Canine alopecia, hair loss in dogs, sometimes is treated using melatonin. Melatonin occurs naturally in a dog's system in response to darkness and during sleep. It is also possible that melatonin can be used to stimulate growth of a dog's hair coat in cases of alopecia.
Causes of Canine Alopecia
There are several forms of canine alopecia. Temporary baldness can occur if a dog chews or scratches at an area in response to irritation caused by infection, disease or parasites. Endocrine alopecia can occur when there is an imbalance in a dog's hormones due to conditions such as Cushing's disease or hypothyroidism. According to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center website, a third kind of baldness, alopecia X, occurs when no clear cause exists for the hair loss.
Properties of Melatonin
Melatonin can have a sedative effect on dogs, even if they are not being treated for sleep disorders. It is slow-acting, taking as much as a month or more before hair growth is seen. After melatonin has been used to treat alopecia, subsequent treatment with melatonin might not be effective after repeated hair loss.
Types of Melatonin
Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland. It is present in the body in varying amounts at all times during the day; however, it is present in greatest amounts at night, around bedtime. According to the Mayo Clinic, synthetic melatonin also is available as a drug that is used largely for treatment of sleep disorders in humans.
Availability of Melatonin
Melatonin tablets are available at health food stores and can be purchased without a prescription. Other forms of melatonin, including melatonin implants and liquid (injectible) melatonin are available only through a veterinarian and require a prescription.
Melatonin and Food
According to Dr. Rüdiger Hardeland and biologist S.R. Pandi-Perumal, "relevant quantities of melatonin are present in most vegetables, fruit, nuts, and cereals." However, methodological problems have caused some question as to the value of melatonin from food under certain preparation conditions. Some controversy exists as to whether dietary melatonin creates sufficient response as to be therapeutic.