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Melatonin As A Sleep Aid?

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I'm going straight to the point with the subject line, as a dose of melatonin is the recommendation of our adoption group. I didn't get any useful hits from search, other than confirming my suspicion -- that melatonin use is somewhat controversial! Here is some background.


We adopted Kali (race name Swish) about three months ago. She's so new, I haven't even had time to make a signature image for her yet! She came to us straight from a Melbourne, FL haul. After a brief fostering period, she turned out to be a great complement to Brooks and we made the adoption permanent about six weeks ago.


From the outset, she was susceptible to the usual new-to-retirement foibles. Petrified of crossing the kitchen linoleum, didn't understand the concept of stairs, a real pinball during walks, a little leery of new experiences. But thankfully not a spook. This story has a happy ending, because she has adapted wonderfully and, except for a little bit of post-spay health concerns, she's a great pup.


The only behavioral issue that still concerns us is her night behavior. When we first got her, she was a very happy crate dog (unlike Brooks, who broke most of his teeth chewing on his crate during his racing years and is completely uncrate-able in retirement). She crates fairly easily when we leave for work and once in a blue moon she'll even go in there voluntarily -- but VERY infrequently unless there are treats involved. However, after the first few nights in the crate, we realized she wasn't any big fan of being crated at night. During those first weeks, despite our best efforts to restrict his options, Brooks would leave the bed we'd placed next to her crate and find somewhere else to sleep, even if it was less comfortable. By 4 in the morning, realizing she was alone, Kali would start a relentless barrage of murderous yelps and whines -- almost like screaming! We ignored as valiantly as we could, had a few groggy days at work as a result, but ultimately -- even without unintentionally rewarding her behavior -- it didn't stop. She was alone, and wanted us to know about it.


Although she was still technically a foster at this point, and the foster group insists on crating during nights and work hours, we were told to try letting her sleep outside the crate at night. Boom! Perfect solution. She joined us in the bedroom and settled on a thin dog mat next to the bed, where she has spent most nights since. But here's the problem. Many nights she NEVER seems to settle down. She's not a nester, and not much of a napper in the evenings or daytime (from what we can tell during weekend days when we're home to notice). She is still vigilant about our movements through the house when we're home, which I chalk up to typical adaptation struggles, but I'm worried she doesn't actually get a full night's sleep once the rest of her pack goes to bed. About 4-5 nights a week, she will get up several times during the first hour after bed time. Sometimes she will find another place to flop down in our bedroom for a few minutes, but it seems like she's not finding any comfortable spots. A few nights, she will jump and and pace the hallway for 10-20 minutes, or just stand in the hallway halfway between the room where Brooks sleeps and where we sleep... with her head low, as if she's upset or waiting for something. She will come back into the room, lay down for ten minutes -- then get up and start the sequence over again. Frequently I will wake up in the middle of the night (between 2-4 AM) because I've left her collar on and I can hear tags jangling as she paces the hallway, so it does continue throughout the night once in a while. Maybe she's still wondering where all the other dogs went, and why she doesn't hear the noises of a kennel all night?


And on top of all this, she's hitting the three-month mark plateau and starting to act out a little bit in other ways -- during our walks, she's become weirdly skittish about making the final turn for home, and the past two nights, she has refused to come outside at 10 PM for a final pit stop, but then woke us up with a HUGE battery of barks around 4 AM, needing to be let out.


Bottom line, is this a normal transition behavior in the first 1-3 months? Brooks used to sleep with us, but once he came to bed, he sacked out completely. Is melatonin a viable option to help her drift off and stay asleep in the same way, or is this even something to be concerned about (i.e. is the idea that she's not getting enough rest a total figment of our human imaginations, imposing our judgments on a dog)? Our bedtime routine is pretty stable, and Brooks has settled into the rhythm expertly (and independently -- he just plops onto his bed in the front of the house around 8 or 9 PM and we don't see him until the morning). We usually have a radio playing quietly in the kitchen overnight, if that matters. If it wasn't for the seeming lack of sleep, I would just wait this period out, but I am really worried Kali isn't able to flip the switch and will be less healthy/adaptable as a result.

For reference, here's Kali in happy repose a couple weeks ago: http://www.5thvillage.me/p/474547462880365864_31270770/

Drew and occasionally DW Melody, with Rosie (AMF Ready Made) and Marvin (Bella Riddick) in Louisville. Forever missing Brooks (KC Bastone) and Kali (Swish).

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After starting seizure meds, my Henry started having a difficult time sleeping through the night. He also has a very bald butt and belly, so we tried Melatonin hoping it would help on both fronts. At a 3mg daily dose, the Melatonin had no discernable effect on his energy level. As for the hair, not only did it not work, he mysteriously came up with a bacterial skin infection (which may or may not have had anything to do with it, but it just seemed coincidental). So I'm not a huge fan of Melatonin for either issue, as our results were spotty at best.


Although I do think it's normal for some greys to have a rocky adjustment period, it sounds like your girl has some issues that might need additional help. I would have a conversation with the adoption group and vet about possibly trying an anti-anxiety medication like Prozac or Clomicalm (at least temporarily). Psychotropic drugs are a hot button issue when it comes to dogs. But just like people, there are dogs that benefit tremendously from them. If her behaviors seem to be getting worse not better, it's definitely something to consider. Make sure she's getting lots of exercise throughout the day. And as always, give her lots of positive reinforcement, praise, and reassurance for every small improvement. Good luck! :)

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Several things.


If she's being crated all day, every day, I seriously doubt she's restless because she's not getting enough sleep. My first thought is that she's not getting enough exercise, to tire her out enough to sleep through the night. A good long walk - a fast exercise walk, not a sniff-and-pee walk - after dinner will help her sleep.


Second, you only mention a sleeping "mat" next to your bed. I would look into getting her a nice, cushy dog bed, or at least fluff up what she has with some thick blankets. Also, many greyhounds are restless at night because they get cold and wake themselves up. You might try having her sleep in a light t-shirt or some pajamas to see if that helps.


She's also getting more comfortable in your home and with the routine, and beginning to blossom a bit more. She may be wondering where her buddy is during the night, especially if they're close for the rest of the day. A baby gate across the bedroom door will stop her late night wandering, or you can try having her bed inside an x-pen for a few nights.


As far as melatonin goes, it works better as a sleep aid for me than for any greyhound I've ever had. ;)

Chris - Mom to: Lilly, Felicity (DeLand), and Andi (Braska Pandora)


Angels: Libby (Everlast), Dorie (Dog Gone Holly), Dude (TNJ VooDoo), Copper (Kid's Copper), Cash (GSI Payncash), Toni (LPH Cry Baby), Whiskey (KT's Phys Ed), Atom

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Thanks for both responses.


Re: softer beds, the mat she sleeps on is actually a dog bed, it's just an inexpensive one that has been flattened from use. It's not very big, so she often overlaps onto the carpet or nearby rug. I could see that being part of the problem. We do have two full-sized XL memory foam beds in the house. One is primarily Brooks's, as it lives next to Kali's daytime crate, and the other is in the den, where we watch TV or movies a lot of nights, so it's first-come first-served. I'll sometimes drag the other bed into the den but haven't made a habit of dragging it all the way to the bedroom. Both big beds get a lot of use, so I guess they've voted with their paws -- we could buy a third one for the bedroom. $$$ but oh well.


Re: exercise, we have a dog park 3 blocks away and make a visit there at least 2-3x a week. Kali overheated last week on a day that was only 85 degrees, so I'm keeping those visits to a minimum this week (it's about 95 degrees and 90% humidity in Maryland today). Both dogs also get at least one 1.5 mile walk every day, morning or evening depending on whether there's a dog park visit that day. And we have a fenced backyard (about 0.8 acres) which is good for a lengthy play session and zoomies every day. I suppose we could be doing more, for instance I'm sure the 1.5 mile walks, with an occasional 2 mile walk, aren't as lengthy as some greyhound owners can provide. Brooks is more easily exhausted, so perhaps I'll need to drop him off and then keep her going for another .5 mile or more. Food for thought...

Drew and occasionally DW Melody, with Rosie (AMF Ready Made) and Marvin (Bella Riddick) in Louisville. Forever missing Brooks (KC Bastone) and Kali (Swish).

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If it was just the night restlessness by itself, I'd say maybe she needs more exercise or mental stimulation. But that, combined with the other nervous behaviors that are newly popping up make me think that she's having some anxiety with the adjustment. After three months, you'd expect those things to decrease. If you don't want to try meds, you might have luck with a DAP diffuser.

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Guest Giselle

Of course, everyone needs exercise. But exercise is, in my opinion, rarely the culprit of true behavior problems. I'm an anxious person. I also run miles every day (used to do long distance; don't have the time anymore). After the 5th mile and a good shower, guess what? I'm still anxious. Behavior problems are psychological problems. But they are not often exercise problems.


It sounds like anxiety. Pacing, inability to sleep, hypersensitivity to environmental cues. These are hallmark signs of anxiety - dog, human, rat, whatever. Anxiety is normal for dogs who've recently gone through a major life change, like moving to a new home, so, in some ways, these signs are normal. They become a problem, however, when these behaviors are frequent, persistent, & worsening, OR when they disrupt your quality of life. Aside from providing her a stable home with a routine schedule and cutting down on environmental cues (use window drapes, play music at low volume, restrict her ability to pace by closing doors, etc.), just try to make sure that the behaviors are decreasing rather than increasing. A journal would be good for keeping track of her behaviors. I wouldn't worry about her needing the night time sleep, either. If you find that the behaviors are disrupting your or her quality of life, you may consider asking a veterinary behaviorist for help and seeking anti-anxiety medications, but keep in mind that these medications should not be taken lightly. As for melatonin, if the problem is psychological, then I personally would rather treat the core (anxiety) rather than the symptoms (sleeplessness). My two cents!


Edit to add: By the way, giving her brain something constructive to focus on can help enormously!! Can you join a reputable obedience or tricks class? This will help add structure to her day and it will use her brainpower for something positive, creative, and constructive.

Edited by Giselle
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It sounds like Brooks sleeps in a different room? Would he be willing to sleep in the bedroom with you and Kali for several days, to see if that helps? Most of mine prefer that the whole family be together, and I have had some really fussbudget around if there is a guest dog sleeping elsewhere in the house.

Star aka Starz Ovation (Ronco x Oneco Maggie*, litter #48538), Coco aka Low Key (Kiowa Mon Manny x Party Hardy, litter # 59881), and mom in Illinois
We miss Reko Batman (Trouper Zeke x Marque Louisiana), 11/15/95-6/29/06, Rocco the thistledown whippet, 04/29/93-10/14/08, Reko Zema (Mo Kick x Reko Princess), 8/16/98-4/18/10, the most beautiful girl in the whole USA, my good egg Joseph aka Won by a Nose (Oneco Cufflink x Buy Back), 09/22/2003-03/01/2013, and our gentle sweet Gidget (Digitizer, Dodgem by Design x Sobe Mulberry), 1/29/2006-11/22/2014, gone much too soon. Never forgetting CJC's Buckshot, 1/2/07-10/25/10.

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