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The use of Trazodone for dog anxiety is not unusual considering that this drug is categorized as a medication that alters brain function. 

While the use of prescription medications can be valuable for treating anxiety-based behaviors in dogs, it's important noting that their use along with behavior modification therapy is what benefits the dogs the most.

 Because sometimes a single drug is not effective enough on its own, sometimes veterinarians find it beneficial to prescribe two drugs that can be combined together, what's known as "adjunctive therapy." An example of this, is the use of trazodone along with clonidine.

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Trazodone for Dog Anxiety

Trazodone is categorized as a serotonin antagonist and reuptake inhibitor (SARI).

 Basically, it belongs to a class of drugs that work as antidepressants, anxiolytics and hypnotics.

Trazodone is often used along with other drugs to treat anxiety in dogs and facilitate sleep.

 It can be prescribed after surgery to keep dogs calm during recovery and for mild cases of thunderstorm phobia, firework phobia, travel anxiety and separation anxiety.

According to a study, trazodone was found to be effective in reducing signs of stress (lip licking, panting, and whining) seen in dogs visiting veterinary hospitals.

 This would make trazodone for dog anxiety a better option than acepromazine for dog fear when it comes to managing stress in hospitalized dogs.

How it is Prescribed

Trazodone for dog anxiety is often prescribed to be given as needed when an exact trigger for the anxiety is identified as in the case of fear of thunderstorms, fireworks or separation distress, but for dogs who are suffering from generalized anxiety disorders, where an exact trigger isn't identified, it may be given on a daily schedule as often as every eight hours.

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Generally, for cases of expected anxiety to specific triggers, it is given less than an hour prior to the event, considering it's a medication that works rather quickly, explains veterinarian Dr. B. 

Because of the large variability in response and conditions treated, Trazodone for dog anxiety should be given at a dosage and frequency as suggested by the vet.

Potential Side Effects

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Dogs treated with trazodone for dog anxiety may develop digestive problems such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, low blood pressure, sedation, trouble walking, paradoxical excitement and panting.

When combined with an SSRI or a TCA, trazodone can increase the risks for seizures. 

The good news is that side effects may diminish with time. To prevent side effects such as digestive upset many veterinarians prefer to prescribe a lower starting dose for the first 3 days and than an increase in dosage afterward.

It's also important to recognize the risks for what's known as serotonin syndrome, which occurs from the use of certain combinations of serotonergic drugs, for example the use of trazodone concomitantly with an SSRI such as fluoxetine (Prozac), warns veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin. 

Fortunately, in the case of side effects, the good news is that trazodone should be completely out of the dog's system within 24 hours. Peak plasma levels occur within 3 to 12 hours in dogs and elimination half life in dogs is about 116 to 222 minutes.  Things should gradually improve over the next 6 hours or so with the drug wearing off more after 8-12 hours. 

There is no antidote for Trazadone overdosing. Treatment is mostly symptomatic and supportive. An overdose of trazodone in dogs may lead to central nervous system signs, and cardiac and respiratory effects such as abnormal breathing, low heart rate,  low blood pressure, mental status changes, lack of coordination, and coma.

References:

  • DVM360, Using clonidine and trazodone for anxiety-based behavior disorders in dogs
  • DVM360, Trazadone may lessen patient stress while in the veterinary hospital
  • Gilbert-Gregory SE, Stull JW, Rice MR, et al. Effects of trazadone on behavioral signs in hospitalized dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2016;249(11):1281-1291.

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