Trazodone for Dogs: How It Works and Signs Your Dog Needs It

Trazodone for Dogs: How It Works and Signs Your Dog Needs It

Alpha Paw Sale
Jan 06, 2024

What is Trazodone for dogs?

Trazodone for dogs is an antidepressant that is used to treat behavioral disorders. It helps to reduce anxiety in your four-legged best friend and is a dog medication option when addressing your dog’s stress levels during fireworks, and other events. There are many different drugs and calming supplements for dogs that your vet may consider, but Trazodone is one of the most common.  This is a medication that can be given daily or only before a stressful event.  This makes it great to use right before thunderstorms.

Trazodone is also frequently used as supplemental therapy for dogs that do not respond to conventional therapies. Do keep in mind that trazodone for dogs is commonly prescribed as ‘off label’ or ‘extra label.’ This means that you need to follow your veterinarian’s instructions as it may differ from directions stated on the label. 

Trazodone for dogs how it works and signs your dog needs it

What Does Trazodone Do?

Trazodone is a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).  This is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression or help with storm phobias.  Trazodone works in the brain by keeping serotonin in the brain’s synaptic space for a longer time.  Serotonin is responsible for your dog feeling good.  This will help make your dog happier and stress-free.  When your dog takes Trazodone, it will help keep the correct balance of serotonin in your dog’s brain.

Why does my dog need Trazodone?

There are many reasons that your vet may prescribe your dog Trazodone.  These are some of the most common reasons:

  • Help keep your pet calm during vet visits
  • Decrease stress and anxiety
  • Keep your dog calm during fireworks or thunderstorms
  • Keep your dog calm after a major surgery

It is best to give your dog Trazodone before a stressful event happens.  If your dog is afraid of thunderstorms, it would be best to give your dog this medication before the storm happens.  This medication is meant to be used for a short time and can even be prescribed to be given every day.

A recent study published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine Association shows that Trazodone is a great choice to use a sedative for post-operative recovery. If your dog has just had major surgery and not liking the strict confinement that your vet has recommended, ask about giving them Trazodone to help.

Calm Canines: Top Picks for Easing Anxiety in Dogs

Helping your dog manage anxiety is crucial for their well-being, and there are effective products designed to provide comfort and relaxation.

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  • Patented design applies gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear, and over-excitement. This gentle hugging produces a dramatic calming effect.
  • Calms your dog during fireworks, thunder, separation, travel, vet visits, grooming, and much more with no training and no medication.
  • Comfortable and easy on/off. Made of durable, breathable, soft fabric that is washable.
  • Recommended by trainers and veterinarians to relieve stress-related behaviors such as jumping, excessive barking, and inappropriate marking.
  • Proven effective in over 80% of dogs.
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  • Mimics a mother’s natural pheromones to calm down dogs that are experiencing distress
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  • Works great for vet visits, crating, car travel, fear of thunder, pet and owner separation, reactivity to other animals or people, general fearfulness and other situations that cause anxiety and fear
  • Helps eliminate problem behaviors such as excessive barking, destruction, jumping, and inappropriate marking that often result from anxiety
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  • Drug-Free formula eases your pet’s stress without unwanted side-effects such as sedation.
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  • Relaxes pets during stressful environments and events such as thunder and fireworks, traveling, vet visits, new pets in the home, and visitors.
  • Eases symptoms of stress and anxiety such as problem barking, socialization, separation anxiety, general fearfulness and much more.
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Calm paws calming disk for dog collars 1 count - pack of 3
Calm paws calming disk for dog collars 1 count - pack of 3
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  • Calming disc attaches to collar and uses essential oils to provide aromatherapy behavior support.
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  • Uses pheromone technology that's proven to modify behaviors caused by stress and fear, such as inappropriate marking, chewing, excessive barking, jumping, and destruction.
  • Releases a pheromone that mimics the one mother dogs produce to calm and soothe puppies, making dogs feel safe and secure.
  • Helps alleviate problem behaviors caused by stressful situations such as travel, thunderstorms, new pets in the home, new visitors, car rides, and vet visits.
  • Releases pheromones for 30 days with a pleasant, soothing lavender chamomile fragrance.
  • Adjusts to fit necks up to 23 inches. Can be used for dogs of all ages and breeds with no long-term side effects.

How is Trazodone for dogs given?

Trazodone is given orally (by mouth) in the form of a tablet. It can be given with food or on an empty stomach. However, there are instances where your pet might vomit or act sick after being given this medicine on an empty stomach. If it does, try giving the next dose with food.

If used for short-term relief stress, the medication will immediately take effect, in about 1 to 2 hours. But for long-term treatment, full effects can be observed after a few weeks. 

What Are the Side Effects of Trazodone For Dogs?

Trazodone is a short-acting drug, meaning it takes effect almost immediately after being administered, and so side effects are not well documented. However, they are generally mild if present and are very well tolerated in most dogs. 

Possible side effects that you may notice are:

  • Over sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ataxia (drunken walk)
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased appetite
  • Aggression

If Trazodone is mixed with any other medication, your dog may suffer from Serotonin Syndrome.  This will cause tremors or shivering, difficulty breathing, and dilated pupils.  This would be a very rare but very serious issue that would need vet attention right away.

If you notice any of these signs in your dog, it would be best for them to see your vet right away as some of these side effects can become very serious.

Which dogs should not take Trazodone?

If your dog has underlying kidney or liver issues, they should not take Trazodone.  The liver and kidneys are responsible for breaking down this medication and excreting it from your dog’s body.  If they are not properly functioning, this can be delayed and cause your dog to have an overdose effect.

Trazodone is also not recommended for dogs hypersensitive to it or those using MAO inhibitors. Dogs with angle-closure glaucoma should not use this medication. Animal studies have also noted that Trazodone at very high doses has adverse effects on developing fetuses so this should be carefully considered by your veterinarian if you have a pregnant dog.

Also, discuss any other medications or supplements that your dog may be taking.  Other medications may cause Trazodone to have a different effect or prolonged effect on your dog.

There are a few other medications that should not be given together due to their drug reactions.  These drugs are:

  • Drugs used to treat hypertension
  • Antifungals such as ketoconazole
  • Erythromycin or Clarithromycin
  • Metoclopramide
  • NSAIDs as increase the risk of GI bleeding
  • Digoxin
  • Diuretics
  • Macrolide antibiotics
  • SSRI antidepressants
  • Tramadol
  • Other Antidepressants

If your dog is taking any of these medications, talk with your vet about other anxiety medications that your dog may be able to take to help with their anxiety.

What dosage of Trazodone does my dog need?

Your vet will calculate your dog’s dosage based on their body weight.  A typical dosage of Trazodone is 2 to 16 mg/kgs once a day.  This medication can be given every day to help with separation anxiety or as needed to help with thunderstorms or firework phobia.

Sometimes Trazodone is given along with other medications to help with sedation.  This will usually result in a lower dosage of each medication that has to be given.  Trazodone is commonly given in combination with Gabapentin.  Gabapentin has a sedative property and is commonly prescribed for dogs with nerve pain. This makes a great combination to use for post-operative pain and as a mild sedative.

When given alone, it may take up to two weeks to achieve the desired effect.  This is why many veterinarians will use this medication in combination with other medications.

This medication is used at a much lower dosage or not prescribed at all for a working dog or service dog as this drug can inhibit them from properly performing their duties.

What should I do if my dog took too much Trazodone?

Some dogs are more sensitive to Trazodone, and even when given a very low dosage, they will become very sedated.  Sometimes you may accidentally have given your dog too much.  If this happens, it is best to contact your vet.  Many times, they may tell you what other signs that you need to look out for, and the next dosage decreases the amount that you are giving your dog by half.

Usually, signs that your dog has gotten too much Trazodone will start to show after 30 to 60 minutes.  The most common signs of toxicity include ataxia and lethargy.  Usually giving your dog time will help.

How can I calm my dog down naturally?

Our dog calming treats are an excellent aid to soothe your dog’s separation anxiety and calm fears from any environmental stressors including fireworks and storms. They are fast-acting and can be used in situations when you know your dog will be feeling extra nervous or excited such as a long car trip, air travel or a visit to the vet.

Alpha Paw’s dog supplements are USA manufactured in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified and FDA registered factory. Our chews are non-GMO and are free from corn, wheat and artificial preservatives.

Final Thoughts

Trazodone for dogs is a great medication to help your dog stay calm and content during stressful events.  This medication is not only used to treat anxiety and phobias in your dog but also helps keep your dog calm after surgery.  When using this medication, make sure that you are doing so under the supervision of your veterinarian as there are some unwanted side effects that may occur and other medications that should be avoided if your dog is taking Trazodone.

Trazodone can be given daily or on an as-needed basis to help your dog stay calm.  This makes this medication a great choice for your dog, who suffers from anxiety.  Next time you are at your vet, make sure to ask them about prescribing Trazodone for your dog so they can be calm and stress-free.

Alpha Paw Sale
author image

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM

Member of Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM is a board-certified, licensed, and USDA-accredited small animal and exotic animal veterinarian. Dr. Sara graduated from St. George's University in 2015 with a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine. Following veterinary school, she joined the team of pet experts at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she treats all species that walk in the hospital. Dr. Sara’s professional interests include surgery and exotic animal medicine. She enjoys developing positive relationships with her clients, sharing her passion for animals, and helping pet parents provide excellent care for their fur babies. She is passionate about helping our four-legged family members return to a happy and healthy life - making her a perfect fit for Alpha Paw’s Board of Pet Experts!


The medical, nutritional, or behavioral advice we provide is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Our editorial content is not a substitute for formal or personalized medical advice from a veterinary professional. Only board-certified veterinary specialists who have examined your pet should diagnose medical conditions, provide personalized treatment, or prescribe appropriate medication. For questions regarding your pet’s health, or if your pet is exhibiting signs of illness, injury, or distress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.