Trazodone can be used in dogs “off-label” to manage anxiety and phobia-related behavioral disorders. This is groundbreaking since studies show that behavioral issues have a negative impact on overall pet welfare. Plus, behavioral problems are amongst the leading causes of euthanasia in dogs.
Keep reading to learn more about Trazodone for dogs. We will start by explaining what Trazodone is and how it can be implemented in the dog‘s behavior management plan. We will also discuss its pros, cons, and possible alternatives.
Trazodone selectively blocks serotonin reuptake, which enhances serotonin’s effects.4 It is an antagonist of 5-HT2A, H1-histaminic, and α1-adrenergic receptors at low to moderate doses, resulting in various levels of sedation.3–6 It can have hypotensive effects.4 At higher doses, trazodone acts as a serotonin agonist, and serotonin syndrome can develop.4,6 Trazodone also has anxiolytic properties, but the exact mechanism of action is unknown.4
The ASPCA APCC includes a full staff of veterinarians, including board-certified toxicologists, certified veterinary technicians, and veterinary assistants, and its state-of-the-art emergency call center routinely fields requests for help from all over the world, including South America, Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.
In 2008, Gruen and Sherman studied 56 dogs prescribed trazodone in combination with other primary behavior therapies and discovered that trazodone seemed to offer therapeutic benefit with relatively minimal adverse effects.7 Since then, studies have investigated the benefit of trazodone in postorthopedic surgery treatment plans involving confinement to enhance calm behavior and reduce anxiety in hospitalized dogs. Trazodone has generally been shown to be beneficial and relatively safe. Adverse events associated with trazodone can be divided into behavioral and systemic signs. Adverse events previously reported in the literature include drugged or “spacy” behavior, drowsiness, panting, anxiety/restlessness/agitation, vomiting/gagging, behavioral change (counter surfing and trash raiding), excitation, sedation, increased hunger, colitis, and aggression (growling).5,7,8
Toxicology Talk is written and reviewed by members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center (APCC). The mission of the APCC is to help animals exposed to potentially hazardous substances, which it does by providing 24-hour veterinary and diagnostic treatment recommendations from specially trained veterinary toxicologists. It also protects and improves animal lives by providing clinical toxicology training to veterinary toxicology residents, consulting services, and case data review.
In veterinary medicine, trazodone is generally dosed at 1.7 to 19.5 mg/kg/d on a daily or as-needed basis with immediate action (not extended-release) tablets and can be given with food.1 When administered in combination with tricyclic antidepressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, it is recommended to begin dosing trazodone at 2 to 5 mg/kg and increase as needed to a maximum dose of 14 mg/kg/d.1 Trazodone should be administered about an hour before potential anxiety-inducing stimuli, as its onset of action is approximately 30 to 60 minutes.1,5 Gruen and colleagues reported owner-observed duration of effect lasting 4 hours or more.5 The parent compound has an elimination half-life of approximately 7 hours in immediate-release tablets.1 Trazodone undergoes extensive metabolism in the liver and is predominantly excreted via the kidneys.1,4
Signs of overdose are typically seen about 30 to 60 minutes after exposure. Usually, the clinical signs last 10 to 12 hours, but in some cases, they might last for more than 24 hours.
The drug is not recommended for dogs hypersensitive to the medication. It should also be used with caution in dogs with heart disease as well as those suffering from kidney or liver disease. Dogs with narrow-angle glaucoma should not use the medication either.
Make sure to let your vet know if your dog is taking any medications, including supplements or vitamins. In addition, tell your vet if your dog has worn a tick collar or had a flea dip in the last 2 weeks and, if so, what kind. Preventic or dips containing amitraz might negatively interact with trazodone.
Store trazodone in the original bottle at room temperature and away from moisture. If your vet has made a special formulation for your pet, follow the storage recommendations for the product.
While some canines receive this drug 2-3 times a day on an ongoing basis, many dogs only take it intermittently, i.e. before highly stressful events.
Use of Trazodone in Canines and Felines
How much trazodone can I give my dog daily?
Can a dog overdose on Trazodone?
Is 300 mg of trazodone a lot for a dog?
How long does 100mg of trazodone last for dogs?