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December 10, 2020

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

 

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

 

Reviewed by: Dr. Jo De Klerk, Clinical Veterinarian & Part-time Pet Author, Editor & Public Speaker

Byline: Dr. Jo graduated from the prestigious Royal Veterinary College in London and works as a Clinical Veterinarian for dogs, cats, and horses. She has a particular interest in nutrition, pain management, neurological disorders, and welfare.

 

Does your dog have separation anxiety or is he afraid of thunderstorms or fireworks?  If so, Trazodone may be the medication that your dog needs.  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. 

What is Trazodone?

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 the 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.

What are the side effects of Trazodone?

Trazodone is very well tolerated in most dogs with very side effects.  Possible side effects that you may notice are:

  • Over sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Ataxia (drunken walk)
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety

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 an 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.

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 this increase the risk of GI bleeding
  • 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 thunderstorm 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 lethargic.  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 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 help 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.

 

Bio:

Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM is an experienced small and exotic animal veterinarian. Dr. Sara graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University with a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. Since veterinary school, she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. Dr. Ochoa’s professional interests include surgery and exotic animal medicine. She enjoys spending time with clients, teaching them how to properly care for their fur babies. She loves being able to help our four-legged family members return to a happy and healthy life. 

 

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