonin, Dr. Aronson recommends ruling out more serious diseases that can cause hair loss, “like Cushing’s disease, which can be fatal, or hyperthyroidism, which is not fatal, but can make a dog feel miserable,” she says. “Some cancers can also cause alopecia.”
Your veterinarian can recommend a brand and dosage, but “1 milligram three times a day is generally what’s recommended,” says Dr. Aronson. She says she has used melatonin for years on dogs, mostly notably with show dogs and rescue dogs who suffer from sound phobias.
Let me know if it helps your dog.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to email@example.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal