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Trazodone for dogs

The essentials

  • Trazodone is not FDA-approved for dogs — Though it’s considered safe for human use, the FDA has not yet approved it for use in dogs. Still, veterinarians may prescribe it in some cases.
  • It may be effective at easing dog anxiety — Some studies show trazodone reduces signs of stress in dogs, particularly in situations like post-surgical confinement and recovery.
  • Always consult your veterinarian first — Trazodone is not right for every pet. Your veterinarian can review all of the available options to help your dog with anxiety.

Trazadone at a glance

Medication type: Serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI)
Availability: Prescription
FDA approved: N
Common medications: Desyrel®, Oleptro®
Life stage: All

What is trazodone used for in dogs?

Trazodone is an antidepressant commonly used to treat anxiety, depression, and sleep issues in humans. Though trazodone for dogs is not FDA-approved, veterinarians sometimes prescribe it to treat behavioral problems like anxiety, sometimes in combination with other medications. It can be used short-term for specific situations, such as before a hospital visit , or long-term.

Anxiety and stress

Dog anxieties can be stressful for pet owners, too. Trazodone for dogs is gaining popularity because it may balance serotonin in the brain and help an anxious pup feel better. It may be used alone or in combination with other therapies or medications to help with various types of anxiety disorders. These include:

  • Separation anxiety. Pets often have a hard time being left alone. Chewing furniture or clothing is a common symptom of separation anxiety.
  • Situational anxieties. Some dogs get stressed out in specific situations, such as a trip to the veterinarian, grooming, or car rides. They may also get stressed when they hear loud noises like fireworks. A 2022 study found a single dose of trazodone before going to the vet lowered signs of stress in dogs.
  • Life changes. You may notice your dog displays more behavioral issues after a recent upheaval, such as moving or a new baby in the home.
  • Post-surgical confinement. Waking up in a kennel can be anxiety-inducing for a dog., especially after a surgical procedure. Research suggests trazodone is a way to calm pups who need confinement after orthopedic surgery.

👉 Body language is often an indicator of anxiety or stress. Yawning and excessive licking are two common signs a dog is stressed.

Post-surgical recovery

Even after a dog goes home after surgery, recovery can take time. During recovery, a dog may need to rest more or have limited use of body parts, such as their legs, after TPLO or hip dysplasia surgery. Research found that giving dogs trazodone for 8 to 12 weeks post-operation lowered stress during this critical period. Regular preventative therapies, such as monthly heartworm pills, could continue safely.

Giving your dog trazodone

Speaking with a veterinarian before administering trazodone to your pet is essential. The use of trazodone is not recommended for pregnant pets. Vets also don’t typically prescribe it to dogs with specific conditions, such as irregular heartbeats and epilepsy. Dosing varies based on weight and severity of the dog’s anxiety, and only a veterinarian can advise you on how much to give your pet.

👉 Trazodone should only be consumed by the dog for which it is prescribed. Keep it out of reach of children and other pets.

The medication acts quickly — sometimes in less than an hour — in short-term situations, such as vet trips. However, it can take several weeks before seeing the full effects of the drug in dogs taking it for longer periods. Pet parents should watch for symptoms, including vomiting. Sometimes, taking the pill with food can prevent vomiting.

👉 Consider investing in pet insurance. It may help offset the costs of your pet’s prescription medications.

Different forms of trazodone

Desyrel® and Oleptro® are common brand names for trazodone. Pet parents can also get it in a generic form. Regardless, it’s a pill to be taken orally. Dogs can take trazodone with or without food. Some dogs, particularly ones who gag easily, do better when taking it with a meal or small treat.

Trazodone dosage in dogs

Because trazodone for dogs is not FDA-approved, there aren’t dosing guidelines. The dosage depends on a pet’s size, the condition trazodone is treating, medications, and other conditions. It’s essential to speak with a veterinarian, and always follow a doctor’s directions on dosage.

Generic trazodone comes in 50 milligram, 100 milligram, 150 milligram, and 300-milligram tablets. One study showed the mean dose was 15 milligrams per kilogram of weight per day. Dogs may need to work up to the best dose for them. In the post-surgical study , dogs started the day after surgery on 3.5 milligrams per kilogram of weight, but they were taking it with pain management medication. After three days, the dogs stopped taking the pain medication, and their trazodone dosage doubled.

Overdosing and risk factors of trazodone for dogs

Trazodone is not appropriate for every dog, including pups with arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) or a history of epilepsy or seizures. Dogs taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) should also avoid trazodone. Trazodone is not advised for pregnant dogs as it may harm a developing fetus.

Combining trazodone with other medications

Trazodone can be safely taken with certain medications to manage behavioral disorders. It has been used safely with several different drugs, but dog owners should always speak with their vet about how trazodone may interact with other therapies.

  • Benzodiazepines. These fast-acting drugs can help reduce anxiety in dogs. Examples include Xanax, Ativan®, and Valium.
  • Clonidine. Clonidine, often used to treat PTSD in people, may have anti-anxiety benefits for dogs. Catapres, Kapvay, and Nexiclon XR are all brand names for Clonidine.
  • Buspirone. Buspirone helps balance mood and has shown few potential side effects for dogs. Older pups may tolerate it. Buspar and Namanspin are other names for Buspirone.
  • Gabapentin. These drugs have been used for generalized anxiety. Horizant®, Gralise®, and Neurontin® are brand names for gabapentin.

Trazodone side effects and interactions 

Trazodone is a short-acting medication. Research suggests dogs may not experience any side effects or only mild ones that aren’t much of an issue. Still, knowing what to look out for and speaking with a vet about concerns is important.

  • Vomiting or gagging. Vomiting or gagging is one of the more common possible side effects of trazodone for dogs. If your pet vomits, giving the pill to them with food may help.
  • Colitis. Colitis is inflammation of the colon. Diarrhea and blood in stools are red flags.
  • Drowsiness. Trazodone can make your dog sleep more, so the drug may be the reason your pup is less active than usual.
  • Ataxia. Ataxia causes pets to lose muscle control. Weakness of the limbs and discoordination are causes for concern.
  • Priapism. This condition occurs in male dogs. It is a persistent and painful erection.
  • Arrhythmias. Vets can diagnose this heart condition with an EKG. Regular vet check-ups are important to catch arrhythmias early before they result in congestive heart failure.
  • Heightened anxiety. Though trazodone is supposed to reduce anxiety, it may do the opposite. Symptoms include seeing the “whites” of a dog’s eyes and excessive panting.
  • Appetite changes. If your dog seems hungrier than usual, this could be an adverse reaction to trazodone. 
  • Dilated pupils. Trazodone can cause eye problems in some dogs. Side effects can include dilated pupils and blurred vision.
  • Dry mouth. A dog taking trazodone is susceptible to developing dry mouth. They may also feel thirstier than normal, so make sure they always have access to fresh water.
  • Aggressive behavior. Trazodone sometimes triggers aggressive behaviors. Raised heckles and pinned-back ears are signs of aggression.
  • Serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome may happen if your dog is taking other serotonergic drugs. It’s rare. Symptoms vary but may include diarrhea, agitation, and decreased appetite. Treatment varies but typically involves discontinuing the medication. Make sure to consult the vet, as stopping cold turkey may have additional unwanted side effects, like agitation or hyperexcitability.

Sometimes, interactions with medications may cause adverse reactions. Speak with your vet about any medications or supplements your dog is taking. Negative drugs interactions with trazodone may include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (Prozac or Zoloft)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Marplan or Emsam)
  • Serotonin-releasing agents (Adderall, Ritalin, or Vyvanse)
  • Serotonin precursors (tryptophan)
  • Azole antifungals
  • Diuretics
  • Phenothiazines (tranquilizers)
  • NSAIDs (Previcox and Galliprant)
  • Antibiotics (Erythromycin or Clarithromycin)

👉 Speak to your veterinarian about any medications or supplements your dog is taking, even short-term.

Alternative treatment options for dogs

You may have concerns about giving your dog trazodone, or perhaps your furry friend has a condition that makes it a poor choice for them. There are several alternatives for the treatment of anxiety that may better fulfill your dog’s needs. 

  • CBD oil. Unlike marijuana, CBD oil does not contain THC. While it has not yet been regulated by the FDA, the AVMA noted some evidence showing it may reduce anxiety.
  • Toys. Puzzle toys, including KONGS with peanut butter and others, can get your dog’s mind off their stressors. Toys can also prevent destructive behavior caused by boredom or separation anxiety.
  • Training. Training can help create confidence in dogs to handle stressful situations better. Positive reinforcement is recommended for dogs with anxiety. Consider clicker training with treats to reward good behavior.
  • Thundershirts. These heavy shirts or weighted blankets feel like a big hug. They are designed to reduce stress, and plenty of pet parents find them at least somewhat helpful.
  • Physical therapy. PT may help speed up your dog’s recovery post-surgery and reduce stress.
  • Safe spaces. Giving your dog a sanctuary, such as a crate, to retreat to during stressful times can help them feel secure.
  • Massage therapy. A gentle massage can calm down a stressed canine. If your dog is small enough, they can snuggle up on your lap while you pet them. Bigger pups may feel more comfortable in their doggy bed. You can also take your dog to a professional dog massage therapist.
  • Physical enrichment. Dogs have instincts, and using them is good for their mental and physical health. Games like tug-of-war and letting them run, chase, and chew are great examples of physically enriching activities.

Frequently asked questions

Does trazodone make a dog sleepy?

Trazodone is commonly used to help humans with sleep issues. Because it can be used as a sedative, drowsiness may be a side effect of giving this drug to your pup.

How much trazodone will calm a dog?

Studies show that trazodone can quickly reduce stress — sometimes in less than an hour. That said, there are no guarantees. Every dog is different, so you should speak with your vet and monitor your dog’s symptoms while they take trazodone.

How long does trazodone for dogs last?

Trazodone is a short-acting medication. It will usually stop working within one day.

How do you administer trazodone to dogs correctly?

First, speak with a vet before giving your dog trazodone. There’s a wide range of dosing options, and sometimes dogs need to work from a lower dose to a higher one. It can also negatively interact with some medications. Trazodone comes in pill form. Pet parents will give the correct amount to a dog each day or multiple times per day.

Can trazodone make dogs aggressive?

Aggression is a rare but potential side effect for dogs who take trazodone, which is true for any anxiety medications. If this happens, speak with your vet. Trazodone may not be best for your dog. If that’s the case, your vet might offer alternative treatments.

What’s the difference between trazodone and gabapentin for dogs?

Gabapentin works on a different receptor than trazodone: gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which communicates with the central nervous system. It typically requires larger daily doses (20-60 mg/kg/day). Trazodone affects serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, acetylcholine, and histamine.