Trazodone: An Effective Solution for Behavioral Disorders in Pets


When it comes to treating behavioral disorders in our beloved pets, finding the right solution can feel like a daunting task. Thankfully, there is an effective option available: trazodone. (Hyperlink: Katten TrimSalon) This serotonin antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI) antidepressant has shown great promise in tackling anxiety- or phobia-related issues in both dogs and cats.

What is Trazodone?

Trazodone, sold under the brand names Desyrel® and Oleptro®, has gained recognition as a supplemental therapy for pets that do not respond well to conventional treatments. It is especially useful in managing separation anxiety, noise phobias (such as thunderstorms or fireworks), veterinary visits, hospital stays, and travel-related distress.

While trazodone’s use in treating behavioral disorders in cats and dogs is considered “off-label” or “extra-label,” it is a common practice in veterinary medicine. However, it is crucial to carefully follow the directions and cautions provided by your veterinarian, as they may differ from the label instructions.

How is Trazodone Administered?

Trazodone is typically administered orally in tablet form. It can be given with or without food. If your pet experiences vomiting or discomfort when given the medication on an empty stomach, try offering the next dose with a small treat or alongside a meal.

The effects of trazodone are usually noticeable within 1 to 2 hours when used for short-term stress relief. However, for long-term treatment, it may take a few weeks before the full benefits become apparent.

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Missed Doses and Late Shipments

If you accidentally miss a dose, administer it as soon as you remember. However, if it is close to the time for the next scheduled dose, skip the missed one. Never give your pet two doses at once or administer extra doses to compensate for a missed one.

Potential Side Effects

Trazodone is generally well-tolerated by pets, with any side effects being mild and infrequent. Some possible side effects may include dilated pupils, sedation, lethargy, vomiting or gagging, colitis (inflammation of the colon), ataxia (loss of muscle control), priapism (persistent and painful erection of the penis), arrhythmias, increased anxiety, increased appetite, and aggression.

It is important to note that combining trazodone with other serotonergic drugs can lead to serotonin syndrome. Look out for signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperthermia (elevated body temperature), skin sensitivity, depression, dilated pupils, vocalization, blindness, excessive salivation, difficulty breathing, loss of control of movements, paralysis, disorientation, coma, and even death.

In most cases, trazodone’s effects should subside within 24 hours. However, it is worth mentioning that pets with liver or kidney disease might experience longer-lasting effects.

Risk Factors to Consider

Pets that are hypersensitive or allergic to trazodone or those taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) should avoid this medication. Additionally, trazodone should be used with caution in pets with severe heart disease or liver or kidney impairments. Animals with angle-closure glaucoma should also avoid using this medication.

Scientific studies have indicated potential adverse effects on developing fetuses when trazodone is administered at very high doses. Therefore, the risks and benefits of using this medication in pregnant pets should be carefully evaluated by your veterinarian.

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Drug Interactions

If your pet is taking trazodone, be cautious when administering the following drugs: antihypertensive medications, aspirin, azole antifungals, cisapride, CNS depressants, digoxin, diuretics, fluoroquinolones, macrolide antibiotics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, metoclopramide, NSAIDs, ondansetron, phenothiazines, SSRI antidepressants, and tramadol. Inform your veterinarian about any other medications, including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies, that your pet may be taking.

Monitoring Your Pet’s Progress

While your pet is on trazodone, no specific monitoring is required. However, your veterinarian may choose to assess your pet’s progress to ensure that the medication is working effectively.

Proper Storage of Trazodone

Store trazodone in an airtight container at temperatures between 20°C – 25°C (86°F – 77°F). It is important to protect the medication from direct light exposure.

In Case of Emergency

If you suspect an overdose or witness any adverse reactions to trazodone, contact your veterinary office immediately. If they are unavailable, follow their instructions for reaching an emergency facility. Similarly, if you notice signs of serotonin syndrome, seek veterinary assistance promptly.

Trazodone offers a promising solution for pets struggling with behavioral disorders. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if trazodone is the right choice for your furry friend. Remember, a happy and healthy pet starts with the right care and attention.