Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Supplements for Reactive Dogs: Tryptophan and 5-HTP

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.

Tryptophan, sold as Nutricalm
What is it? How does it work?
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, which means that the body cannot make it on its own. It must be ingested. In the body, it is converted into 5-HTP, then into serotonin, (which can be converted into melatonin), and as such, is typically used as a sleep aid, or to treat seasonal affective disorder or depression.

In animals, it is used to decrease aggression and impulsivity, to stabilize moods and as an adjunct to treating compulsive disorders.

What are the risks of using it?
Tryptophan was banned in the US for many years after it was linked to eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS) in 1989, which resulted in 37 deaths and caused 1,500 people to be permanently disabled. It is commonly believed this was the result of an impure batch, but some people believe that the tryptophan caused the production of metabolites which resulted in excess histamine levels in the body.

More typical side effects include vomiting and diarrhea, but may interact with certain drugs, so check with your veterinarian before use.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Tryptophan is naturally occurring in many foods, especially proteins. It is especially plentiful in red meats, dairy products, certain seeds, eggs, and oddly enough, oats. It can also be purchased as L-tryptophan in health food stores. It is marketed for animals under the brand name Nutricalm, with capsules of 75mg and 150mg readily available.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
Tufts University did a study which found that 10mgs per kilo, given twice a day, significantly reduced “territorial and dominance aggression.”

To learn more about tryptophan, read any of the above links, as well as this article.

What is it? How does it work?
5-HTP, short for 5-hydroxytryptophan, is a metabolite of tryptophan, and is ultimately converted into serotonin by the liver. Like tryptophan, it is used to treat canine aggression, and compulsive disorders, reduce impulsivity, and to stabilize moods.

What are the risks of using it?
The most common side effect is diarrhea.

Since 5-HTP is converted into serotonin by the liver, it results in a high blood serotonin level, which has been implicated in heart valve disease. Although it is similar to tryptophan, it does not get diverted into other processes (excess tryptophan can be converted into niacin, too). This means that excess 5-HTP may result in serotonin syndrome, which can be deadly. Apparently, this is more common in dogs than in humans.

Availability and dosing considerations.
Although it is not found in food, 5-HTP can be made by the body if it has sufficient tryptophan. It can purchased in capsules of 50mg or 100mg.

Are there any scientific studies supporting its use in canines?
The Tufts studies found that 1 mg per pound, twice a day, resulted in a reduction in canine aggression.

Edit February 2015: Why I Chose Medication Instead of Supplements 


Lauren said...

For as much time as I've spent working and learning about the behavior side of reactivity, I admit that I am quite unaware of the medical/nutritional side of the spectrum. Reading your last three posts makes me feel like there is probably so much room for improvement in Frodo's diet and room for supplementation.

Right now other than TOTW he really only gets Zuke's Hip Action treats for glucosamine and chondroitin. The behaviorist that I was talking to the other day recommended Phycox when I expressed concern about Frodo's hips and joints. Have you heard anything about it?

I am going to look into Rescue Remedy and the DAP!

Crystal said...

Lauren, I don't know much about Phycox- it's a joint supplement, like you said, and it looks like it may be a good one. In addition to glucosamine, it has flaxseed oil, a source of omega 3s. I know that omega 3s have been found to be beneficial in treating arthritis in dogs; it's my gut reaction that there is more research in favor of omega 3s than in favor of glucosamine.

You might check out Mary Straus' page on arthritis for more info on diet and supplements for joint health.

Crystal said...

I shouldn't have hit "post" so soon...

So far as the reactivity goes, I have found that when Maisy's back is out, she is far more reactive. My assumption is that the pain puts her on edge, and thus her threshold is that much lower. Since she started seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist monthly, her reactivity has really decreased.

I have posts coming up on both the rescue remedy and the DAP. The short of it is that the DAP has some clinical evidence supporting it, while the Rescue Remedy really doesn't. Still, it helps me, so I use it. For Frodo, you probably want to go with either a DAP collar or plug-in for more consistent effects. The spray is really just for short-term use.

Still, I think the thing that has done the most for Maisy is training and relationship building. My trainer insists up and down that the only reason Maisy does so well is because she trusts me... something that has come through training.

Eliz said...

Hahah, I thought I commented, but maybe it was on another post. I feel the same way about DAP and rescue remedy, though I've been told that rescue remedy is more for a fast acting result, so right before after or during the event, but doesn't work so well in a maintenance situation.

Bach has other more specific mixes of flower essences for use with a more long term condition.

As for myself, I've never noticed rescue remedy doing much for my dog, but I've noticed the effects on myself - so I still keep it around and use it when I think it might help.

Where as the opposite is true for DAP - I've noticed the effect on my dog but not on myself. (I didn't think it was possible, but yes, my dog can become more "low-key"

I've also heard that DAP is only effective in a pretty small percentage of dogs, so I borrowed some from a friend before investing in any.

clever girl said...

hey there, i didn't know you had a blog here... great post... i'm going to be sending my clients to check it out. :-)

did you know that rescue remedy is not for calming down an individual, but rather for taking them out of shock? it causes me panic attacks... i can send you more info on that if you'd like.

Jare swift said...

Do not give you dog 5-htp. I can kill them. 53mg per pound is Death per my vet. My Pomeranian almost died off 25mg.

Angi said...

Jared: I was wondering about how 5-HTP might work for my Pomeranian. Tryptophan does not seem to be doing much for him in the canine meds. that you can purchase at pet stores. I did see that the recommended dose of 5-HTP is 1mg per pound (of your pet)but it does state that that is twice a day. So that made me wonder... would it be safe to give my Pomeranian 12mgs (he is about 12 lbs.)at least once a day? I do not think that i would try it without talking to a Vet first because Emergency Vet services are expensive and it just seems like a bad idea to give your pet something that could possibly kill it.

Anonymous said...

There are certainly a lot of details like that to take into consideration.
dog supplements

Unknown said...

A c9 diet pack comprises of an assortment of common items intended to take out poisons, forte supper substitutes, and healthful supplements.

Unknown said...

Bach changed the formula on recur remedy. It doesn't work as well as it used to.

Yummykind said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yummykind said...

Wait, you can kill them?