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Trazodone for Dogs: Safety, Dosage, and Natural Alternatives

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

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Trazodone can be used in dogs “off-label” to manage anxiety and phobia-related behavioral disorders. This is groundbreaking since studies show that behavioral issues have a negative impact on overall pet welfare. Plus, behavioral problems are amongst the leading causes of euthanasia in dogs.  

Keep reading to learn more about Trazodone for dogs. We will start by explaining what Trazodone is and how it can be implemented in the dog’s behavior management plan. We will also discuss its pros, cons, and possible alternatives. 

Can I Give My Dog Trazodone?

Can I Give My Dog Trazodone

Yes, you can give your dog Trazodone. Get it on Chewy for 15 cents. However, first, you need to consult with your vet – ask for the correct dosage and usage instructions as well as confirm whether this medication is the right choice for your dog’s condition. 

Trazodone (active ingredient trazodone hydrochloride; brand names Oleptro® and Desyrel® ) is a human prescription medication. In veterinary medicine, Trazodone can be used as part of the multi-modal treatment plan for managing various forms of anxieties (separation anxiety, car rides, vet visits) and phobias (fireworks, thunderstorms, loud noises) in dogs. 

So, to address the main question of this section – yes, you can use Trazodone in your dog as long as you have the vet’s approval and, of course, a prescription since Trazodone is not FDA-approved for use in pets.   

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When to Use Trazodone for Dogs

Let’s start by explaining what Trazodone is. From a pharmacology standpoint, Trazodone is a serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitor (SARI) antidepressant. Other medications in this class include phenylpiperazine, lorpiprazole, etoperidone, and mepiprazole. 

Trazodone works by binding to serotonin receptors at the nerve synapse, thus preventing its reuptake, as the name suggests for itself. What does this mean in practical terms? 

Well, serotonin is one of the so-called “happy hormones.” In other words, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that promotes feelings such as happiness, relaxation, emotional balance, and overall wellbeing. 

The more serotonin the dog has in its blood, the more likely it is to be happy. As a reuptake inhibitor, Trazodone increases the amount of circulating serotonin, thus supporting emotional wellbeing. 

Benefits and Uses of Trazodone for Dogs

In dogs, Trazodone can be used on an as-needed basis and for managing short-term anxieties and phobias. Here are some popular Trazodone uses. 

Trazodone for Separation Anxiety. Defined as the fear of being left alone, separation anxiety is a prevalent behavioral issue in dogs. According to a study, Trazodone is an effective adjunctive medication for separation anxiety management. Plus, the sedation effect will help prevent the destructiveness associated with most anxiety disorders. 

Trazodone for Noise Phobias. Fear responses to loud noises are a common welfare problem in modern dogs. A study showed that dogs need several days to recover after exposure to fireworks. Trazodone can be used to manage various noise phobias in dogs, including thunderstorms and fireworks

Trazodone for Confienement. Trazodone can be used to facilitate confinement and relaxation during the post-surgical recovery period in dogs. For example, in order to heal properly, a dog following an orthopedic surgery needs cage rest – something that is hard to achieve in an otherwise hyperactive pup. 

Trazodone for Stress Management. Dogs are prone to various forms of stress. Vet visits and hospitalization are common triggers. A study evaluating the effects of Trazodone on behavioral stress signs in hospitalized dogs determined that it can reduce stress (and aggression), thus improving the dog’s emotional welfare. 

Trazodone for Insomnia. Trazodone has mild sedative and hypnotic effects, which can be used to manage insomnia and ensure your dog gets good sleep and rest. Interestingly, a study on English Bulldogs found out that Trazodone may help alleviate the effects of sleep-disordered breathing.  

Potential Side Effects and Risks of Trazodone for Dogs

Potential Side Effects and Risks of Trazodone for Dogs

Same as any other medicine, Trazodone may cause side effects in some extra sensitive dogs. In most cases, the side effects subside after several days of continuous use. Therefore, before requesting a dosage modification, vets suggest waiting for a couple of days. 

The most frequently reported side effects of Trazodone in dogs include: 

  • Diarrhea, vomiting and gagging 
  • Increased appetite 
  • Panting or rapid breathing 
  • Shaking and agitation
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Colitis (inflammation of the colon)
  • General weakness and/or fainting
  • Ataxia (loss of muscle control)
  • Lethargy and sedation 
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Priapism (persistent and painful erection)
  • Accented anxiety or even aggression

These side effects are temporary and, as already mentioned, will lessen over time. However, the most severe possible side effect of Trazodone use is the so-called serotonin syndrome. It develops when the serotonin levels in the brain get too high. The signs of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea 
  • Excessive salivation 
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Hypertension (elevated blood pressure)
  • Hyperthermia (raised body temperature)
  • Dilated pupils 
  • Pronounced skin sensitivity 
  • Vocalization or depression 
  • Blindness and disorientation 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Ataxia and/or paralysis

Serotonin syndrome can culminate in a coma and, depending on the severity of the situation, even have fatal consequences. Therefore, a dog with serotonin syndrome is considered to be a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention. 

Additionally, Trazodone can interact with certain medications and should be used with extra caution in dogs with some chronic diseases and conditions. 

For example, Trazodone may interact with these medications:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) like fluoxetine 
  • Antihypertensive drugs
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI)
  • Digoxin
  • Aspirin 
  • Diuretics (furosemide)
  • Metoclopramide 
  • Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Phenothiazines

Additionally, combining Trazodone with the following drugs increases its sedative effects:

  • Some antibiotics (clarithromycin, erythromycin)
  • Azole antifungals (itraconazole, fluconazole, ketoconazole)

The use of Trazodone entails extra caution and careful monitoring in dogs with severe heart disease and dogs with liver and kidney problems. The medication should not be used at all in:

  • Dogs allergic to the active ingredient (trazodone hydrochloride)
  • Dogs with angle-closure glaucoma 
  • Pregnant dogs as it can cause fetal damage
  • Dogs receiving some of the medications with which there are possible interactions
vets org

Trazodone Dosage for Dogs 

The recommended dose of Trazodone for dogs is between 2.5 mg and 3.5 mg per pound of body weight (or 2-5 mg per kg). Depending on the situation and the individual needs, some dogs can be given up to 15 mg of Trazodone per pound every 24 hours. 

However, when first introducing Trazodone to your dog’s healthcare plan, the veterinarian will recommend starting with fewer milligrams. Then within the next 3 to 5 days, you can gradually increase the dose of Trazodone as your dog gets used to the new drug. Slow implementation is vital as it decreases the risk of developing side effects. 

The Trazodone tablets are available in different potencies, including 50 mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg. Choose the potency that best corresponds to your dog’s needs. There are also extended-release tablets (150 mg and 300 mg), but they are not suitable for managing anxiety in dogs. 

The Trazodone tablet can be given with food or on an empty stomach. If your dog has a sensitive tummy and does not handle medicines well (vomits or has diarrhea), give the next Trazodone tablet with a treat or mix it in its regular food. 

Giving your dog too much Trazodone can result in an overdose. The clinical signs begin within 30 to 60 minutes of exposure and can last between 10 and 12 hours (in more severe cases, even up to 24 hours). The clinical signs and symptoms of Trazodone overdose include:

  • Disorientation and loss of balance
  • Rapid decrease or increase in blood pressure
  • Marked decrease in heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Depression
  • Tremors and seizures

The first thing to do in the case of a Trazodone overdose is to contact your veterinarian. By the time that clinical signs of overdose are visible, it is usually too late to attempt emesis or administer activated charcoal. Most veterinarians will use IV fluids to flush the system and symptomatic therapy to deal with the Trazodone toxicosis.

Trazodone for Dogs Usage Guidelines

Considering the relatively long list of side effects and the possibility of triggering an adverse effect (increase the anxiety’s intensity), we recommend testing the Trazodone’s effect on your dog before you actually need its calmness-promoting features. 

Keep in mind that Trazodone kicks in relatively fast – usually in around 60 to 90 minutes. If using the drug on an as-needed basis, administer it 1-2 hours before the stressful event. On the other hand, when used for long-term stress management, Trazodone may need a few weeks to achieve full efficacy. 

If you are not convinced that Trazodone is the answer to your pet’s behavioral issues or prefer a more natural solution, you are in luck. Pet CBD products have gained a lot of attention, and with a good reason. 

CBD oil for dogs is known to have many health benefits – it can promote relaxation, help with occasional stiffness and discomfort, provide antioxidant support, promote cellular health, assist the immune system, and more. 

We recommend using CBD products from the Honest Paws Calm Collection. You can choose between CBD oil for Dogs , CBD treats (soft chews and bites), and CBD-infused peanut butter. Each product is made with high-quality, human-grade, and organic, hemp-derived CBD oil. Plus, the edibles feature added calmness-promoting ingredients such as L-theanine and tryptophan. 

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Our Final Thoughts on Trazodone for Dogs 

tradozone for calmness and relaxation in dogs

Trazodone promotes calmness and relaxation in anxious, noise-sensitive, and aggressive dogs. Despite its off-label use in veterinary medicine and the lack of FDA approval, Trazodone is safe and efficient when used under your vet’s instructions and monitoring. 

Trazodone for dogs can be used for both situational and long-term stress management. Plus, it can help with various situations and issues like cage rest, insomnia, loud festivities, stressful car rides, and even more stressful vet visits. 

Finally, we should note that the guidelines provided in this article are informational and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. Always consult with your trusted veterinarian before giving your dog Trazodone or any other medication.