Melatonin and Lignan Cushing’s Treatment

Lignan and Melatonin Cushing's TreatmentMelatonin and Lignan Cushing’s Treatment: About Lignans

Melatonin and Lignans are an excellent, natural treatment for Cushing’s Disease in dogs.

When ingested, plant lignans are converted in the body to other lignans such as enterolactone. Enterolactone is a major-endogenous-mammilian lignan formed by the action of intestinal bacteria on plant lignans when they are ingested and acts as a phytoestrogen in the body.

There are two kinds of lignans, SDG (secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) lignans extracted from flax hulls and which HMR (7-hydroxymatairesinol) lignans which are extracted from the Norwegian spruce tree.

The main differences between the two types of lignans are that with the SDG flax hull lignan, cleavage of sugar chains must occur by the gastrointestinal bacteria before the enterolactone is formed. With the HMR Norwegian Spruce tree lignan, conversion to enterolactone by gastrointestinal bacteria is immediate upon ingestion.

Reports show that HMR lignan is completely and quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, while SDG lignan is not completely absorbed. This indicates that enterolactone formed by HMR lignans is absorbed better and more quickly than that of the SDG flax hull lignan, allowing for the use of lower dosages.

According to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, the suggested doses are:

  •  SDG flax hull lignans  – 1mg per lb of body weight
  • HMR lignans – total doses of 10 mg – 40 mg daily should be adequate for small to large dogs

Melatonin and Lignan Cushing’s Treatment: About Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland that helps regulate hormones and the body’s circadian rhythm. It is being used in veterinary medicine as a natural treatment for coat loss in dogs, cats, and ferrets. Researchers are not exactly sure how melatonin helps thicken and regrow fur.  Some researchers think it may be the relationship between melatonin, sunlight, and the body’s circadian rhythm.  Other’s feel that melatonin’s antioxidant properties help promote hair growth. Melatonin has also been shown to help a pet gain back weight after surgery, stress or illness and help with anxiety, insomnia, and noise phobias. Mink farmers have been known to use melatonin to promote thick coats in the winter.

Research recommends not exceeding a melatonin dosage of 3 to 6 mg every 8 to 12 hours.

A general guideline for dosing melatonin is:

  • 1.5 mg for dogs under 25 lbs one or twice daily
  • 3 mg for an average medium to large sized dog once or twice daily
  • 6 mg if the dog’s weight exceeds 100 lbs once or twice daily

Note: Make sure you read the label and give your dog supplements containing melatonin only. Colorings and additives may be toxic to your dog.

If given once daily, the recommendation is to dose in the evening. Melatonin is also available in implant form. You can learn more about melatonin implants at Melatonin Implant Technology.

Please remember, though, that every pet is different and it is always best to consult with your veterinarian for the best possible dosage for your pet’s individual situation. Adjustments may need to be made for particular health situations and/or medications.

Melatonin and Lignan Cushing’s Treatment: Side Effects, Warnings, and Interactions

Lignan Side Effects, Warnings, and Interactions

If using SDG flax hull lignans, stool frequency and occasional diarrhea may occur because of its fiber component. (HMR Norwegian Spruce lignans contain very little fiber, so using this type of lignan should not cause issues with stool frequency and diarrhea.)  According to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, no adverse effects to the use of SDG flax lignan have been reported based on their suggested dose of 1mg/lb of body weight daily. They report limited feedback on the use of HMR lignan, citing only human studies showing that single doses of 1,200 mg did not cause any side effects in humans and that a 13-week study in rodents at a dose of 2,600mg/kg of HMR lignan did not cause any toxic effects.

Melatonin Side Effects, Warnings, and Interactions

There have been no reports of significant side effects of melatonin use in dogs. There have been a few reports of minor gastric upset and sleepiness. Melatonin has been shown to slightly alter the time an un-spayed female comes into heat. Melatonin may also interact with corticosteroids and some internal body process. Melatonin is not recommended for use in breeding dogs because it has been shown to sometimes alter mating desire and when a dog comes into heat.

It is very important not to exceed the recommended amount of melatonin.  Be very careful when choosing your melatonin product. Many of the melatonin products sold for humans are much stronger than the recommended amount for dogs. Signs of overdosage include diarrhea, vomiting, high blood pressure, incoordination, and even possibly seizures.

Note: Make sure you read the label and give your dog supplements containing melatonin only. Colorings and additives may be toxic to your dog.

Note: It is always best to consult with your veterinarian before concluding that your pet has a particular ailment. In the case of Canine Alopecia, you should make sure that your veterinarian rules out thyroid disease, Cushing’s disease, parasites, mites and certain bacteria.  All of these can cause symptoms similar to Canine Seasonal Alopecia. To test for thyroid or Cushing’s disease, your veterinarian will need to perform a blood test; for parasites, mites and certain bacterias a skin sample may need to be taken.

Read the Dog Owner’s Guide to Cushing’s Disease



Want to Know your Pet's Options?





  1. char miller says

    My 15 yo has atypical cushings and osteoarthritis. I wish I could find an effective pain reliever for her but I guess her condition eliminates ssteroidal pain relieved and metacam is also not recommended.

    • justin says

      Try cbd oils. I recommend Bluebird Botanicals. About 6-10 drops with each meal. My 8 yr old Akita hasn’t responded to typical medications. I’ve tried CBD which has given her WONDERFUL results, and would likely help with her pains with the athritis. I am getting ready to try, Lignans 20mgx2 and Melatonin 3mgx2

  2. joyce says

    my cushings dog is going to receive trilostane. will this
    interact safely with the melatonin and lignans?

  3. Daniel Durvin says

    Hi my wife and I believe our dog has cushings disease but we do know he has diabetes. The problem is we can’t afford the test. Anything we can do?

  4. Monika says


    My cat has been diagnosed with adrenal-dependant Cushing’s and I can’t afford the ACTH stimulation tests needed to treat with Vetoryl. I have tried Cushex and after 3 weeks I noticed a significant improvement in excessive thirst and urination but not much with the ravenous appetite (the biggest of the clinical signs). Would lignans and melatonin be ok to give to my cat?

  5. Pat says

    Thank you. My 13 y o beagle is diagnosed w Cushings but at this time has limited symptoms. She also is on SamE s and ursodiol for several years for gallbladder liver difficulties but doing well. My vet recommended Trilostane but I am hesitant. I just want her comfortable and happy for as long as possible as I realize there is no cute. I am having guilt feelings so will need to keep researching and considering. Thanks for your input.

  6. Victoria Nelson says

    dear doctor smith, my dog is a 13 year old boxer mix that presented with iatrogenic cushions from a year of prednisone for her level 3 heartworm condition. She has been on whole food supplements helping her through this whole process and has done well. Now the cCushingsdisease symptoms have returned on their own including potbelly, frequent urination, increase thirst, what party, appearance of aging, and most concerning skin lesions with stinky puss that seems slightly bloody; calcification bumps lkke this around her neck. This happened before with the iatrogenic version and my supplements for adrenal support and liver support help her. This time I’m adding a pituitary support. All of the whole foods supplements are from the company standard process. What do you suggest for the corrections of skin lesions?

    • says

      The skin lesions especially the calcification can be tough to treat. With pus, you need to be on an antibiotic like Cephalexin. Also, you could try apple cider vinegar sprays. Another thought is fish oil for the skin problems.

      • Lisa says

        Hi Dr. Smith,

        Can you please elaborate on using apple cider vinegar sprays for skin lesions? Is this something you’ve tried?

        My dog has Cushing’s and does have lesions that have pus and are smelly. I’ve had the most success with Richard’s Organic’s antibacterial shampoo and his Incredible Skin Spray. My vet does have a huge concern with the Incredible Skin Spray because it has pennyroyal in it.
        Do you have any thoughts on that issue?

        I am interested in trying the lignans in hopes that it will resolve the issue. Do you know of cases in which the lignans did cure the skin problems associated with Cushing’s?

        Thank you for your time,


        • says

          Hi Lisa, thanks for writing! The apple cider vinegar is good. If your dog has a secondary skin infection, it will not make the hair grow back on its own but will eliminate some of the infection. It will also help restore your dog’s skin to it’s natural pH balance.

          Lignan and melatonin are primarily used for what’s termed Atypical Cushings. I have seen cases of skin disease due to Cushings improve with the use of melatonin and lignans.

  7. Vladimir B says

    Hi doctor Smith,my dog is 12 years old was on Tramadol and meloxicam for almost a year, and occasionally with dexamethasone. He had back pain.
    Since he has cushing syndrome symptoms , my vet did a blood test and his result on ALP ( Alkaline Phospate) is super high /3300 / also from Xray photo showing his liver swell. But his glucose is normal
    And My vet asked to stop any medications and to have blood test in 4 weeks.
    After 3 weeks without any medications ,his cushing syndrome is less, but not showing significant progress
    Should he start on Lignans and Melatonin ? Can I add Sam E + Milk Thistle for his liver while on Lignans + Melatonin.
    Please advise, Thank you

    • says

      The ALP is significantly high. You could get a liver biopsy to tell exactly what is causing the high liver enzymes. A variety of things could be causing the increase. In respect to your specific question, I think it would be fine to use lignin, melatonin, sam E and milk thistle all at the same time.

  8. david says

    Hello Doctor, I have an old dog. about 15 years old. He is a chihuahua/min pin mix. Doc said possible cushings, so I give him lignans and melatonin, he has been good for a long time, also said he had enlarged heart, he is on enalapril and vetmedin. But, now his gait is very bad, He cannot walk and is shaky standing, I noticed a lump in his throat about 2 weeks ago, is this an issue? He eats fine, seems alert, I know he is very old, but doesn’t appear to be failing until this issue with his muscles yesterday! any suggestions???? It is so hard when they get old! Bless you!!! David

    • says

      Hey David, Old dogs are difficult and they present a variety of problems. The shaking could be due to the Cushing’s Disease, arthritis, or other muscular issues. I think the best thing for you to do is to seek a veterinarian’s opinion. I hope this helps you!

  9. Kim says

    My 10 year old Boston has Cushings and is not reacting well to low dosages of Trilostane. We’ve gone from 50 mg to 2.5 mg, so it’s been a bumpy ride. I have stopped the Trilostane pending an appointment with yet another vet and am leaning toward trying the Melatonin/Lignan treatment. My question is regarding the calcification of her skin. She has very large patches of it on her shoulders and back, down to her rear. I shampoo her with Ketochlor and use the leave-in product, too. Should I continue this even if there is no sign of infection? Is there anything I can do to help this? Will stopping the Trilostane make it come back even more? I can’t seem to find a vet in this area with experience with Cushings…

    • says

      Hi Kim, thanks for writing! Some of my clients have had success with rubbing coconut oil on the rough patches of skin. I often recommend the melatonin/lignan treatment and it has worked well for my clients. If she doesn’t have a fungal or bacterial infection, I would stop the Ketochlor. You might also consider adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to her food. The combination of enzymes and probiotics will help improve digestion of nutrients, rebuild the good bacteria in her body, and help improve her immunity and the integrity of her skin.