- Trazodone HCl, also known simply as Trazodone and by the brand names Oleptro®, Desyrel®, is used in dogs and cats with behavioral problems or various anxiety-related issues, including anxiety related to vet visits and hospital stays.
- Trazodone is classified as a serotonin-2a antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It is an antidepressant commonly used for behavioral disorders. It works by changing chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that can become unbalanced. Serotonin is a chemical that facilitates the transmission of “messages” between brain cells and increases levels of serotonin in the brain.
- Behavioral problems in dogs and cats are common reasons for vet visits. They are also a common reason for pet euthanasia, especially when it comes to unacceptable or dangerous animal behavior. In the last decade, veterinarians have begun to place increasing emphasis on training and behavior modification, and animal behavior specialists have introduced human behavior modification drugs for animal use. Trazodone is one of these drugs.
- It’s a relatively inexpensive drug, which makes it more attractive over some other behavior modification drugs.
- Trazodone is used to treat depression, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal, and migraines, as well as other uses that may expose it to accidental exposure in dogs. For more information on trazodone toxicity, see: What To Do If Your dog Eats Trazodone® Medication?
- Trazodone is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or with a veterinarian’s prescription.
- This drug is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in animals, but is legally prescribed by veterinarians as an extra-label drug. Do not give this medication to your pets unless recommended by your veterinarian.
Brand names and other names of trazodone
- This drug is approved for human use only.
- Human formulations: Oleptro, Desyrel®, Desyrel Dividose and various generic equivalents.
- Veterinary formulations: None.
Applications for separation anxiety in dogs and cats
- Trazodone is used to change the behavior of dogs. Trazodone can be used for separation anxiety and other anxiety-related conditions (such as fear of fireworks). For more information on anxiety, see: Does Your dog Have Anxiety?
- Other uses include treating anxiety during a hospital stay and short-term relief from anxiety associated with activity limitations, such as walking. B. Cage rest after orthopedic surgery.
- Studies documenting the use of trazodone in cats are limited, however trazodone is used in cats because of vet visits and travel anxiety and is considered safe and well-tolerated.
Trazodone Precautions and Side Effects
- While trazodone is generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, it can cause side effects in some animals.
- Trazodone should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
- Trazodone should be used with caution in dogs and cats with a history of liver, kidney, or heart disease. Trazodone can cause priapism (persistent erection) in humans and should therefore be used with caution in breeding male dogs.
- Trazodone can interact with other medications. Check with your veterinarian to determine if other medications your pet is receiving might interact with trazodone. These include drugs classified as diuretics, antibiotics (enrofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, clarithromycin), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (selegiline and amitraz), diazepam, phenylbutazone, digoxin, and buspirone. Certain antifungals (e.g. ketoconazole, fluconazole, itraconazole) may alter trazodone metabolism and require the use of a lower dose. Other drugs with potential interactions include aspirin, cisapride, metoclopramide, NSAIDs (eg, Carprofen, Rimadyl®, Novox®, Deramaxx®, meloxicam, and more), Ondancetron, tramadol, and fluoxetine (Prozac®).
- Side effects associated with trazodone include lethargy, sedation, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, hyperactivity, ataxia, increased anxiety, increased appetite, tremors, restlessness and agitation.
- Side effects generally improve over time, so veterinarians may recommend waiting a few days to assess response if side effects are mild.
- If large amounts of trazodone are ingested, pets may have seizures or even go into a coma. It is recommended that overdoses be treated promptly by a veterinarian.
How trazodone is delivered
- Trazodone is available in both brand name and generic formulations.
- Common tablet sizes include 50mg, 100mg, 150mg and 300mg.
- Trazodone prolonged-release oral tablet sizes include 150 mg and 300 mg.
Dosing information for trazodone in dogs and cats
- Medications should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
- There are different dosages for dogs. They range from 2.5 mg per pound per day to 15 mg per pound every 24 hours. The average dose is around 3.5mg per pound per day. Lower doses are used when combined with other behavior modification drugs. Most vets will prescribe trazodone in the lower dose range to minimize side effects and may gradually taper off the dose after 3 to 5 days.
- Another method of dosing dogs is total mg based on weight. For example, for dogs weighing less than 22 pounds, the starting dose is a total of 25 mg every 8 to 24 hours. For dogs 22 to 44 pounds, the total dose is 50 mg every 12 to 24 hours. Dogs over 44 pounds may be prescribed 100 mg every 12 to 24 hours. A higher target dose may be recommended 3 to 5 days after the initial dose. The target dose for dogs under 22 pounds is a total dose of 50 mg every 8 to 24 hours. For dogs 22 to 44 pounds, the total dose is 100 mg every 8 to 24 hours. Dogs 44 to 88 pounds may be prescribed 200 mg every 8 to 24 hours and dogs over 88 pounds may be prescribed a total dose of 200 – 300 mg every 8 to 24 hours.
- Trazodone can be taken on an empty stomach or with food. If your dog gets sick or vomits after taking it, give trazodone with a small meal or treat.
- Trazodone has rarely been used in cats. The documented dose in cats is 50-100 mg total dose for short-term use.
- Pets must be given Trazodone for 2 weeks before it can be determined that the drug is ineffective.
- The duration of administration depends on the disease being treated, the response to the drug and the development of side effects. Be sure to fill out the prescription unless your vet specifically directs it. Even if your pet is feeling better, the entire treatment plan should be completed.
- The dose should be discontinued gradually, otherwise withdrawal symptoms may occur.
Resources & References
- Plumb’s Veterinary Handbook by Donald C. Plumb, 9th Edition.
- Use of oral trazodone for sedation in cats: a pilot study. J Feline Med Surg. 2015;0(0): Jillian M Orlando1; Beth C-Case2; Andrea E Thomson3; Emily Griffith4; Barbara L. Sherman5
- Textbook of veterinary internal medicine, Ettinger & Felman
- Current Veterinary Therapy XIV, Bonagura and Twedt
- Current Veterinary Therapy XV, Bonagura and Twedt
- ASPCA Animal Poison Hotline
- pet Poison Control Center