Thursday, June 4, 2009

Raw Food Diet, Day 495- Chasing the Melatonin Mystery

Big Pupi types again:

Hello my feaster friends. I'm making good on my promise to tell you a bit about Stanislaw's melatonin therapy. "What's that?!" you ask? Ah.... you've come to the right blog.

Melatonin is a hormone that is derived from serotonin. The body creates melatonin naturally, and this chemical is most well-known as a sleep hormone. Beyond aiding in sleep cycles, melatonin also functions as a powerful antioxidant, anti-aging agent, immunoregulator, and anti-depressant (this is proven in humans).

Want to learn something interesting? My folks knew that eating turkey can make you sleepy. But what they didn't know is that the tryptophan in turkey is related to melatonin, because serotonin is created from tryptophan and likewise, melatonin is made from serotonin. Sound relaxing? We learn something new every day here...

Anyways, back to my stinky brother:
My mom had a theory about Stanislaw's exercise and his behavior. It seemed that as long as Stan got out for a good long run or solid wrastlin' match at the bark park, his compulsive symptoms were greatly reduced. In fact, on the days of the longest runs his compulsions were reduced so much that he could do his Good Boy outside almost immediately. That's a pretty big deal around here, as often times Stan is too distraught to lift a leg. While the benefits of exercise are great, they are far from a cure and my brother still suffers from many of his anxieties. But... it does take the edge off and every little bit counts. And we all know - weebles and poobles outside are GOOD things.

Our folks have heard about other humans using melatonin as a natural way to put their dogs at ease during long car rides, vet visits, dog shows and thunder storms. It is even a common treatment for epileptic pups - especially if they suffer from seizures during the night. If done right, melatonin therapy has no discernible side effects and for some can bring great results. Plus, it's a natural treatment to boot.

So then came the challenge of linking exercise to melatonin. Surprisingly, it wasn't that difficult thanks to our research assistant, Google. Apparently, there have been studies (1, 2 and 3) done on female humans that tried to figure out why exercise reduced the risk of breast cancer. What they discovered was that exercise during daylight hours increased the daytime production of melatonin (usually associated with sundown and sleep). Melatonin acts as an antioxidant, and also increases the sense of relaxation after exercise. It continues its influence hours later as it increases the effects of melatonin come nightfall, and brings with it more solid and deep sleep. According to one study, aerobic exercise immediately upon waking brings the greatest positive results. Conversely, exercise after sundown causes the body to delay the production of melatonin and it disrupts the sleep cycle.

So there IS a link between exercise and melatonin - in humans. That being said, dogs and people have extremely similar brain and body chemistry, and so it can't be too off the mark. Now, admittedly assuming such similarites is NOT the way to go about medicating your dog. Ever. But the positive, relaxing effects of melatonin has been shown in dogs with various phobias, especially thunder. A quick call to the vet was made and we got the all clear to start Stanislaw on 1.5 mg of melatonin, given once daily. This is a low dose and in some instances melatonin can be given up to 3 times per day, but any increase in dosage and/or frequency will be discussed at our vet appointment on Saturday.

So he's been getting 1/2 of a 3 mg tab in his breakfast. Has it made a difference? Perhaps. Slightly. The weebling has been easier and the whining has stepped down 1/2 a notch. His post-feasting whine- and scratch-a-thon has changed from an all-morning event to just 30 minutes or so after breakfast - the time which we expect the melatonin begins to have an effect.

Today we took it on a test: the bark park. We wanted to see if it would decrease the frequency of his running patterns. The result? Good. Very very good. Normal visits include a few ear-flapping games of Chase The Stanislaw, which would often be disrupted mid-race as Stan would skid to a stop at one of his "stations" and he would freeze, stare and scream at some imaginary squirrel. Every time he would hear a train rumble by that would trigger him to run a set pattern around the perimeter of the park with screaming fits at his set stations (it's the same places every single time). However, on this particular visit, mom was able to disrupt and redirect Stan at the very first sign of him going in to this pattern and he NEVER ONCE ran it through. He did freeze at one point (mom could wiggle his body without a response) but that broke quickly. He also screamed at 2 of his stations, but the majority of the time was spent finagling scritches from the humans, and engaging every single dog in the park one-by-one for a nice wrastlin' match, chase, or solid bum sniffing. Games would last consistently longer and not a single one was cut short by a screaming and staring session. He truly felt mentally present for about 80% of the visit, which is great, considering a visit on a good day previously would be about 70%, and a bad day brought closer to 20%. We always left super early those days.

Melatonin probably won't be the miracle we're looking for, but it may be a good addition to his therapy - especially once he is weened off the medication. The most essential function of the medication is to lessen the severity of Stan's reactions, which will create a window through which my folks can interrupt and redirect his behaviors, and little by little recondition his responses and attitude towards the triggering sights and sounds. The goal is to keep Stan on the meds temporarily. As he improves his dosage will decrease and in a few months or a year we hope he's off them completely. If he's this responsive to melatonin then we're hoping that a very low dose of an SSRI or similar med will be all that's required. But.. we'll know more about that after a trip to the Place of Tile and Steel this weekend

Ahh, yes. We do love these optimistic days.
Big Pupi


Do NOT start your dog on melatonin without talking to your vet. While it is normally a very safe supplement to give, it can cause severe side effects if a dog is already on another type of medication. If your dog is suffering from anxiety or other behavior problems, please do your research and schedule a trip to see your vet to plan an appropriate course of treatment.


Life With Dogs said...

Wow, I had no idea. I have taken melatonin to help me sleep when crossing time zones, but had no idea that it could be useful for treating dogs. Great informative post, as always!

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

That helped put the smile bakhk on my face after the last post!

Paws khrossed furry tightly fur him
fur all of woo!


the 4 Bs said...

if it helps our buddy, Stanislaw, to feel better, then we are all for it. we dogs need to be happy. it's our job to be carefree. how else can we cheer up our sad humans? we're really pawing for you Stan, and sending you some of our super-duper-B-power.


Niamh said...

Good luck with the melatonin. It sounds as if it may help take the edge off for Stan. My person did a lot of reading about it too and asked other trainers. The reports have been good. Paws crossed for a big success.

Your friend,

Dennis the Vizsla said...

Hey, I take melatonin -- I think it helps with the sleepies!

Eric said...

Big Puppi, I missed your previous post but have just read it. Mom is crying for Stan and I'm howling. Poor boy, he doesn't deserve all those heartbreaking probems. He is being send the most tenacious terrier Zen right across the big pee. Please tell him so he knows we are thinking of him and your leggededs too. Willing him on. He is one cool dude,I know he'll get there.

I was then really wagging to read your interesting post about the melantonin and how it should,paws crossed,help Stan. Course he has the bestest, caring and able leggededs to help him overcome his problems. Here's to many many more optimistic days to come for Stan.

Wiry hugs and kissies, Eric xxxxxxx

Maggie and Mitch said...

We're for anything safe that helps our our dear buddy! Our paws are crossed for you, Stan!

Love ya lots,
Maggie and Mitch

Mack said...

That is some really promising news about the Melatonin therapy! My mom says she takes Melatonin and it really helps her sleep!

Please give us pupdates on the M-Therapy - cause I know a young (blonde) lady around my neck of the woods that could use it too!


Tom, Tama-Chan and Sei-Chan said...

Hi. Fenway sent us over. We wanted to say that we'll be rooting for you. You've been through enough tough times already, Stan, and I hope the right chemical mix can be fund to make you feel easy.

Woofs and Purrs,
Tommy, Tama-Chan and Sei-Chan

Asta said...

I just wead all the posts about poow Stan and his pwoblems. Youw pawents awe so wondewful to twy so many things to help him. I'm hoping vewy hawd that this melatonin combined wif al the othew things will make Stanny feel bettew and not have all those tewwible anxieties.
I love you and youw family and wish you evewy success
smoochie kisses

GSD Adventures said...

We're sending positive thoughts your way. We are so sorry he is haunted by his past. Keep up the good reports Big Pupi!

Pruett and Daphne

FleasGang said...

I didn't realize that Stani had such inner demons. I remember too well the feelings of hopelessness and failure as a pet parent when Simon stopped progressing with his recovery from being paralyzed. I know it's entirely different circumstances but it's hard to see your little fella when he's not well. If a little help from medicine eases Stans pain, then so be it. You're making the right choices so don't worry about that. We just want him to be happy and we love you guys! Cockers Rule!!

Fleas' Pop

P.S. Shelly does that nipping at imaginary flies. She'll be in a deep sleep and all of a sudden wake up and bite at her side. Maybe is a cocker spaniel thing?

Agatha and Archie said...

Good luck little buddy..we are here for you..Love and a million kisses Agatha and Archie

Dughallmor Beagles said...

Wow! We found this post so interesting we had to come back and read it all properly (when Mum was not thinking about her own belly!) We tried to leave a comment to say as much but the stoopid PC gave up, grr.
Anyway....we knew about melatonin but had never related it to exercise before....(Gabbi has very strange behaviour after meals, she grabs a stuffie and runs around frantically, crying etc)
Our Mum always puts tons of lettuce in our BARF as it also acts as a relaxant (really? have you seen rabbits before??)
We really hope this helps you work through your issues Stan, you are such a cool dog, you really deserve to be happy and totally fre of your CD demons.
Slobbers xx
Pee-ess.....we had lamb hearts for dinner......mmmmm....and the nice butcher man gave us some pigs' trotters and juicy knuckle bones but Mum put them in the freezer....hmmph!

Joe Stains said...

We learn so much every time we read your blog! We sure are glad to hear the Melatonin seems to be helping! Mom took that stuff once to help her sleep but it sorta just made her not really sleepy at all. I think she is defective.