Trazodone for Dogs: A Complete Guide

Trazodone for Dogs

Trazodone for Dogs

Dogs, like humans, can experience anxiety and stress from time to time. While occasional anxiety is normal, chronic anxiety can negatively impact your dog’s quality of life. If behavioral modifications and environmental changes aren’t relieving your dog’s anxiety, your vet may recommend medication to help.

One of the most commonly prescribed canine anti-anxiety medications is trazodone. Trazodone helps control anxiety by regulating serotonin levels in the brain. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about using trazodone for dogs, including:

  • What is trazodone and how does it work?
  • When is trazodone prescribed for dogs?
  • Trazodone dosage and administration
  • Potential side effects
  • Interactions and precautions
  • Alternatives to trazodone
  • Tips for administering trazodone to dogs

By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of whether trazodone is a good treatment option for your anxious pup. Let’s get started!

What is Trazodone? How Does it Work?

Trazodone is a prescription drug that falls under the class of medications known as serotonin antagonists and reuptake inhibitors (SARIs). It works by regulating serotonin levels in the brain.


Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, social behavior, digestion, sleep, and other functions. Dogs with anxiety often have imbalances in their brain chemistry that result in too little serotonin activity.

When taken as prescribed, trazodone blocks the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin, allowing more of it to remain in the brain. This increased serotonin level can relieve anxiety symptoms by promoting relaxation and calmness.

Trazodone does not act as a traditional sedative. Instead of knocking a dog out, it balances neurotransmitter levels to gently ease anxiety without significant sedation. This makes it a favorable anti-anxiety medication for dogs compared to other tranquilizers.

When is Trazodone Prescribed for Dogs?

Veterinarians typically prescribe trazodone to treat anxiety-related conditions in dogs such as:

  • Separation anxiety – Excessive vocalization, destruction, or house soiling when left alone.
  • Noise phobias – Fear of loud noises like thunderstorms, fireworks that cause distress.
  • Firework phobia – A specific type of noise phobia related to fireworks during holidays.
  • Social anxiety – Distress in social situations like grooming or vet visits.
  • Travel anxiety – Distress associated with car rides or kenneling.
  • Thunderstorm phobia – Fear of thunder and storms causing distress.
  • Generalized anxiety – Persistent anxiety symptoms that impact quality of life.

Trazodone may also be used during anxious periods like recovery from illness/injury or as a short-term aid for fear-based behaviors during training. It works well for relatively mild to moderate cases. Severe, uncontrolled anxiety may require other therapies like clomipramine.

Trazodone Dosage and Administration

The dosage and frequency of trazodone prescribed will depend on factors like your dog’s weight, severity of symptoms, and individual response. Here are some general dosage guidelines:

  • Small dogs (under 20 lbs): Starting dose of 5-10 mg, 1-2 times daily
  • Medium dogs (20-50 lbs): Starting dose of 10-25 mg, 1-2 times daily
  • Large dogs (50-100 lbs): Starting dose of 25-50 mg, 1-2 times daily
  • Extra large dogs (over 100 lbs): Starting dose of 50-100 mg, 1-2 times daily

Vets will often start at the lower end of the spectrum and gradually increase the dosage as needed based on your dog’s response. The effects should be noticeable within 1-2 hours after administration.

The medication should be given with food to help reduce gastric upset. Tablets can be hidden in peanut butter or cheese. Trazodone is generally dosed 1-2 times per day, in the morning and late afternoon/evening for adequate symptom coverage.


Consistency is key for management of anxiety. Most importantly, always follow your vet’s dosing recommendations for your individual dog.

Trazodone Side Effects in Dogs

Like any medication, trazodone does come with a potential risk of side effects in some dogs. However, side effects are usually mild and temporary, especially at low to moderate doses under veterinary guidance.

Some of the most common side effects of trazodone in dogs include:

  • Sedation – Being more relaxed or sleepy than normal. This typically subsides as the body adjusts.
  • Reduced appetite – Especially at higher doses. Withholding a meal may help reduce gastric upset.
  • Dry mouth – Saliva production may decrease in some dogs. Provide water frequently.
  • GI upset – Occasional nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Give with food to reduce risk.
  • Dizziness – Reports of dogs feeling unsteady on their feet at high doses.

Thankfully, side effects can typically be avoided or minimized with cautious dose adjustments under vet guidance. If any concerning side effects arise, contact your vet right away for recommendations.

Trazodone Interactions and Precautions

Like all medications, trazodone has the potential to interact or interfere with certain other drugs if taken concurrently. Be sure to inform your vet about any other medications, supplements or health conditions your dog has. Some key interactions and precautions include:

  • MAOIs: Do not combine with monoamine oxidase inhibitors due to risk of serious reaction.
  • Amitraz: Increased levels with amitraz and risk of adverse reactions.
  • NSAIDs: Concurrent use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories may increase risk of side effects.
  • Other CNS depressants: Higher risk of sedation when combined with sedatives, painkillers, etc.
  • Liver/kidney disease: May require lower dose or alternative due to altered drug processing.
  • Pregnancy: Preferable to avoid in breeding females near term. Consult vet.
  • Elderly dogs: Potential increased risk of sedation and hypotension in senior dogs.

Proper vet oversight and dose adjustments can mitigate many interaction risks. But always discuss everything with your vet given your dog’s individual needs and health profile.

Trazodone Alternatives for Dogs

While trazodone has proven effective for many anxious dogs, there are alternatives that may be more suitable in some cases. Always talk to your vet about the pros and cons of each based on your dog’s unique situation:

  • Clomipramine (Clomicalm): Tricyclic antidepressant also boosting serotonin. May have less risk of sedation than trazodone.
  • Amino-3-propionic acid/D-cycloserine: Slightly different mechanism boosting endocannabinoids. Rare sedative effects.
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac): Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor reducing anxiety and fear behaviors.
  • Paroxetine (Paxil): SSRI currently licensed for separation anxiety in some countries.
  • Alprazolam (Xanax): Fast acting benzodiazepine but risk of addiction and dependence. Backup aid only.
  • CBD oil: Natural option modulating serotonin levels and promising for mild cases. Research ongoing.
  • Pheromone therapies: Commercial pheromone diffusers and sprays to create calming environment.

Matching the right alternative to your dog’s needs requires veterinary guidance based on symptoms, severity and preferences.

Administering Trazodone to Dogs

With careful administration strategies, you can help ensure your dog takes trazodone medication as prescribed:

  • Hide pills in food. Place whole pill or crushed pieces deeply in highly palatable wet or dry food.
  • Use a pill pocket. Commercial soft treats conceal pill and encourage eating without detection.
  • Peanut butter method. Coat outside of pill with natural PB so dog wants to lick it up.
  • Pill popper or syringe. For dogs reluctant to eat when medicated, use a specialized tool to deposit pill past back of throat for swallowing.
  • Consistency is key. Give at same times each day when possible to maintain blood levels.
  • Positive association. Pair medicines with reward-based training for rave behavior; keep stressful handling to a minimum.
  • Stick to dosage schedule. Even missing one dose could undermine effectiveness; contact vet for additional guidance when needed.

With some creativity and patience, you can ensure your dog gets his anxiety medication smoothly and calmly with a positive routine.


Should I Use Trazodone for My Anxious Dog?

In summary, trazodone for dogs can be an excellent treatment option for dogs experiencing mild to moderate anxiety issues when behavioral modifications alone aren’t sufficient.