Reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS.
- Before giving your dog anything for anxiety, it it best to consult your vet first.
- Some vets prescribe trazodone for dogs to address anxiety and stress.
- Although FDA doesn’t approve the use of trazodone on dogs and cats, vets can still legally prescribe this and other anxiety medications under “extra-label” or “off-label” provisions.
One of the most common human medications also given to canines, trazodone for dogs is used to calm anxieties that may come from several sources and stressful events such as a visit to the groomer, vet clinic, or after surgical operations.
Like humans, dogs have emotions. Also like humans, dogs can suffer stress and anxiety sometimes. I myself witness this from my dogs from time to time—it’s a painful thing to see.
Similarly, dogs don’t love the idea of dealing with fears and tension and may run into depression. This is why I often advise pet parents to check on a pup’s mental state as soon there are any signs showing that it needs help. It pays to help your dog deal with its fears and anxiety as soon as you can, to avoid complex behavioral issues from developing.
You may start with calming aids like tight-fitting t-shirts (i.e. the ‘Thundershirt’) or building cave-like sanctuaries to ease the anxiety and make them feel good. However, these interventions alone may not help to calm dogs, depending on the nature and cause of your pup’s anxiety and depression. Oftentimes, we need to work on the root cause and to address the underlying behavioural issues.
For dogs with moderate to severe anxiety, it is vital we seek assistance from our vet and a canine behaviorist. Alongside a tailored behavioral program, it may be essential to explore the medication world and see what works effectively. If your dog suffers from anxiety, a vet may prescribe trazodone. Some anxiety medications like trazodone have proven to be efficient in several instances. This article answers your questions about how you can tell your dog needs help and how trazodone can help. You’ll also learn about the precautions you need to take to ensure your furry friend stays safe during and after the treatment.
Disclaimer: this is not medical advice, nor is it a substitute for medical advice. Always consult a veterinarian with questions concerning things you give your dog.
Check out our video version of this article below, or read on for the full story.
What is Trazodone?
Trazodone is an anti-depressant and anxiety-relieving medication that was first developed for humans and approved by the FDA in 1981 (1). At first, trazodone drew a lot of attention from veterinarians, who experimented with it with pets in 2008.
It was then considered safe for use in dogs since all the pets in the trial had positive outcomes. Vets then started prescribing trazodone to dogs struggling with anxiety and stress. However, the FDA doesn’t approve its use on dogs and cats; but in veterinary medicine, trazodone is legally and commonly prescribed under “extra-label,” also known as “off-label” provisions.
Trazodone – technically referred to as trazodone HCl – is marketed under the brand and generic names Desyrel and Oleptro. It’s only available with a prescription to treat behavioral disorders, so you can only purchase it through your veterinarian. Similarly, it’s essential to note that there’s no pet formulation of trazodone in the market currently. As a result, vets only prescribe the form designed for humans to help dogs fight anxiety disorders.
What Does Trazodone Use to Treat in Dogs?
Trazodone for dogs is used to help in the treatment of various types of anxiety in dogs. These include:
- Separation anxiety– Associated with the fear of separating from the owner and being lonely
- Charging at people, or showing them aggression- Resulting from fearing unknown individuals
- Noise phobias– Caused by fear of sudden or strange noise like thunderstorms, fireworks, and other noisy phenomena.
- Vet-induced anxiety- Often comes after a surgical operation or any situation where the pet may have experienced anxiety within the vet clinic.
- Resource Guarding- Caused by an innate fear of losing a valued item
- Dog-to-dog aggression- fearing other dogs
- Generalized anxiety- Some dogs are naturally more anxious than others and this can be genetic. There will not always be an obvious trigger for their anxiety.
Studies indicate that trazodone is efficient in inducing calming and confinement for dogs after undergoing orthopedic surgery (2). Pups often need to stay in their crates for some time after surgery until they recover. However, the lack of movement often makes dogs restless, and most of them usually start whining and straining.
However, studies conducted on different dogs indicated that the oral trazodone medication is safe and effective in boosting behavioral calmness in dogs during the acute recovery time that follows orthopedic surgery.
How to Determine Anxiety in Dogs
Understanding the nature of anxiety or depression in your dog is your first step in finding a befitting solution for the situation. Your dog may not be able to express contempt or shame, but it can show you when happy, sad, frustrated, relieved, or fearful.
Thus, watching your dog closely will give you a clue if it has any behavioral disorder. Consider calling your veterinarian if you notice any unusual behavior. Avoid medicating your dog without a specialist’s supervision.
Dogs typically communicate through body language, whether it is by wagging their tails, barking, growling, freezing still or displaying bared teeth. When anxious, you may notice that your dog show behaviors like:
- Poor/ lack of responsiveness.
Reading body language is key in helping you determine your dog’s triggers, and helping them remain at ease and avoid stressors.
The cause of your dog’s anxiety will also determine how it behaves. For instance, a dog that fears strange people may attempt to hide or escape in the presence of a stranger. On the other hand, generalised anxiety may cause your dog to show prolonged periods of fear with no obvious threat. Some of the signs to look out for in a frightened dog include:
- Attempts to hide
- Panting/ pacing
- Acting distracted
- Attempts to escape
- Freezing still
- Whale eye
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Trazodone Dosage for Dogs
Trazodone dosage for dogs and the administration regimen depends on the condition of your pup and the nature of anxiety it’s suffering from. For example, dogs suffering from ongoing anxiety may need daily or twice daily medicating, while those with acute stress (like a response to fireworks) may benefit from a one-off prescription.
Thus, your vet will advise whether you need to give a dog trazodone regularly or only when he requires it.
However, vets recommend a dosage between 3mg and 15mg for every pound of dog weight within 24 hours. For example, a dog that weighs 20 pounds will need 60-300mg of trazodone per day. As you can see, there is a huge range and your vet is best placed to advise you on what dose your dog would do best on. It can be take with food or on an empty stomach.
Vets typically administer trazodone in the lowest effective dosage possible to reduce the chances of your dog suffering any side effects. Because of its sedative effects, the treatment often starts at a relatively low dosage and, if needed, the vet slowly upsurges the amount of trazodone administered over time.
The medication may subject your dog to mild, and in rare cases, severe side effects. Similarly, dogs using trazodone also sometimes suffer withdrawal signs at the end of the treatment. As a result, your vet will advise you to wean off your dog gradually rather than stopping the dosage abruptly to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
As a result, you must stick with your vet’s instructions on trazodone dosage and administration.
Trazodone Dosage Chart
Disclaimer: Always consult a veterinarian with questions concerning things you give your dog. See the full disclaimer below the chart.
|Starting dose Trazodone (Dose Range)
How Does Trazodone Work?
Trazodone is a type of medication known as a serotonin 2a antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI). As such, it works by raising serotonin levels in the brain. High serotonin levels boost the efficiency of messages communicated in the brain, minimizing the symptoms resulting from anxiety and depression.
What Happens After Administering Trazodone?
Trazodone for dogs’ dosages for short-term use often begins showing results after about an hour, with its effects going up to around four hours or more. However, the medication may take a bit longer to manifest impacts, and its effects may last a bit longer for prolonged anxiety since. In this case, serotonin builds up in the brain gradually.
That means you may give your dog the medication for several days before seeing any notable results. As a result, your vet will likely recommend that you continue the drug for at least two weeks before throwing it away for being ineffective.
Side Effects of Trazodone
Vets consider trazodone relatively safe for pets. However, that doesn’t rule out the possibility of your dog suffering the side effects of trazodone. However, the side effects come around rarely, and some of the mild effects will disappear gradually as your dog’s system adjusts to the medication. Some of the symptoms that may show your dog is suffering from mild side effects include:
- Intestinal distress
- Muscle tremors
- Shaking or trembling
- Increased Anxiety
However, don’t overlook the symptoms and, if they are tolerable, wait to see if they improve shortly. Consult your veterinarian to let him professionally advise you on the right course of action.CLICK HERE: Save 15% on dog CBD products →
Sometimes your dog may face adverse effects when using trazodone. One rare consequence of its use is known as ‘Serotonin Syndrome’. It’s a dire medical complication caused by excess serotonin levels in your dog’s brain of often occurring after taking trazodone with other serotonergic drugs. It occurs on rare occasions but may lead to fatalities if you don’t attend to it in time. Some of its symptoms include:
- Altered mental state
- Rapid heartbeats
- Difficulty breathing
- Straining to walk
- Upsurge in body temperature
Inform your vet immediately if you witness such signs, and follow his directives.
Unlike most medications that aren’t safe for particular dog breeds, trazodone is safe for all breeds. However, you should be cautious of a few medical conditions and discuss them with your vet before administering the medicine. It may not also be advisable to give this antidepressant to pregnant or lactating dogs.
For example, trazodone for dogs may worsen various heart complications, like arrhythmias. As a result, you may want to ascertain that your dog is safe to use trazodone before administering it. Similarly, talk to your vet about any other treatments, supplements, or therapies that your dog currently has since trazodone may react and cause complications for dogs while taking other medications including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Also, discuss any of your dog’s underlying conditions with your vet to ensure that it’s fit health-wise to take the medication. For instance, trazodone isn’t recommended for dogs suffering from epilepsy or seizures.
Additionally, a small percentage of human males who took the medication also suffered priapism as a side effect. Thus, you should be cautious when administering the medicine to unaltered dogs scheduled for breeding trials.Learn more: Read our review of Medterra CBD tincture for pets →
Trazodone is increasingly populating the veterinary sector, with vets using it to treat anxiety and associated behavioral complications in dogs. Most pet owners now have trazodone in their homes’ medicine cabinets. As a result, more dogs are exposed to the medication and may accidentally consume it with no supervision.
Dogs show a heightened tolerance to the medication and may not always develop any significant complications from trazodone overdose. However, certain susceptible dogs may show poisoning effects with doses of 5mg/kg of trazodone or even lower. Most may show minor signs of poisoning in dogs between 30-60 minutes after exposure. Any mild signs typically disappear within 10-12 hours, while others may take up to 24 hours or more.
It’s essential to call your vet or the Animal Poison Control Center if you suspect or are aware that your dog mistakenly took trazodone especially in very high doses. Experts will advise you if you should apply the wait-and-see technique or if your dog requires immediate medical attention.
If the case is severe, your vet may attempt to decontaminate your dog. Doing this quickly, within four hours of ingestion, allows for treatment with activated charcoal and emesis. IV fluids are often used in the treatment for trazodone toxicities.CLICK HERE: Get your FREE new puppy checklist →
The treatment process relies heavily on being supportive and treating the symptoms developing due to the toxicities. For example, diazepam is often recommended for dogs that develop seizures, while vets prefer Cyproheptadine for dogs that develop serotonin syndrome. Symptoms to look out for with trazodone intoxication include:
- Hypertension or Hypotension
- Bradycardia or Tachycardia
- Urinary Incontinence
Studies conducted in Australia and the UK indicate that almost 80% of dogs struggle with behavioral disorders. Among the numbers, anxiety and phobia are the most dominant culprits. As a result, you’ll have to help your dog deal with its fears and anxiety, or even depression.
Apart from reducing your dog’s quality of life, behavioral disorders also impact how your pup relates to you and may make it more aggressive and less amenable to training.
Trazodone for Dogs Guide: How it Works (Dosage and Side Effects)
Trazodone is effective and considerately safe for treating anxiety and depression in dogs. Vets recommend a dosage of between 3mg to 15mg per pound of a dog’s body weight. The correct dosage for each dog depends on the type of anxiety it’s suffering from, whether prolonged or acute. It also depends on how the individual processes the drug and on how sensitive they are to it.
While the medication is relatively safe, your dog may suffer mild side effects like lethargy, over sleepiness, panting, hyperactivity, restlessness, and more. On rare occasions, your dog may also experience fatal serotonin syndrome.
What Do You Need to Know About Trazodone for Dogs
Trazodone for dogs is a medication that helps in treating anxiety in dogs. It was initially designed for human use, but veterinarians can legally prescribe it to dogs under “off-label” provisions after experimental trials proved that it’s safe for pets.
Trazodone can treat various forms of anxiety, including situational anxiety, ongoing, acute, and generalized anxiety. Its dosage and administration depend on the nature of the dog’s specific psychological issues. For instance, a vet may prescribe a regular dosage for a prolonged condition or a one-off dose for acute anxiety.
Abnormal Stress and Anxiety in Dogs
Studies in the UK and Australia indicate that almost 80% of dogs struggle with behavioral disorders. The studies suggest that phobia and anxiety are the most significant cause for the dogs’ conditions, and the triggers for these complications are numerous. These include fireworks, storms, fear of people, phobia of other dogs, separation anxiety, etc.
Abnormal stress and anxiety can then cause dogs to be hyperactive, reactive and potentially subdued. Similarly, stress and anxiety make your dog restless, cause it to be more aggressive, and can negatively impact your relationship with your furred friend.CLICK HERE: Access EXCLUSIVE deals for our readers →