What to expect if your dog takes trazodone

woman cuddling a black french bulldog



  1. On this page

    • What is trazodone used for?

    • Potential side effects

    • Dosage for Dogs

    • Can dogs overdose on trazodone?

    • Interactions and warnings

Just like people, many dogs experience fear or anxiety from time to time. Unfortunately, just like people, some struggle with severe anxiety that affects their quality of life. The good news is that modern medicine can help. Trazodone is one of many antidepressants used for dogs with anxiety and other behavioral disorders.

Some pet owners are hesitant to use medication to treat unwanted behaviors because they fear “drugging” their dogs. Many prefer to focus on methods like training and socialization to reduce fear and anxiety. While these techniques can help some dogs overcome unwanted feelings and behaviors, others need a little extra help. Medications like trazodone are not intended to completely resolve behavioral problems; they are tools to use with positive reinforcement and socialization techniques.

It’s hard to watch your precious pooch suffer from unwanted feelings and urges, but you’re not alone! Work closely with your veterinarian to develop the right treatment plan for your dog. Your veterinarian can refer you to a veterinary behaviorist or certified animal behavior consultant for additional support.

What is trazodone used for in dogs?

Trazodone is an antidepressant, specifically a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and a serotonin type 2 receptor antagonist. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical messenger in the brain that relays signals to neurons ( brain cells). Serotonin plays an important role in several bodily functions, including psychological aspects such as mood. Drugs like trazodone work by inhibiting the resorption of serotonin, thereby increasing the level of serotonin in the brain.

Trazodone is often used in humans to treat depression and insomnia. In veterinary medicine, it is sometimes prescribed to treat behavioral disorders in dogs and cats. Dogs suffering from fear and anxiety may benefit from treatment with trazodone. Vets may prescribe it to reduce fear and anxiety in stressful situations, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, vet visits, and boarding. Because it also has sedative effects, it is sometimes used in conjunction with anesthetic drugs for surgery and other medical procedures. Additionally, trazodone has been used to help calm dogs that need to be confined and to limit their exercise while they recover from surgery or injury.

Anxiety makes it difficult for dogs to learn, so training and socialization may be less effective for a nervous dog. Trazodone can help reduce anxiety enough that dogs can actually learn techniques such as desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises, training sessions, and socialization events. It is important to work closely with your dog when using trazodone – the drug alone will not address the root of the behavior. For help with training and socialization techniques, seek help from a certified animal behaviorist or trainer.

Trazodone is available in generic forms as well as under the brand names Oleptro and Desyrel. There is no vet labeled form of trazodone, but some vets keep it in stock. It can also be purchased from a human pharmacy with a prescription from your veterinarian.

RELATED: Does your dog suffer from separation anxiety?

What are the potential side effects of trazodone in dogs?

Dogs generally tolerate trazodone well, but the following side effects may occur:

Some dogs will respond poorly to trazodone and experience increased anxiety or restlessness. Stop this medication and contact your veterinarian if the trazodone makes your dog’s fear or anxiety worse.

Trazodone Dosage for Dogs

Trazodone is given to dogs by mouth in pill form. The recommended dosage of trazodone for dogs generally ranges from 1 to 19 milligrams per kilogram of dog body mass, per day. Dogs with chronic behavioral problems may be prescribed the extended-release tablets to be taken daily. However, trazodone can be used as needed with quick effect as long as you are not using extended release tablets. This can be very useful for sudden scary events, such as thunderstorms.

Can dogs overdose on trazodone?

It is possible for dogs to overdose on trazodone if they accidentally get too much or get into the pill bottle. Be sure to keep this and other medications out of your dog’s reach. An overdose of trazodone can cause serotonin syndrome, a dangerous condition that can lead to the following effects:

Seek professional help if your dog receives an overdose of trazodone. Call your local veterinarian, a nearby animal emergency center, or a pet poison control service like ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 or the pet poison helpline at (855) 764-7661. You may be advised to induce vomiting if the overdose has occurred within the last hour. Your dog may also need veterinary care to manage symptoms and provide comfort.

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Trazodone Drug Interactions and Warnings

Several drugs can interact with trazodone, so be sure to tell your vet about all your dog’s medications and supplements. If trazodone is used with other drugs that affect serotonin, it increases the risk of serotonin syndrome and other complications. This includes other SSRIs, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), some antifungal drugs (like ketoconazole and fluconazole), and some antibiotics (like erythromycin).