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Trazodone for Dogs: Usage, Dosage, & Side Effects

Trazodone for Dogs: Usage, Dosage, & Side Effects | BetterVet

Does your dog struggle with fireworks or thunderstorms? Or does car travel induce horrible anxiety? Phobias and anxieties are more common than you may think in dogs and as much as we can do to comfort them with management and support, sometimes pharmaceutical intervention can be an excellent tool in the toolkit for relieving this stress.

Key Takeaways:
  • Trazodone is the medication most commonly used to treat anxiety and stress in dogs.
  • It is commonly used for phobias, anxiety, compulsive behaviors, barking, aggression, separation anxiety, and post-surgery recovery.
  • The dosage of trazodone for dogs varies based on their specific circumstances and size, and it is usually started at a lower dose and gradually increased if needed.

Your veterinarian can offer a few different drug options, and one of them is trazodone. Read on to find out more about trazodone for dogs, and if it might be the right medication for yours.

What Is Trazodone for Dogs?

Trazodone is a medication commonly used in dogs to treat anxiety and stress. It acts as a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI), increasing serotonin levels in the brain to alleviate anxiety and promote relaxation. It's often prescribed for separation anxiety, fear of loud noises, and anxiety related to veterinary visits or travel.

Trazodone Usage 

Trazodone is most commonly used to treat phobias and anxiety in dogs, however, it can also be useful in dealing with cases of compulsive behaviors, barking, and sometimes aggression. Trazodone allows your pet to stay calmer during situations they normally find stressful.

It is commonly prescribed for dogs whose owners want to keep them calm for visits to the vet or dog groomers, or when they know fireworks will likely be set off locally. Alternatively, if people are finding that their dog is struggling during the daytime when they leave for work, trazodone can help their dog with separation anxiety. 

Another regular use of trazodone for dogs is after surgery when they might struggle to keep calm but need to be confined to cage rest in order to recover properly and heal. 

Dogs can find traveling very stressful if they are not accustomed to it, so trazodone can be given to your dog before a long car journey or plane ride, in order to relieve their anxiety.

As well as for specific short-term events, trazodone can also be given for the long-term management of anxiety as well. For this, trazodone is administered on a daily basis over multiple weeks to build up the full effect. If your dog suffers from these phobias or anxieties, seek advice from your veterinarian to see if trazodone could help.

How Is Trazodone Given?

Trazodone is given orally in either tablet or liquid form. It can be given with food or on an empty stomach, however, if giving it before food induces vomiting, we advise trying to give it with food instead. 

Trazodone Dosage for Dogs

The trazodone dosage for dogs can vary and your veterinarian will advise you on what dose to start with based on your dog’s specific circumstances and size. The dosage range goes from 1.7 to 9.5 mg/kg orally every 8 to 24 hours. Your veterinarian will usually start your dog off at the lower end of the scale and gradually taper them up as needed. 

Trazodone for Dogs Side Effects

Trazodone is generally well tolerated by dogs and side effects are uncommon, especially when starting at low doses. Side effects commonly include gastrointestinal effects like vomiting and diarrhea, sedation, lethargy, ataxia, hypotension, excitement or agitation, and panting.

If your dog experiences mild to moderate side effects, it is recommended that you seek advice from your veterinarian. With their expert advice, it is often a case of waiting for the symptoms to subside and lowering your next trazodone dose to the lower end of the dose range. 

If your dog is experiencing severe side effects, however, it may be necessary to schedule an appointment to be seen by your veterinary doctor for treatment. Again, seek advice from your veterinarian if this occurs. 

Some drugs can interact with trazodone and cause side effects, so it is worth noting to your veterinarian if your dog is already taking other medication.

How Do You Help Dogs With Phobias?

There are a range of management, training, nutritional, and veterinary interventions that can be used for dogs who have behavioral disorders, including nutritional and behavioral consultation. If your dog struggles with loud noise phobias, you can help them by being present and ready to comfort them when you expect there to be fireworks or thunderstorms. 

You can also create safe spaces for them in the house. This could be a crate with a blanket over the top with their dog bed and their favorite toy inside or another covered area with lots of blankets and cushions that smell familiar. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How quickly does trazodone take effect in dogs?

Trazodone for dogs should start to take effect within 1 to 2 hours after administering it for short-term anxiety or phobia relief. When used for long-term anxiety management, it can take up to 2-3 weeks to see significant effects.

How long does trazodone last in dogs?

Trazodone's effects on dogs can last approximately 6-24 hours. The actual duration may vary depending on the dog's size, age, and overall health. Consult with a veterinarian before giving your dog trazodone to determine the appropriate dosage and duration of treatment.

Is it safe to give a dog trazodone every day?

Yes, it is usually recommended to give trazodone once every day for the long-term management of anxiety in your dog.

Why is my dog shaking after trazodone?

Shaking or tremors in dogs after taking trazodone may be a sign of serotonin syndrome, a serious side effect. Serotonin levels can elevate, causing symptoms like restlessness, agitation, and tremors. If you notice these signs in your dog, seeking immediate veterinary care is crucial.

How do I tell if my dog is scared?

Your dog can show a variety of signs to indicate that it might be stressed. Often these symptoms can look very subtle, so it is useful to know what to look out for. Obvious signs are pacing, shaking, or cowering, but other common signs can be yawning and lip-smacking. Dogs will often pant when they’re feeling stressed too. Your dog panting can indicate other diseases as well, so it is important to find what else could be causing this behavior.

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