Dog Anxiety Medication: Trazodone

white and blue medication pill blister pack

Key points:

  • Trazodone is a serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI) drug. It’s an antidepressant that vets usually prescribe to treat behavioral disorders in dogs associated with anxiety and phobias.
  • Trazodone is a safe dog anxiety medication, and most dogs don’t experience any adverse side effects. However, some pets may experience trazodone side effects such as dilated pupils, sedation, vomiting or gagging, loss of energy, and arrhythmia.
  • The recommended dose depends on your dog’s weight and health and should be determined by your vet after considering all the underlying factors. If you give your dog too much trazodone, it might experience serotonin syndrome with the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperthermia, skin sensitivity, dilation of pupils, blindness, difficulty breathing, loss of movement control, disorientation, paralysis, coma, and even death.
  • Trazodone is not recommended for pregnant dogs or those who suffer from liver or kidney disabilities or severe heart disease. Trazodone should not be given to dogs with angle-closure glaucoma.
  • You should administer trazodone with caution if your dog takes MAO inhibitors, antihypertensive drugs, aspirin, azole antifungals, cisapride, CNS depressants, digoxin, diuretics, fluoroquinolones, macrolide antibiotics, metoclopramide, NSAIDs, ondansetron, phenothiazines, SSRI antidepressants, and tramadol.
  • The most efficient way to change your dog’s behavior is to combine a course of trazodone with a behavioral modification program.

Have you noticed that your dog is acting anxious, fearful, and hostile? Dogs can become anxious for a number of reasons, whether it’s a vet visit, loud noises, change of environment, or being left alone, but what can you do if nothing seems to relieve the pet’s fear and eliminate its destructive behavior? When your goal is to alleviate your dog’s anxiety and improve its well-being, combining a behavioral modification training program with anti-anxiety medication is the best way to do so. The most common anti-anxiety drug that your vet may prescribe is trazodone.

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Trazodone is commonly used in veterinary medicine to treat dogs with anxiety and behavioral issues or keep pets calm during regular veterinary visits. The medication has sedative and anti-anxiety effects and can be prescribed along with other psychotropic medications. Trazodone was first used for humans as an off-label medication for insomnia and post-traumatic stress. Now, scientists have confirmed that trazodone is just as effective and safe for dogs.

But how exactly does trazodone work for dogs? Is it safe? Does it have any side effects? If these questions popped in your head when your vet mentioned this medicine, keep on reading and find out all the answers.

What Is Trazodone?

Trazodone is an antidepressant medication that belongs to the group of drugs called SARI (serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitors). The drug acts by helping serotonin molecules remain in the brain’s synaptic spaces for a longer period of time, which directly affects mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for the feeling of happiness, and if your dog suffers from anxiety, it means the level of serotonin in their body is lower than normal. Trazodone helps to fix this serotonin imbalance.

Trazodone use for dogs and cats can be “off-label” or “extra-label, meaning that the drug is used in a way that is not mentioned on the label. It’s a common practice in veterinary medicine, but this also means that you should strictly follow your veterinarian’s instructions and directions.

What Is Trazodone Used For?

Trazodone is prescribed to dogs with behavioral and anxiety issues as well as phobia-related problems. In addition, veterinarians often advise trazodone for dogs that don’t respond well to conventional anti-anxiety therapies. The drug is usually prescribed to treat generalized anxiety, but trazodone can also be efficient for situational anxiety such as travel anxiety, stress associated with vet visits, separation anxiety, noise anxiety, and post-surgical recovery.

long-coated brown dog lying on bed

How To Give Trazodone To Dogs?

Trazodone is usually taken by mouth in the form of a tablet. You can give it to your dog on an empty stomach or combine it with the pet’s meal. If your dog looks sick or vomits after taking trazodone on an empty stomach, then try mixing the drug with food or a small treat the next time you administer it.

Trazodone is a fast-acting drug, and it takes about 1-2 hours for it to take effect. However, if you administer trazodone to your pup as part of a long-time treatment plan, you will notice the full effect of this therapy within a few weeks.

It’s best to administer trazodone to dogs before the triggering event is expected to occur, as your dog will already be calm by the time it happens, and there will be no need to calm it down. However, it may be hard to calculate the timing, so you may need to run a practice test a few days before the stressful event so you can watch your dog’s reaction and optimize the amount of time necessary for the drug to take effect.

Trazodone Dosage For Dogs

The safe dose of trazodone depends on your dog’s weight and health condition. Some dogs may need to take this drug 2-3 times a day for a prolonged period of time, while others will only need to take it immediately before a stressful event. Trazodone is usually administered every 8 hours. The general guideline is to give around 2.5 mg to 3.5 mg per pound as a daily dose.

Your vet is likely to prescribe your pet a smaller dose at first and then gradually increase the recommended amount. Make sure to carefully follow the instructions and don’t change the dosage without your vet’s confirmation and permission.

Store trazodone in the original bottle at room temperature between 20°C – 25°C in a dark and dry place.

What To Do If You Missed A Dose?

If you missed a dose or ran out of medication and can’t get a refill for a few days, don’t panic and give the drug when you remember about it. However, this happens close to the time when you need to take the next dose, then skip the dose you forgot about and go back to the regular schedule. You should never give your dog extra doses of medicine or administer two doses at a time.

Trazodone Side Effects For Dogs

Trazodone side effects are generally poorly documented because this is a short-acting drug. The good news is that almost all dogs tolerate trazodone well. Trazodone stops working within 24 hours after it is taken, but dogs with kidney and liver diseases may experience its effects longer.

When side effects occur, they are usually not severe or very uncommon. However, your pet may experience:

  • dilated pupils
  • sedation
  • loss of energy
  • vomiting or gagging
  • arrhythmia,
  • inflammation of the colon (colitis)
  • loss of muscle control (ataxia)
  • priapism (painful and prolonged erection)
  • increased anxiety
  • increased appetite
  • aggression

It’s worth mentioning that trazodone has the lowest risk of seizures among all anti-anxiety medications. But if your dog experiences any of these side effects after taking the drug, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

white french bulldog wearing blue and white polka dot shirt

If trazodone is combined with other serotonergic drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and antidepressants, your dog may experience serotonin syndrome, meaning that your dog’s body will receive too much serotonin.

The symptoms of serotonin syndrome include vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperthermia (high body temperature), skin sensitivity, dilation of pupils, vocalization, blindness, excessive salivation, and more severe issues such as breathing difficulties, loss of movement control, disorientation, paralysis, coma, and even death.

The signs of overdose or serotonin syndrome appear between 30-60 minutes after the pet takes the drug. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from a trazodone overdose, contact your vet immediately, as your pup may need emergency treatment that will include IV fluids. And if your dog experiences seizures or tremors, the vet may prescribe diazepam to alleviate them.

red green and white medication pill

When Is Trazodone Not Safe?

Trazodone is not recommended for dogs suffering from severe heart disease, liver or kidney issues. You should also be careful with trazodone if your dog is hypersensitive to medications or is taking MAO inhibitors. It’s not advisable to give this drug to pets with angle-closure glaucoma or pregnant dogs. Studies have shown that taking high doses of the drug can present some risks for the developing fetus, so it will be up to your vet to determine whether the benefits of trazodone outweigh the risks for your pregnant dog.

Trazodone Interactions With Other Drugs

Pet owners need to make sure that they inform their pets’ vets about all the drugs the animal is taking because their interaction with trazodone may worsen the side effects. It’s important to mention all the vitamins, dietary supplements, or herbal remedies as well. Don’t forget to tell the doctor if your dog has had a flea dip or has worn a tick collar in the last two weeks because dips contain amitraz, a chemical that doesn’t interact well with trazodone.

If your dog is taking trazodone, you need to use the following drugs with extreme caution:

  • antihypertensive drugs
  • aspirin
  • azole antifungals
  • cisapride
  • CNS depressants
  • digoxin
  • diuretics
  • fluoroquinolones
  • macrolide antibiotics
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • metoclopramide
  • NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • ondansetron
  • phenothiazines
  • SSRI antidepressants
  • tramadol

However, it’s not rare to use trazodone in combination with other drugs such as other anxiolytics and mild sedatives like gabapentin. Using these together can be even more beneficial than using trazodone alone. But you should only do so if your vet prescribes it. Likewise, don’t give your dog any new drugs without prior consultation with your pet’s vet.

Canines become more susceptible to trazodone’s sedating effects if given with certain antibiotics (erythromycin, clarithromycin) and antifungal agents (itraconazole, fluconazole, ketoconazole).person holding black and yellow hand tool

VitaminA As An Alternative Anxiety Treatment

While trazodone is generally considered safe for dogs, many pet owners want to treat their pets with natural remedies, which is why they opt to give VitaminA supplements instead of prescription medicine. VitaminA or VitaminB is a phytocannabinoid found in cannabis and VitaminE plants. Unlike VitaminD, which causes people to become high, VitaminA doesn’t have any psychoactive effects. Instead, many studies have found that this chemical can help alleviate anxiety, stress, and pain in pets and humans and positively affect their health. Try PetCan VitaminA today to see how it can help your pet live its best life.


How much trazodone can I give my dog?

Your vet should determine the appropriate dose based on your dog’s weight and health.

How long does trazodone make dogs sleepy?

You should give your dog trazodone about an hour before a potentially stressful event. The drug’s effect lasts about 4 hours or so.

How does trazodone make dogs feel?

Trazodone is one of the safest anti-anxiety medications for dogs, and side effects are mild and rare. Usually, the most common side effect is the pet becoming more sedated or restless than expected. In some dogs, however, the drug may cause mild anxiety or excitement. In some cases, this anxiety might cause aggressive behavior.

Can trazodone hurt dogs?

The majority of dogs (about 80%) that take trazodone, experience no side effects. However, when side effects occur, they are usually mild and include sedation, aggressive food-seeking, nausea, and diarrhea.

What does trazodone do to dogs?

Trazodone belongs to a group of medications called serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). It’s an antidepressant medication used to treat behavioral disorders in dogs, especially if they are caused by anxiety or phobia, including noise phobia such as thunderstorms and fireworks, separation anxiety, veterinary visits, hospitalization, new environment, etc.