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.
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.