Does your pup seem to be suffering from stress or anxiety?
If so, your veterinarian may have recommended Trazodone to help calm his nervous system and soothe his symptoms. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved this antidepressant medication for human use, vets commonly use it to treat certain behavioral disorders in our furry friends.
If you're thinking about administering it to your pet, it's important to understand how this drug works and what to expect. Today, we're sharing the ultimate guide to Trazodone for dogs, so you can make the best decision for your four-legged pal.
1. How Does Trazodone Work?
The FDA approved Trazodone in 1981. Common brand names for this medication include Desyrel® and Oleptro®.
At the time of its FDA approval, it was the first and only non-tricyclic antidepressant in the U.S. Also called Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), these medications prevent the body from naturally breaking down the following neurotransmitters:
When these brain chemicals are more readily available in your pet's central nervous, they can help uplift their mood. They work by affecting the cells and circuits that are typically impacted by depression.
Norepinephrine initiates the body's fight or flight mode. It plays a critical role in your pup's stress response and helps regulate his sleep, blood pressure, and alertness. Serotonin is a key mood regulator that contributes to your pet's happiness, focus, and emotional stability.
Dopamine is the "reward" chemical. It activates feelings of pleasure, achievement, and motivation in your pup. Trazodone helps elevate levels of these chemicals in your dog's brain, benefitting his emotional, physical, and mental health.
1.1 Off-Label Use
To date, the FDA has not approved Trazodone for use on animals. However, vets frequently prescribe it to help improve signs of depression, stress, or anxiety in dogs. When medications are used in this way, the application is known as "off-label" or "extra-label".
This simply means that the instructions given for the medication will differ from what you see on the label. That's why it's important to follow your vet's recommendations and directions very closely.
2. Benefits of Trazodone for Dogs
Trazodone works in dogs much in the same way it works in humans. Let's take a look at two of the most common applications.
2.1 Treating Stress, Depression, and Anxiety
It allows their "feel-good" brain chemicals to remain at high levels, preventing them from feeling depressed.
There are certain situations that may make your pet especially upset or nervous. For instance, they may get separation anxiety when they're temporarily boarded or left alone at the house. Or, they might react to stressful events, such as a trip to the vet's office or the groomer.
In addition, loud noises such as fireworks, thunder, or gunshots may also make them jumpy. Regardless of the catalyst, these situations can impact your pup's quality of life. Signs that your pooch might be suffering from depression include:
- Lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Lack of appetite
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Destructive behavior (e.g. suddenly chewing the furniture)
- Acting clingy or needy
- Acting withdrawn or irritable
- More accidents in the house
If you've noticed any of these signs in your pet, it's smart to talk to your vet about them. When you do, they may recommend Trazodone to improve your pup's quality of life.
2.2 Post-Surgery Support
In some cases, veterinarians may also prescribe Trazodone for dogs to help make their post-surgery recovery time easier to manage. This is especially the case if they have any kind of operation that requires them to rest in a crate or restrained space for a period of time.
Being confined can make your pet feel anxious and stressed, even if their behavior seemed cheerful and upbeat prior to the surgery. When this happens, the medication can help them calm down. Not only does it help ease their emotional distress, but it also prevents them from licking, jumping, or moving excessively in their crate, which could hinder their safe recovery.
2.3 Compounded Medication
While vets can prescribe Trazodone on its own, they will usually encourage pet parents to administer it in combination with other anti-anxiety medications.
Sometimes, they may even prescribe what's known as a "compounded" form of the medication. This means the original, basic formula of Trazodone is not safe or suitable for your pet, but a customized form will be. A licensed pharmacist can create a compounded medication, and your vet can as well.
To do so, they will combine, alter, or mix ingredients together to create a unique medication. They make each formula on a per-case basis, and the final product is designed to suit your pup's specific needs. While compounded medications are not FDA-approved, they are the only route forward in some circumstances.
3. What Is the Best Trazodone Dosage?
Trazodone is only available in oral tablet form. You may give it to your pup with food or wait until he has an empty stomach. If your pup reacts negatively (vomits or acts disoriented) after taking the medication on an empty stomach, you can give it with food or a treat next time.
There isn't a Trazodone for dogs dosage that will work for every furry pal. Instead, you'll need to pay close attention to the directions listed on the label and follow your vet's guidance. The dosage range goes from 1.7 mg/kg to 9.5 mg/kg, given by mouth every eight to 24 hours.
The exact dosage your vet provides will be based on two important factors:
- Your pet's body weight
- The condition you're trying to treat
To help manage ongoing symptoms, some pups will need to take Trazodone every day. Others may only need it if they're going to be in a stressful environment, such as the vet's office. Your vet may prescribe a small dose of this medication, and then gradually increase it as necessary.
It's best to administer this medication about 90 minutes before you know your pooch will be stressed or anxious. For instance, if you know that thunderstorms make him anxious and there's one in the forecast, schedule his dose about an hour and a half before it's slated to begin.
3.1 Timeline to Expect
If you're administering Trazodone to support a short-term bout of anxiety in your pup, it should begin to take hold and offer relief within one to two hours. However, if you're administering it daily as part of a long-term stress management plan, it can take a few weeks before you notice the full effects.
As a short-acting medication, Trazodone typically stops working within 24 hours. If your pup suffers from liver or kidney disease, it could take a little longer for it to leave his system.
4. Potential Side Effects of Trazodone
Like most medications, Trazodone comes with a few potential concerns to note. It's helpful to review these before you begin a new regimen with your pooch.
While most pets tolerate this formula well, possible Trazodone side effects to watch for include:
- Digestive system issues ( diarrhea, vomiting, or nausea)
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased heart rate
- Increased agitation or anxiety
Be sure to call your vet if you notice any serious side effects in your pup. It's especially important to monitor them if they're taking Trazodone with other types of behavioral drugs. When these medications are administered together (especially in large doses), it can trigger a condition known as serotonin syndrome.
This occurs when serotonin levels are too high, which can lead to a variety of changes in your pup's mental health, neuromuscular system, and body function. Serotonin syndrome is rare, but the symptoms can be very serious. It's important to seek emergency vet care immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Skin rashes or sensitivity
- Excessive drool
- Weakness, disorientation, lack of coordination
- Dilated pupils
- Whining or crying
- Difficulty breathing
Your vet can determine if the side effects are expected and manageable, or if you need to bring your pet in for treatment.
5. Alternative Treatments for Stress and Anxiety
While Trazodone can be effective in treating your pup's anxiety, it isn't your only solution. It can be disheartening when your best pal doesn't seem happy or content, and we want you to know you have options. If you'd prefer to go a more natural and holistic route, we recommend starting with our CBD Dog Treats, instead!
Our treats work gently to help calm and relax your pooch, taking effect in just 30 to 60 minutes, which is a shorter timeline than Trazodone. In addition, they're veterinarian-formulated and tested by a third-party lab for quality and purity. They're also grain-free, soy-free, and vegan!
If your pup seems stressed out or unable to calm himself down, try our Calming CBD Gummies! These are available in two strengths: 3mg of CBD per chew for small-to-medium breeds and 6mg per chew for bigger breeds or those times when you need an extra-strength dose. If you know a stressful event is on the horizon, give him a treat beforehand.
Planning to start a long-term anti-anxiety regimen? Go ahead and grab our On-The-Go Pack Pantry Kit! This kit contains 24 of our five-count Calming CBD Gummies for a total of 120 gummies per kit.
In addition to treats, we also offer a variety of other CBD products that can work as viable alternatives to Trazone. This includes our CBD Oil for Dogs, which you can easily mix into Fido's food to support his overall wellness and induce feelings of relaxation. We offer 15ml (150mg of CBD), 30ml (300mg of CBD), and 60ml (600mg of CBD) bottle sizes.
Our products are especially helpful for parents whose furry friends can't take Trazodone due to a health condition, intolerance, or other issue. Our easy-to-use dosage guides make it easy to get started!
Any time you give your pup medication, it's natural to have plenty of questions! Let's review some of the most common ones.
6.1. What Are the Risk Factors to Know?
Your vet can assess your dog's medical history to make sure he's a good candidate for Trazodone. If your pup is hypersensitive to this medication or is unable to take MAOI medications, they will recommend an alternative treatment.
In addition, use caution when administering this medication to pets that suffer from any of the following conditions:
- Severe heart disease
- Liver impairment
- Kidney impairment
- Angle-closure glaucoma (not recommended)
If your pup is pregnant, your vet may also recommend a different route. Trazodone could have an adverse effect on developing fetuses, especially if administered at high doses.
6.2. What If I Miss a Dose?
If you forget to give your pup a dose of Trazodone, don't stress! Just give them the next tablet when you remember. However, if it's been more than one day and it's almost time to give your next dose, then hold off.
Instead, resume your normal dosing schedule from there. Administering too much of this medication or doubling up on it could increase your pup's risk of adverse side effects.
6.3. Are There Any Potential Drug Interactions?
If you're giving your furball Trazodone, use caution when using the following medications:
- Antihypertensive drugs
- Azole antifungals
- Central nervous system depressants
- Digoxin (treat congestive heart failure)
- Fluoroquinolones (treat bacterial infections)
- Macrolide antibiotics
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) antidepressants
If your pup is currently taking any kind of vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies, remember to tell your vet about those substances. They may contain ingredients that could negatively interact with Trazodone.
6.4. How Should I Store This Medication?
Store Trazodone in a cool, dark location between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be in an airtight container, away from excessive moisture and light.
7. Find an Alternative to Trazodone Today
From short-term relief to long-term symptom management, there are many solutions designed to improve your pup's mental and physical health. If yours seems anxious, frustrated, or stressed, your vet may prescribe Trazodone for dogs.
While this medication is generally considered safe and serious side effects aren't common, it's still smart to do your due diligence. There are many Trazodone alternatives available, including our calming CBD products.
At Bailey's, we believe that a healthy pet is a happy pet. To explore related products, check out our Calm Collection!