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Trazodone for Dogs: What You Need to Know

Medications By Ben Team 5 min read May 24, 2021 14 Comments

Trazadone for Dogs
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Thunderstorms, fireworks, and a variety of other things (such as being separated from their families) can cause dogs to experience anxiety. And because anxiety is probably just as unpleasant for dogs as it is for people, most owners are keen to help their dog avoid these feelings of worry.

There are a few different products that help reduce your dog’s anxiety, including tight-fitting garments and cave-like crates, but medications are also a potential solution in some cases. Trazodone is one of the more commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications for dogs, so we’ll explain the basics of the medication below.

Trazodone for Dogs: Key Takeaways

  • Trazodone is a medication that helps reduce anxiety in some dogs. The medication was initially developed for human use, but vets will often prescribe it in “off-label” fashion for four-footers.
  • Trazodone can be used to treat general, on-going anxiety or acute anxiety, such as occurs in response to fireworks. The nature of your dog’s anxiety will influence the dosage regimen your vet recommends. Dogs with on-going anxiety will need to take it daily, but it can be used on a one-off basis to treat acute conditions.
  • Trazodone is largely considered safe, but there are a few concerning side effects to watch for. For example, dogs who appear confused or exhibit a difficulty walking after taking the drug may be suffering from a potentially life-threatening side-effect called serotonin syndrome.

What Is Trazodone?

Trazodone was initially developed to help treat depression and anxiety in humans. First approved by the FDA in 1981, it soon drew the attention of veterinarians, who began experimentally using the medication for dogs in 2008. Fortunately, it worked quite well for most of the dogs studied.  

Trazodone is only available by prescription, so you’ll have to get it through your vet. It isn’t FDA approved for use in dogs and cats, but veterinarians can legally prescribe it for your pet in what is referred to as “extra-label” or “off-label” use.

Trazodone – which is technically called trazodone HCl – is available in both generic and name-brand versions, such as Oleptro and Desyrel. There aren’t any veterinary formulations of Trazodone currently on the market, so pets must simply take those formulated for humans.

Trazodone is a type of medication called a serotonin 2a antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI), which simply means that it helps raise serotonin levels in the brain.

Raising serotonin levels helps to increase the efficiency with which messages are communicated in the brain. For reasons that are not entirely understood, this often helps to reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.

What Is Trazodone Used to Treat?

Trazodone is generally used to treat several different types of anxiety in dogs, including:

Depending on why your vet is prescribing the drug, he or she may recommend administering it to your pet on a regular or as-needed basis.

When using Trazodone for short-term use, it usually begins working in about one hour, and its effects last for a total of four hours or so. However, when using Trazodone long term, serotonin gradually builds up in the brain, resulting in much longer lasting effects.

Trazadone for Anxious Dogs

Trazodone For Dogs Dosage

Veterinarians prescribe trazodone at a range of dosages, so you should always follow your vet’s instructions when administering this (or any other) medication.

Typically, vets recommend that owners give dogs between 2.5 milligrams and 15 milligrams of Trazodone per pound of body weight every 24 hours. For example, a 20-pound beagle would need somewhere between 50 and 300 milligrams of Trazodone per day.

Vets usually try to administer trazodone in the lowest effective dose possible to minimize the potential for side effects. They’ll usually try to start at a relatively low dosage and gradually increase the amount administered over time. It is also important to wean dogs off the medication gradually, to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

It sometimes takes several days for trazodone to work properly, so your vet will likely recommend that you keep administering it to your dog for at least two weeks before deciding that it is ineffective.

Does Trazodone Cause Any Side Effects?

Trazodone is typically regarded as a fairly safe drug, but it occasionally causes a few side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Intestinal distress, including diarrhea or vomiting
  • Panting
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Twitching, muscle tremors, or shaking and trembling
  • Agitation or irritability

Many of the minor side effects caused by trazodone will diminish over time, as your dog’s body adjusts to the medication. But, if you notice your dog exhibiting any of the side effects described above, contact your veterinarian and follow his or her advice.

Trazodone and Serotonin Syndrome

Some dogs may also suffer a condition called serotonin syndrome while taking trazodone. Serotonin syndrome is a serious medical problem that results from excessive serotonin levels in the brain.

Although somewhat rare, serotonin syndrome can prove fatal without treatment, so you must be sure to watch for its most common symptoms, including:

  • Confusion
  • Altered mental state
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Difficulty walking
  • Collapse

Contact your vet immediately if you notice your dog exhibiting any of these symptoms.  

Are There Any Dogs Who Shouldn’t Take Trazodone?

Unlike some other medicines that are dangerous for specific breeds (such as ivermectin, which can be dangerous for collies and their close relatives), trazodone seems to be safe for all breeds. It also has a large safety margin, so it is generally considered safe.

However, there are a few medical conditions that you should be sure to discuss with your vet before administering trazodone to your pup.

For example, trazodone may exacerbate some heart problems – including, most notably, arrhythmias. Trazodone can also cause problems for dogs taking MAOIs or those who suffer from seizures or epilepsy.    

Additionally, note that priapism has been noted as a side effect in a small percentage of human males who’ve taken the medication, so you may want to use caution when administering this to unaltered male dogs slated for breeding trials.

***

If you have a dog suffering from anxiety, speak with your vet about some of the possible treatments – including trazodone. It just may help your dog to feel a little better and relax.

Have you ever given your pup Trazodone? How did it work out? Did it help your dog feel better? Were there any troubling side effects?

Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below.

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Written by

Ben Team

Ben is the senior content editor for K9 of Mine and has spent most of his adult life working as a wildlife educator and animal-care professional. Ben’s had the chance to work with hundreds of different species, but his favorite animals have always been dogs. He currently lives in Atlanta, GA with his spoiled-rotten Rottweiler named J.B. Chances are, she’s currently giving him the eyes and begging to go to the park.

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14 Comments

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christina

my dog is being given trazadone, we don’t see any difference, he was so traumatized ,as he was a stud dog who never had human interactions, left I guess in a cage or just outside, he is deathly afraid of loud noises, maybe with time it will help. we are so sad to think how he was treated, these monsters even had his vocal cords cut! I really want to give him some relief since we are going to have to board him for a week, I wish I could just take him, but we can’t due to the fact that we won’t know where we could keep him from being so scared. any ideas would help, thank you

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Ann E.

Started my 11 lb dog on 1/4 of a 50mg tab a couple of weeks ago. He is 11 yrs old and has started having panic attacks. So far it has worked amazingly well and he isn’t lethargic and doesn’t seem to have side effects. He still plays with toys and is hungry for meals. Only issue is: I had some human trazadone I shared with him while I waited for his pet rx to arrive. When they came and I gave him the same dosage, about an hour later he had a panic attack. I gave him human trazadone the next day and he was fine. I told the vet and she insists that they are the same. I just don’t think so and now have to figure out how to get him human grade trazadone. Anyone have an explanation? Really don’t want to risk giving him something ineffective.

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Debbie Schaier

You could get your vet to write a prescription and take it to your pharmacy to get it filled. They fill dog prescriptions with human pills. I’m going to try giving my Trazadone to my dog instead of the same med he’s getting from an on line pharmacy because it seems like it’s not helping at all!

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Dawn Jarvis

I gave my Boomer Trazodone ml. For nervous anxiety. It really calms him down. But I believe it makes him too sleepy. And a side effect I noticed is, he drinks alot of water. And he has to pee alot. And I am on second floor apartment. And I am not possitive but he had terrible diarrhea as well. I stopped giving to him. I think the side affects we’re not helpful either. So what to do? He still hides behind the couch when he here’s a loud car or plane or train. I would love to have him lay out on the deck with me in the mornings having coffee. But he can not realax.
PS I am disabled and I can’t run him down stairs all the time. I do but it is very hard.
Thanks for any help.

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Gail Longworth

My 1 yr old goldendoodle was prescribed 50-100 mgs trazadone for very poor leash behavior. We have been committed to positive training and have taken many classes, but the leash is a problem.
50mgs made her too lethargic (40 lbs) so we split the pills and give her half in the morning and half around noon to extend her day.

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ROCHELLE EISMA

just gave my goldendoodle a half tablet of trazodone for car sickness seem to calm her down but after awhile she just growled at nothing for awhile.. she never did get sick like she use to on rides so maybe the growling will stop.. better than puking like she has on rides.

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Kristy

We rescued a dog from a hoarding situation. She is two and has never seen a leash or interacted with humans other than getting her food and water. She is very very anxious, constantly pacing, running from us, freezing if we get too close, constantly barking at my husband and son, etc. Our vet recommended Trazadone and Reya has been on it for five days now, with absolutely no change in behavior. I’m hoping it starts helping her soon because we are not equipped to handle a dog in her condition. The rescue we got her from only had her for a few days and only told us she was nervous. What we are seeing is so much more than that. 🙁

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Dawn Ellen Jarvis

I was wondering what millagrams they gave her. 100 ml. Is what my vet prescribed and basically knocks him out for a while. I wish you much help and pray you will be able to find help for her and your family .
Dawn jarvis

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Nancy

We just started on trazadone for our 4 yr old 25 lb rescue dog but she keeps throwing it up after dosing. The vet suggested giving Pepcid prior to dosing and give with food. Has anyone else had this problem. We just want to help her deal with her anxiety.

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Janice G Stapp

Is 600 mg a day to much that’s 300 every 12 hrs it was makeing him really sleepy vet said to take him off but now hes real hyper and acting crazy

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Ben Team

Hey, Janice.

We’ll always advise your to follow your vet’s advice — the dosage information presented above is strictly for informational purposes. Sorry about that; I know it’s not a satisfying answer.

We would, however, love to know how it goes, so keep us updated.
Best of luck!

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Colleen Winslow

I was prescribed trazodone for my boy after his surgery simply because he kept injuring the surgical site worked very well but it must be tapered down to avoid withdrawal.. I have also used trazodone during my bitches heat , the boys would get so worked up their teeth would chatter non stop , trazodone helped them to relax so they could rest better and eat, again you must taper it down if you’ve been using it for a period of time.

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Joell

How do you taper down? My dog has been on it for TPLO surgery, do you cut the dose or reduce the amount of time you give it to them? How long does it take to get them off successfully

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Ben Team

Hey, Joell. Hope your pooch is doing well. You’ll just have to discuss this with your vet — he or she should be able to help you figure out the right formula.
Best of luck!

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