Sunday, June 13, 2010

Supplements for Reactive Dogs, Part 2: Melatonin and L-theanine

This is part of an ongoing series on supplements recommended on the internet for reactive dogs. I am not a vet, nor have I personally tried most of these supplements with my dog, which means that I cannot tell you if you should or shouldn’t use them with your own. I’m also a lazy researcher, and used Wikipedia for my starting point. Google filled in the rest, and while I think I’m pretty good at separating the good sites from the propaganda, I cannot verify the accuracy of their claims. If you want to use a supplement with your dog, do your own research, and consult with your vet.

In other words: Use this information at your own risk.

What is it? How does it work?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone. Since levels of melatonin fluctuate in the body throughout the day, it is often used to help treat mild insomnia and jet lag in humans, though it is also being studied for a wide variety of applications, including migraines, seasonal affective disorder, and cancer.

In dogs, it is used to treat seizure disorders, separation anxiety, and noise phobia.

What are the risks of using it?
Melatonin has very few side effects with short term use; studies for long-term use have not yet been completed. The most common side effects in humans include nausea, irritability and vivid dreams. It may interact with other medications, so consult with your vet.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Melatonin is available as 1mg and 3mg tablets. Dosing recommendations on the internet vary widely, so consult with your vet prior to use.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
Although a lot of websites reference “research studies,” I was unable to dig any up. Perhaps someone with better google-fu than I can find some. Mary Straus says that it is effective in treating thunder phobia in 80% of dogs.

In the meantime, read the above links, or check out this site.

L-Theanine, also called Anxitane
What is it? How does it work?
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves, and is used to reduce mental and physical stress. It raises dopamine levels, and is believed to raise serotonin levels, although studies are showing mixed results on the latter. It is also being studied to determine its ability to promote greater concentration and alertness, especially when taken in combination with caffeine.

What are the risks of using it?
At this time, there are very few known risks to using L-Theanine, with no known drug interactions.

Availability and dosing considerations.
L-Theanine is available as Anxitane in 50mg or 100mg tablets, and should be used for at least 60 days. It is marketed as being especially helpful for dogs with fear-related behaviors, especially in the presence of other dogs or people, and their studies have found at 60% reduction in the intensity of anxiety symptoms.

It is also sold in combination products such as Composure, Pet Naturals Calming Chews, and BioCalm.The amount of l-theanine in these products varies widely.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
The materials on the Anxitane website linked above mentions animal specific studies on the efficacy of l-theanine. Also,this study, done on humans, found that l-theanine reduced heart rates during stressful events. This page summarizes a study on humans which found l-theanine promoted relaxation without causing drowsiness. It also summarizes a small study which found that the use of l-theanine suppressed aggressive behavior.

Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements 


Sam said...

My own personal L-Theanine experience: don't bother with pet versions. Human L-Theanine works exactly the same, and as long as you find it in tablet form and own a pill cutter, dosing it is quite easy. My dog has been on it for almost a year now with no side effects. I can dig up what ever posts I have about it, if you'd like. There is also a plethora of information about it in the Shy-K9s Yahoo Group.

Crystal (Thompson) Barrera said...

I won't put you to the trouble of looking it up, but I'd love to know if it worked (you must, if your dog is still on it), and to what degree.

Of all of the supplements I looked in to, I feel that L-Theanine and Tryptophan (and to a lesser degree, 5-HTP) have the most science behind them. DAP also has some science supporting it. Beyond that, everything I found was anectdotal.

Sam said...

Well, I found this one quickly, there's another post on my blog somewhere but I'm not sure when I posted it.

I do think L-Theanine has helped her. It hasn't been this enormous, instant change (as I'm sure you already know about these things), but it has helped raise her threshold on walks. She's mostly noise phobic, with some other fears thrown in. I definitely see more improvement on L-Theanine than I did when she was taking Melatonin sporadically. How much of that can be attributed to the drug and how much can be attributed to time/training is a consideration, though. I guess you can say that the combination of L-Theanine, management (choosing walk times/locations wisely), and behavior mod have helped her.

She gets 25 mg twice a day, but for a dog her size (40 lbs), the standard dose can actually go up to 50 mg twice a day. I prefer using a small dose, though, and adding in another 25 mg on very stressful days.

Jen said...

great post! we've been trying melatonin with our foster dog, and so far I'm not sure I see a real result?

Crystal (Thompson) Barrera said...

Sam, thanks for digging that up! :) I agree: It's so hard to know what is helping our dogs. I do a lot for Maisy, and I have no idea if it's the chiropractic, the diet changes, the training, the supplements... but the whole picture is better, which I suppose is the best I can hope for. Pretty much, I've come to accept that Maisy will never be "normal," but I'm glad for what normalcy she's obtained.

Jen- How long has your foster been using the melatonin? I know sometimes you need to give these things time. Of course, it could be that it isn't the right supplement for that particular dog, too. I wish there was a way of determining that other than through trial and error.

Jen said...

Good point, I'm trying to see what Valerian will do for him that melatonin isn't.

astral said...

Dearest dog lovers,

I treat my blue eyed Siberian Husky's IBS successfully with L-theanine (100mg twice daily) Omega 3 and in extreme cases with very low doses of Melatonin (~ 0.75mg one or twice daily).

christopherandderrik said...

I noticed that L-theanine made my high-intensity standard poodle more alert, making him more reactive to SECs than without it. Anyone know whether this is seen in some cases?

Crystal (Thompson) Barrera said...

Christopher and Derrik-

I have heard of medications causing a paradoxical effect like you describe. Benadryl (which typically makes people and dogs sleepier) made my dog super-wired (we were using it for allergies, and it didn't do much for that, either). Trazodone, which helps many dogs in situational anxiety situations, made my dog worse as well. I wrote about that last summer.

While I haven't heard of it before, I don't see why a supplement couldn't also have a paradoxical effect. If I were you, I'd stop using it. What a bummer, though. The L-theanine is generally well regarded.

Anonymous said...

BE CAREFUL when giving your dog l-theanine for humans. Some brands contain xylitol, which is lethal to dogs. Always check the ingredients first!

Anonymous said...

In my people family, we've found that the Suntheanine type of L-Theanine works especially well. A generic type did not produce the same effects. I now have a dog that is getting anxiety attacks at age 13... very timid personality... giving him the L-tryptophan 'Travel Calm' which is working well, but am interested in trying the Suntheanine on him when we run out. I don't know why I didn't think of this before!

Unknown said...

The contrasting reactions may be attributed to inate factors of metabolism. There is a number of variances in humans regarding metabolizing drugs, supplements and amino acids that make some very vulnerable to ill effects due to errors on their DNA. Google: MTHFR.
If you have the worst of errors you cannot metabolize alcohol.. so 2 drinks go right to your brain.. unlike most who break down some of the alcohol before it goes to the blood. And it also affects the utilization and absorption of other drugs and supplements. It is a factor in the methlyization of folic acid. Lends itself to a plethora of auto immune disorders and emotional and mental cognitive issue as well..
anxiety is up there. I don't know if there are DNA studies pertaining to animals for animals.. but I would think this could be a factor for our beloved pets as well. May be why some breeds are reactive and others are not..

Anonymous said...

There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration.
muscle supplements for dogs

Unknown said...

Hi guys,
Thank you so much for this wonderful article really!
If someone want to know more about dog supplements I think this is the right place for you!

Rashid Rao said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
annieinthesun said...

I'm all for trying human meds on animals, as LONG as you do your research, check ingredients list, modify for pet weight and size, etc. and keep a REALLY good idea on results. I work with a company that just brought a calming remedy back to the market after some time in reformulation. If anyone wants to try it and report back to us, it's called EcoBalance Calming Solution. It has L-Theanine as a major ingredient (I actually came here learning about what L-Theanine is made of, during my own online research...thanks for this info:

"L-Theanine, also called Anxitane
What is it? How does it work?
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves, and is used to reduce mental and physical stress...."

The other ingredients in the formula above include Chamomile, Passion Flower, Valerian, Scullcap, and Lemon Balm. I can't compare it to the original formula which was before I started with the company, but I did try it on my dog and it worked pretty well. He's still a pup at almost 2 years old and there are times I'd like to mellow him when I have to leave the house.

I would be very grateful for feedback on the other ingredients in the EcoBalance formula. Perhaps I'll suggest we add melatonin &/or B complex (though with the latter, perhaps it will hype dogs up?).

Also interested in whether people are using the "dog" Rescue Remedy which I guess is just without alcohol? or the people. I see their homeopathic remedy includes these 5 ingredients: s: 5 x dilution of the combined flowers of Helianthemum Nummularium HPUS, Clematis Vitalba HPUS, Impatiens Glandulifera HPUS, Prunus Cerasifera HPUS, Ornithogalum Umbellatum HPUS.

Great, useful blog, Crystal!

(P.S. I did read your advice on posting. Hope my comment is acceptable, as it's meant for learning. Will mssg. you on Facebook.)

Paint said...

From what I have studied to figure out my own levels. L-theanine effects Dopimine levels, with control Anxiety, and help with alertness. This is the nurotransmitter that my ADD med Vyvanse adjusts to correct my ADD symptoms. There is also ADHD ( i know how its been reclassified it for simplicity of this comment will divide into 2 groups) the hyper ADD, tend to often be treated more successfully with drugs like 5-htp that effect primarily seritonin levels. Typically,in humans dopimine - Anixety , sertonin - depression / irritability. This is a tremendously simplified explination , and I ended up her looking for dog does for a 20lb dog. Out of frustration last night I gave one of my schnauzers who was exhibiting super high anixtery one each of these supliments and with in 15 minutes he calmed down cuddled up and went to sleep. The indication of that is that the supliments are effective, and duration is approx 6-8 hours at that dosage. For me the effective ness is approx 4-5 hours on the L-theanine...

There are other transmitters that might be effecting your poodle, it could be a GABA , or noephiniphrine, issue which when given a dopimine supliments would increase alertness but nit effect or highten other behavior . For humans there are now nurotransmitter serem tests to get a 6 month panel on which nurotransmitters your body might nit be producing enough or too much of .

Paint said...

Also autocorrect on android phones is evil.....

Lee! said...

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