Trazodone for Dogs: Side Effects, Dosage, and Risks

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Trazodone is an antidepressant commonly sold under the names Benficat, Desyrel, and Oleptro. It is a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI) that works by altering the chemical balance of serotonin in the brain.

SARIs are a class of drugs used primarily as antidepressants, although they are being used as anxiolytics and hypnotics as well. They are also being used as a medication for anxiety disorders and depression-related insomnia.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for treating depression, anxiety, as well as sleep disorders in humans. However, the FDA has not validated the use of Trazodone for animals including dogs.

Still, vets can legally prescribe Trazodone as an off-label drug. To what extent is it safe for dogs, given that federal agencies, particularly the FDA, have not ratified it for animal use?

Safety of Administering Trazodone for Dogs

Trazodone is fairly safe for dogs. However, it should be administered under the supervision of a veterinarian. As with humans, antidepressants should be used as a last resort and not as a primary option in treating canine anxieties.

It’s crucial to follow the Trazodone dosage for dogs because problems can arise if a dog ingested more than the recommended amount. When consumed in unrestrained amount, dogs could collapse, become disoriented or even suffer from hypertension.

Help: My Dog Ingested A Lot of Trazodone!

When ingested in large quantities, Trazodone can make the dog mildly tranquilized. If your pup ate the Trazodone medication out of curiosity, watch out for symptoms such as incoordination, hyper-excitability, and anxiousness.

In very large amounts (let’s say a 70 mg dose per kilogram), Trazodone can cause seizures in dogs. This quantity is already considered fatal to pets. Bring the dog to a vet if he experienced any of the weird symptoms mentioned above.

Don’t try to induce vomiting when it’s not directed by a vet. This can be pretty risky to do, especially if the dog is having difficulty breathing or if he is displaying signs of serious distress. Never attempt to do it if your pet is already showing neurological abnormalities.

There are several things to consider before performing emesis in dogs. Aside from asking about the time and amount of the ingestion, your vet will also ask about the overall health condition of your pet.

More often than not, vets only recommend inducing vomiting if the drug was ingested within the past few hours. Vomiting can be induced by administering a 3% Hydrogen Peroxide solution at a dosage of one teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight.

Uses of Trazodone in Dogs

This drug is often used in stressful circumstances and when there is a perceptible stimulus. These refer to things that cause fear in dogs, such as staying home alone, loud noises, and phobias.

There are two main types of behavior medications, the daily medication and the situational medication. Trazodone classified as a situational medication. Vets often prescribe this ‘off-label” for canines with separation anxiety and phobias.

What You Need to Know About Dogs and Anxiety

Before resorting to a medication like Trazodone, it is best to understand your dog first. What causes him to act up? What are the recent changes to his behavior? Are there breeds that are more prone to anxiety than the others?

First, what triggers those fears? Examine your dog closely. The things causing his fear are the ones increasing his vigilance. If he’s been trembling and panting when he hears a loud vacuum, he must afraid of it.

If he’s been chewing things up, it could be that he only lacks regular exercise. When the dog acts defensive or a bit distrustful, it is highly likely that his environment is the culprit. It could be because of a new pet you have or because he needs more attention from you.

Second, did you know that certain breeds of dogs are genetically predisposed to suffer from anxiety? Intelligent dogs with high energy are more prone to anxiety. Examples of these breeds are the Basset hound, German Shepherd, and Dalmatian.

If your pup is suffering from separation anxiety, it is best to talk to a trainer or a veterinarian first before considering medication. Some dogs get over their anxiety after consistent training and exercise. As much as possible, act in an unhurried manner when leaving your pet alone in the house.

In the book “A Guide to Living with & Training a Fearful Dog”, author Debbie Jacobs stressed that medication will not fix a dog but it can certainly help him learn new skills and behaviors easier.

Trazodone is sometimes used to facilitate post-surgical confinement in canines. However, it is not a very efficient post-operative medication. The Veterinary Surgical Center of Portland claimed that pets on Trazodone were more likely to suffer from gastrointestinal bleeding.

Trazodone Side Effects in Dogs

All medicines may cause side effects. In dogs, the common side effects of Trazodone are the following:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Increased hunger
  • Drowsiness
  • Subdued behavior

Apart from these, there are instances when dogs also suffer from ataxia and vomiting. Ataxia refers to the loss of coordination or balance. It is not the most serious potential side effect of Trazodone in canines, though.

The most serious side effect is the serotonin syndrome, which is the body’s response when the serotonin levels get too high.

Trazodone Dosage for Dogs

Trazodone is sold in concentrations of 50 milligrams and 100 milligrams. The recommended dosage for canines is 1.7 to 19.5 milligrams per kilogram a day. When used along with other tricyclic antidepressants, your vet could recommend starting with a small dosage and increasing it to a maximum dose if needed.

How to Administer Trazodone to Canines

It works best when given on empty stomach but it can be administered with food when the pet is nauseous. Your dog should feel relieved after a couple of hours after administering the drug.

Giving a pill to a dog can be quite tricky. If you are having a hard time giving your dog a pill, you could encase it in a highly palatable food.

Can You Buy Trazodone Without Prescription?

It’s easy to buy this drug since there are online pharmacies already selling Trazodone. In spite of that, you will need prescription especially if you are administering it to a dog.

This drug, like all antidepressants, should be given to canines with extra caution. Don’t give this to your dog unless there was an input from a vet. An incorrect use of Trazodone can cause serious health issues and even death to dogs.

If you are looking for non-prescription drugs for your fearful dog, you could try the following:

  • Adaptil- it’s a product line especially made to address the many types of fears that dogs have. They have sprays, collars, and infusers that can be safely used for dogs of all ages.
  • L-theanine – this type of amino acid works by stimulating the glutamate receptors in the brain. Since it is not a very strong medication, it is best for milder types of nervousness.
  • Melatonin – this naturally-occurring neuro-hormone has long been used for separation anxiety and phobia in dogs. It is known for its sedative properties and is also being used to relieve symptoms of insomnia.
  • Zylkene – this food supplement derived from casein creates a feeling of calm and relaxation in dogs. The active ingredient of this supplement is obtained from milk proteins.
  • Harmonease – a combination of Phellodendron amurense and Magnolia officinalis, it is often used to manage stress-related behaviors in canines. This medicine comes in a chewable format for dogs.

Important Reminder: While these medications and supplements are generally safe for dogs, we still recommend that you check with your vet before giving them to your pet.

When Not To Give Trazodone to Dogs

This medication should not be given to dogs with heart, liver, or kidney failures. It is metabolized in the liver and is expelled via the kidneys and could tax your dog’s organs.

If your dog has problems in the liver or chronic kidney disorders and also has anxieties, it’s best to go for natural treatment. Ask your vet about adding milk thistle to your pet’s diet regime as it is helpful in protecting the liver.

Natural Antidepressants for Canines

As we mentioned earlier, antidepressants should be the last resort even for animals. If you are hesitant to use Trazodone for your pet, consider doing the following:

  • Play relaxing music. Classical music arranged in lower frequencies can calm a dog’s nervous system. However, choices are not limited to the classical genre. A research by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) revealed that dogs were less stressed when listening to reggae or soft rock.
  • Go out more. A recent study suggests that being in nature can reduce depression, stress, and anxiety. Allocate at least half an hour every day to visit the local park with your dog. Going out can also serve as a physical activity for you two.
  • Use herbs. Lavender and peppermint are just some of the most commonly used herbs for dogs. The lavender oil can be rubbed on your pet’s neck. It is a natural way to soothe his anxious tension and to make him a bit sleepy.

Conclusion

Dogs with anxiety disorders can take Trazodone, as long as it was directed by a veterinarian. It’s important to get your vet’s advice because, just like with humans, depression and anxiety in canines are both serious issues that require careful diagnosis and treatment.

Have your pet undergo proper diagnosis before considering all those antidepressants. The success of your dog’s treatment heavily depends on your knowledge and patience as well.

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