Trazodone for Dogs: Dosage, Side Effects, and Alternatives


Medically reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM
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Louis sprinted to the window and started barking. An unsuspecting man had ventured a little too close for his liking.


He was probably the person shooting off fireworks the previous night. A trauma that we'd barely just recovered from.

I had to find a way to help Louis relax. I didn't even want to consider the alternative.

A friend mentioned Trazodone might help calm him down. Even though I knew Louis wouldn't like it, it was time to visit the vet.

WHAT IS TRAZODONE?

Trazodone is an antidepressant that balances and increases serotonin levels in the brain. It does this by interacting with and blocking some of the serotonin receptors.

The result is that more serotonin remains in your dog's system for longer. Because serotonin is the compound in dogs and humans that makes us happy, keeping more of it around tends to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. But as with any drug that alters body chemistry, it doesn't do this without some risks.

Trazodone for dogs is the same as the drug used by people. It was developed and designed for humans but is prescribed off-label for dogs.

Veterinarians often prescribe Trazodone to help with severe behavioral issues like fear, aggression, and anxiety. It's usually only used when all other options have been exhausted.

DOSAGE OF TRAZODONE

Since trazodone requires a prescription, your vet will determine the dosage based on your dog's specific circumstances. Before giving it to your dog, it would be best if you were aware of and comfortable with the possible side effects. The dosage for Trazodone for dogs ranges from 2.5 mg per pound to 15 mg per pound every 24 hours.

It's often initially prescribed at a lower dose to minimize side effects and gradually increased over time. For safety reasons, the advised dose will often be lower when combined with other drugs.

It comes in a tablet form to be taken orally with or without food. It starts working in about 30 minutes, but it can take up to 6 weeks of constant use for the full effects to be apparent.

The effects of Trazodone can last for a day in healthy dogs and longer in those with kidney or liver issues.

SIDE EFFECTS OF TRAZODONE

While it is generally considered safe for dogs, Trazodone is a sedative, meaning you might encounter side effects like lethargy. Here is a list of possible side effects:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Incoordination
  • Increased aggression
  • Increased anxiety
  • Priapism (prolonged erections in males)

Serotonin Syndrome is a less common side effect that can be serious. Signs of serotonin syndrome may include vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, and seizures. If your dog shows these symptoms, you should contact your vet immediately.

COST OF TRAZODONE

Trazodone costs around a dollar per tablet, with prices varying based on concentration. It comes in strengths ranging from 50 to 300mg per tablet.

HOW DOES TRAZODONE INTERACT WITH OTHER DRUGS?

Over 600 drugs are known to interact with Trazodone. Serious drug interactions can occur when taken with Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)like Amitraz and Selegiline.

A searchable list of possible drug interactions can be found here.

HOW DOES IT MAKE DOGS FEEL?

The effects of Trazodone on Louie were apparent almost immediately. He was calmer and seemed less anxious. Could it be this easy?

Unfortunately, while he was less anxious, he was also less conscious. While he didn't bark at passersby, he wasn't his old bubbly self. Trazodone fixed his anxiety, but this was not my boy.

Everything you read online will tell you Trazodone is generally safe for dogs, but what isn't mentioned is how they feel.

To get some insight into that, I looked at reviews written by people who have taken Trazodone for issues similar to Louie's. I found over 1600 reviews with an average rating of 6.1 out of 10; while it was clear Trazodone worked for some people, it made others feel terrible.

The two following reviews were rated as most helpful on drugs.com.

"I decided to share my experience because maybe someone somewhere is going through this. I was prescribed Trazadone 50mg for anxiety and depression; eventually, my doses went up to 100mg and 150mg a day. The drug would sedate me and put me to sleep. When I woke up, my anxiety was 10 x worse. I was scared my depression had increased. Daily life activities stopped for months. I became scared of living or taking care of my child. I had extremely bad brain fog, dry mouth, sleep terrors, nightmares that would last hours, and heart palpitations, but the worst feeling of all was the increased anxiety. The feeling that I had some underlying medical condition that the Dr. Couldn't find, dizziness, shortness of breath, suicidal thoughts, and feeling like I would never get better. All along, it was the trazodone."

"I began taking this around three months ago after the end of my marriage. I wasn't sleeping, had violent mood swings, really bad anxiety, and bouts of tearfulness. I take 50mg at bedtime; it eases me into a gentle, restful sleep with no groggy feeling in the morning. I'm a lot calmer and haven't killed anyone."

ARE THERE ANY NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO TRAZODONE?

Dogs can't tell us if they don't like something or don't feel good. While Louie appeared calmer, there was no way to ask how he felt. For this reason, I stopped giving it to him and started searching for safer alternatives to Trazodone.

Our search for peace led us to calming chews and thundershirts. While the chews were tasty, and Louis looked great in the shirt, the results weren't as fetching.

Only then did I come across some research on CBD for dogs. The most extensive scientific review on CBD for anxiety found that "existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder."

Reading this piqued my interest; could CBD be the solution?

I called to find out.

It turns out that dogs are more sensitive to CBD and THC than we are. So even the little bit of THC in could have a negative effect on Louis, similar to what is possible with Trazodone. Broad spectrum CBD products contain no THC, while full spectrum CBD products do.

While CBD can help calm dogs, it only does that at a specific dose. Too much or too little can have no effect at all.

They suggested I try their CBD oil for dogs.

It was initially designed to help a dog named Biscuit deal with joint pain but also had the potential to help Louis.

I gave it to him twice a day by placing it in his mouth. At first, I wasn't sure if it was working as there weren't any apparent effects. Only after using it for two days did I realize there was no barking when the mailman came to the door.

It calms him without sedating him, and his personality is intact. The best part is that it's all-natural and doesn't carry the same risks as most medications.

Louis has been taking CBD oil for dogs ever since. It has restored peace in our household.

When I contacted Relievet to tell them how things went, they asked if they could share Louis's story in the hopes it would help other pet families.


References
  • https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fvets.2018.00165/full
  • https://todaysveterinarynurse.com/articles/trazodone-in-veterinary-medicine/
  • https://dogtime.com/dog-health/56261-serotonin-syndrome-dogs-symptoms-causes-treatments
  • https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/trazodone-addiction/trazodone-dogs/#gref
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