Trazodone for dogs: use and dosage

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Trazodone is commonly prescribed to treat depression and insomnia in humans. In the field of pet care, extra-label use of the drug has been shown to be effective in managing anxiety and other behavioral problems in dogs (and pet insurance can cover the costs).

In this guide we explain how trazodone works, how it is used, and common side effects to watch out for. Read on to learn more.


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What is trazodone for dogs?

Trazodone (brand names Desyrel and Oleptro) is an antidepressant that is part of a class of drugs called serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). In humans, these types of drugs can help with depression and insomnia by regulating serotonin and inhibiting 5-HT2 receptors in the nervous system.

In dogs, trazodone also affects serotonin levels, alleviating anxiety and aggression in situations that would otherwise be very triggering. It is a valuable tool in pet therapy both for keeping dogs calm for short periods of time and for managing chronic anxiety disorders.

Common Uses of Trazodone for Dogs

“We use it primarily for anxiety and to keep them calm and calm after orthopedic surgery or any surgery,” says Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM and veterinarian at Clint Moore Animal Hospital.

Trazodone is commonly prescribed in veterinary medicine to treat various behavioral disorders:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Reactivity
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Fatigue
  • Bark
  • Howling
  • Noise phobias

Trazodone also works as part of a comprehensive behavioral modification that includes training and ongoing treatment with a behavioral specialist.

In cases of aggressive behavior, however, Dr. Butzer stresses that trazodone will not stop your dog from biting. “You cannot give trazodone to a dog who is extremely aggressive in biting and think that he will not bite you. He can still bite. For this situation, you need to seek out a behaviorist or [unfortunately] Put the dog down,” he says.

Safe doses of trazodone for dogs

The dose of trazodone depends on the dog’s weight, medical history, and any drug interactions.

Generally, the dosage ranges from 1 to 15 milligrams per kilogram of the dog’s body weight. Behavioral problems can be treated with a lower dose of three to eight milligrams, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual’s drug dosing chart.

Depending on the desired effect, trazodone may be administered every eight to 24 hours or as needed. For example, you may only need to give trazodone to your dog in anticipation of a stressful event such as a visit to the groomer or a thunderstorm.

Common side effects of trazodone in dogs

Although it is generally well tolerated, trazodone may cause adverse side effects in some dogs, and patients with liver, kidney, or heart disease may not tolerate the drug at all.

Common side effects of trazodone in dogs include drowsiness, sedation, gastrointestinal distress, ataxia (loss of coordination), and changes in appetite.

According to Dr. Butzer, long-term use can also pose some challenges: “It actually builds up in the system and dogs can become resistant, and then you may need to switch to something else like Valium or Xanax for dogs. .”

And if you need to wean your dog off trazodone after chronic use, it’s best to do so gradually. Otherwise, your dog may suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as increased agitation, anxiety, and restlessness.

Serotonin syndrome

Serotonin syndrome is a life-threatening condition that can affect dogs when they have too much serotonin in their bodies. It is the biggest risk to watch out for when treating dogs with trazodone and other drugs or supplements that increase serotonin levels (known as serotonergic drugs).

Dogs can develop serotonin syndrome if they ingest too many medications or if they accidentally consume their owner’s medications. It can also occur if your vet mistakenly prescribes two separate serotonergic medications for your dog. This is why it is essential to tell your vet about all medications your dog is taking.

The onset of serotonin syndrome may occur within one to two hours of the dog ingesting the drug or develop slowly over several hours or days.

These are the signs of serotonin syndrome to watch out for:

  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Disorientation
  • Temperature increase
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Excessive panting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Drooling or hypersalivation
  • Tremors

Drugs you should not mix with trazodone

Some medications may increase the risk of side effects and serotonin syndrome or even reduce the effectiveness of trazodone. Antifungals, for example, can increase trazodone concentrations, and gabapentin, an anti-anxiety drug commonly given with trazodone, can exacerbate the sedative effects if the dosage is incorrect.

These are some of the drugs to watch out for when using trazodone:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine and sertraline
  • Antifungals such as ketoconazole, itraconazole and fluconazole
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) including phenelzine, amitraz and selegiline

Here’s how much trazodone costs in popular online pet stores. Please note that these prices may differ from those at your local veterinary clinic and that you still need a veterinary prescription to purchase trazodone online.

Trazodone dosage x number of tablets

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Frequently Asked Questions about Trazodone for Dogs

How long does trazodone take to work?

The full effects of trazodone typically begin within one to two hours, although ultimately it depends on the dog. Having food in your stomach can also delay absorption.

The drug may take several days or weeks to work when prescribed daily as part of a long-term treatment plan.

What does trazodone do for dogs?

Trazodone enhances the effect of serotonin on your dog’s body, effectively calming him and helping him relax in stressful situations.

Is trazodone safe for dogs?

Trazodone is safe for dogs when used as prescribed by a veterinarian. Side effects of trazodone in dogs are generally limited to drowsiness and lethargy, which disappear once the drug is eliminated.

However, Trazodone can pose a significant health risk to your dog if it is overprescribed or mixed with similar medications, as this can lead to serotonin syndrome.

How long does it take for trazodone to wear off in dogs?

A single dose of trazodone typically takes six to 24 hours to wear off. This process may take longer if your dog has been taking trazodone for a while and we recommend weaning him carefully to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Does pet insurance cover anxiety medications?

Pet insurance coverage for anxiety medications depends on whether the insurance company covers behavior modification. Anxiety medications are most likely covered if your provider offers this benefit with their basic policy or as a passenger.

That said, pet insurers may not cover “off-label” medications like trazodone because these medications are not yet approved for use on animals by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This doesn’t mean the drug is unsafe (FDA testing can be prohibitive), but it can affect whether or not your pet insurance covers you.

Money’s Trazodone for Dogs Summary

  • Trazodone is an antidepressant with extra-label applications in veterinary medicine. In dogs, this drug is a valuable tool for managing anxiety and related problems such as aggression.
  • Veterinarians often prescribe it to help dogs cope with loud noises, separation anxiety, travel and vet visits. The medication may also help keep your dog calm after surgery.
  • The full effects of trazodone are noticeable after one to two hours, and it may take your dog anywhere from six to 24 hours to eliminate the drug.
  • The main risk factor for trazodone is serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition caused by too much serotonin in the body. Dogs are at risk for this complication if they consume too much trazodone or if they are prescribed multiple medications that affect serotonin levels in a similar way.

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