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Melatonin for thunderstorms.

Species: Dog
Breed: Shih tzu
Age: 2-5 years
Hello Dr Marie, Buster is 25lbs and not on any medications. He walks over a mile a day and is otherwise healthy. We are away on vacation and there are fireworks all around us and will be for 4 days. He hates them. He shakes and becomes extremely anxious. My Mom said her dog used to take Melatonin for thunderstorms and fireworks. What do you suggest? Thank you in advance for your time and attention. Terry

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Hi Terry. This is a good question as this is a problem that a lot of people have with their dogs.

I had never heard of using melatonin for thunderstorm phobia so I searched through the archives of veterinary information network where vets talk about their cases. A number of vets have actually had some success with using melatonin. The dose used varied from 1 to 3 mg of the non-sustained release. It seems to work better however when used in combination with an anti-anxiety medication called amitriptyline.

There are a number of other medications that your vet can prescribe for noise phobia. Some dogs do well on xanax. Lately I have been prescribing xanax combined with a heart medication called propanolol which stops the dog from exhibiting a fear response.

Another drug that works well for some dogs is called Clomicalm. This would be something that the dog is on every day however.

Another thing that works for many dogs is to build a soundproof enclosure. I have some clients that have built a little booth in their closet. When there is a storm the dog is encouraged to go into the enclosure. They seem to know that they can't hear the storm or fireworks in there and are much calmer.

I hope this helps! If you do use the melatonin I'd love to hear back from you to hear how it worked.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you for the information. We are going to try the secluded area first. But, if that doesn't work I may try the Melatonin ivy itself. Based on your research tonight, what amount would you suggest I start him with and how often? Did you read about any major side effects I should consider? Thank you.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

There really haven't been any studies done to determine what dose of Melatonin is best for dogs. The article I read suggested that for a small dog 1 mg every 8 hours would be best. Side effects are rare other than possibly some mild sedation.

Legally, I can't prescribe medication online so I would advise that you ask your vet for the ok to give this medicine.

I hope it works for you!

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Thanks for the info. As an attorney, I'm aware that you cannot prescribe, but it was good to discuss our options. If we decide to use the melatonin, I'll let you know how it goes. Before contacting you, I searched the net on the subject and saw that people do use it as an option, but you can't always trust the Internet and you can rarely get ahold of my Vet! So, it was nice to have your expertise available to us. I'll also keep you in mind for future questions. I think I added you to my iPhone after reading about you in "Woman's World" magazine. Have a great weekend.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

You're very welcome Terry! You have a great weekend too!

Customer reply:

Well unfortunately, Buster did not respond well to the closet seclusion. He suffered all day Saturday due to firecrackers and other noise-makers. He was very anxious, shaking and unable to relax at all. So, we did give him 1mg of Melatonin at about 8:30 pm on Saturday. As a result, Buster learned what it truly felt like to relax on vacation! It was really amazing! Within half an hour of taking the med, he became very calm while still awake, and within the hour he even ate his food that he'd been ignoring for 2 days. He remained calm, yet alert, for the rest of the night. He lounged around indoors; he never resumed his usual shaking and never once sought to be picked up or tried to get out of the house or yard - all of which he had been doing almost non-stop during the noise previously. During the fireworks' finale, he picked up his head and looked around for a minute, but that was it. It was like a little miracle! There were no noticable side effects, and the next morning he was very well-rested and extra frisky. It was really very nice. It changed our whole weekend. We gave him another mg on Sunday eve when the noise began and again Monday night with the same results. He was a bit anxious when outside near the noise, but indoors it was as if nothing was happening even though the noise was easily heard indoors and had previously greatly upset him. I will use it again for the next fireworks and for any expected prolonged thunderstorms. Thanks for your help.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Well that is exciting news! I will invite some of my clients to try Melatonin in their pets who have sound phobias as well.

Thank you so much for the update!

Dr. Marie

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.