Trazodone for Dogs (A complete guide)

In this blog, we will discuss Trazodone for Dogs, veterinary use and side effects. 

Trazodone for Dogs: Dosage

Probably you have days where you get really frustrated because your dog is extremely agitated, restless and ultimately won’t let you sleep or it keeps destroying your shoes.

You feel like you have tried everything at hand and nothing seems to work. Well, if you feel identified then keep reading, this might interest you. 

According to The Recovery Village, Trazodone for dogs and other animals is used to treat conditions such as separation anxiety and other anxiety-related conditions.

The average recommended dosage of Trazodone for dogs is 3.5 mg per pound a day and lower doses are usually combined with other medications to treat problematic behaviors.

They indicate the dosage may increase after 3 to 5 days depending on the needs and objectives of the treatment.

However, according to the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) trazodone is generally dosed at 1.7 to 19.5 mg per kg per day or as needed. 

How is Trazodone for dogs used?

According to Veterinary Medicine, “trazodone can be administered as needed, daily as often as every eight hours, or by using a combination of the two schedules”. 

Rania Gollakner from the VCA hospital indicated that Trazodone is used in the treatment of behavioral disorders, especially anxiety or phobias in dogs (e.g., separation anxiety, phobia to loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms, veterinary visits, hospitalization, and travels).

Trazodone for Dogs (A complete guide)

A study performed in 2016 studied the effects of trazodone on behavioral signs of stress in a sample of 60  hospitalized dogs since it has been found that hospitalized dogs tend to have signs of acute and chronic stress that results from the invasive procedures, being in a new environment, confinement and separation anxiety from their owners. 

Results indicated that the group that received trazodone, reduced stress-related signs and behaviors in the hospitalized dogs, therefore improving their welfare. 

We will discuss what Separation Anxiety at night is since it is considered one of the most common phobias. 

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What is Dog Separation Anxiety at night?

Dog separation anxiety at night or Night time dog anxiety is a form of separation anxiety that can be derived from a medical condition, especially in older dogs.

Have your vet check your dog and rule out important medical conditions if it is displaying anxiety-related behaviors during the day or especially at night time. 

We understand how important dogs can become, so there is no surprise when you find yourself over worrying because he/she ate yesterday’s leftovers or it is not receiving you the same way they normally do when you get home from work.

So it is normal when you try looking for answers as to why your dog behaves differently at certain times.

Trazodone for Dogs (A complete guide)

Think about this, you are almost ready to go to bed, you have your pajamas, you just brushed your teeth and you are about to turn off the lights when you notice your dog getting visibly anxious.

After the lights go out or after dogs are left on their own, they can become even more distressed. 

Dogs are social animals and they are very attached to their owner so being on their own requires time, especially at night time.

Some behaviors that might alert you are: howling, scratching doors, whining, barking or even defecating. 

These types of behaviors can be annoying and might even make you feel very frustrated, especially if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep because of it. 

Trazodone for Dogs (A complete guide)

One of the reasons this is happening can be that they might have gotten used to sleeping with you in your bed since they were a puppy,  until now.

But suddenly you have decided they should sleep in their own bed because your new partner complains it won’t let him/her sleep or they may be allergic.

This sudden change can be very stressful for them and lead to displaying anxiety-related behaviors. 

What are some of the symptoms?

You may have seen some of them already but just thought this was normal and a thing you are already used to:

  • Bitting their tail non-stop or scratching their face
  • Urinating or defecating in weird or random places
  • Chewing or biting things like your slippers or your shoes
  • Removing the garbage from the trash can
  • Running around the house endlessly
  • Howling, whining or barking non-stop
  • Scratching doors or windows excessively

Is Trazodone for dogs safe?

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) indicate that “Trazodone has generally been shown to be beneficial and relatively safe for dogs, being aware of signs associated with serotonin syndrome is important as this can be a serious and potentially life-threatening condition to manage”.

Trazodone for sleep

Trazodone affects neurotransmitter levels in the brain of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

When administered in low doses, it can help treat insomnia due to its sedative effects. 

But, What is Trazodone?

Trazodone is considered an antidepressant drug that belongs to the group of Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRIs.

It is used frequently as a treatment for depression. 

This drug was developed in Italy in the 1960s as antidepressant medication.

Initially, due to the side effects, this antidepressant wasn’t widely accepted in the medical community, however, it became recognized by many internists and clinicians because of the potential benefits of the drug, especially when administered at low doses.

Under the name trazodone (generic) in 1981, it was approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the brand name Desyrel.

Today, it is prescribed under the brand name Olepro to treat sleep disorders such as insomnia as well as anxiety disorder and unibipolar depression.

Known brand names are Desyrel and Oleptro. 

Trazodone for dogs: Side effects

Some of the possible effects can include: 

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Panting
  • Hyperactivity
  • Shaking
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation

Vets recommend waiting a few days when starting the treatment since the side effects tend to gradually subside or get better. 

What do studies have to say about Trazodone for dogs Side effects?

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center studied the effects of trazodone in 379 dogs from 2009 to 2013 and reported 417 incidences.

Their results showed that in 104 dogs sedation and lethargy were reported in 43%. Ataxia (affected coordination) was the second symptom reported as 16% and vomiting in 14%.

They concluded that overall, lethargy, sedation, depression, somnolence, and subdued behavior are considered common side effects of Trazodone. 

Trazodone for dogs Overdose

Side effects are commonly reported, however, it has been reported that in rare cases there are serious signs involved and no deaths have been attributed so far to Trazodone. 

Serotonin Syndrome


Serotonin syndrome develops when there is a high amount of serotonin in the central nervous system and it can be caused by the intake of high doses of trazodone or interaction with other serotonin enhancing drugs. Some of the symptoms to be aware of are:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • High body temperature
  • Excessive skin sensitivity
  • Depression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Vocalization
  • Death
  • Blindness
  • Hypersalivation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Affected coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Over Responsive reflexes
  • Coma

It has been suggested that Cyproheptadine helps alleviate serotonin syndrome signs since it is a serotonin antagonist.

Trazodone and interaction with other drugs

According to Veterinary Partner, here are some of the most dangerous interactions:

  • The risk of developing serotonin syndrome increases when using other serotonin enhancing drugs as we mentioned previously. Some examples include Fluoxetine and clomipramine. 
  • MAO inhibitors such as selegiline and amitraz can also increase the risk of developing serotonin syndrome as well as the interaction between trazodone and tramadol.
  • When Trazodone is combined with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) it increases the risk of bleeding. 
  • Blood levels of Trazodone are increased when trazodone is combined with phenothiazines (e.g. acepromazine), macrolide antibiotics (e.g. erythromycin) or with “azole” antifungal drugs (e.g. ketoconazole).

Trazodone for dogs: Use in Veterinary Medicine

A study performed in 2008 by Gruen and Sherman, showed that Trazodone seemed to be beneficial with relatively minimal side effects, some of those effects reported in the literature as drowsiness, panting, anxiety/restlessness/agitation, vomiting/gagging, behavioral change, excitation, sedation, increased hunger, colitis, and aggression.  (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

Why is this blog about Trazodone for dogs important?

This blog is important if you are considering Trazodone for dogs, or if your dog is already under a Trazodone treatment for anxiety or behavioral problems.

We understand, your dog is your best friend, your family, your confidant and you love him/her to pieces, but sometimes you think you have had enough of the disruptive behaviors and the sleepless nights. 

Here we discussed the benefits of using Trazodone for dogs and also what the possible side effects are related to using this drug.

It is important to talk to your vet to consider all the available options and also ask all the possible questions related to Trazodone so you can be completely informed about what to expect. 

If your dog is already taking Trazodone or is planning to, we would like to hear from you and your experience with Trazodone for Dogs.

Please feel free to comment on the comments section down below!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FQAs) about Trazodone for dogs

How quickly does trazodone take effect in dogs?

Trazodone takes effect approximately about 1 to 2 hours when used for short term stress relief but if it is long term, it can take a few weeks before you start noticing the benefits.

How does trazodone work on dogs?

Trazadone is a prescription drug (antidepressant) that affects the levels of certain neurochemicals in the brain.

It helps to manage depression, anxiety and problematic behaviors in dogs. 

How long does it take for Trazodone to wear off?

It takes approximately 7 hours in immediate-release tablets (ASPCA).

Does Trazodone make dog sleepy?

Trazodone can make your dog sleepy due to the reported sedative effect (mild sedation). 

Can trazodone cause aggression in dogs?

Yes, Trazodone can cause aggression disinhibition. This is what, the treatment is recommended for dogs with no history of aggression to other humans or dogs.

However, the drug can still cause aggression as a side effect, even for dogs with no history of aggression. 

Recommended reading

  1. Trazodone Hydrochloride; Third Edition
  2. Trazodone 627 Questions to Ask that Matter to You 
  3. Trazodone: Webster’s Timeline History, 1973 – 2007
  4. Trazodone: New Clinical Applications and Safety Considerations for a Third Generation Antidepressant 4th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry, … Antidepressant – Symposium Proceedings
  5. Trazodone – A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References

References

The Recovery Village

Today’s Veterinary Nurse: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Veterinary Partner

VCA hospitals

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Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.