Trazodone (Oleptro®, Desyrel®) for Dogs and Cats

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Use of Trazodone in Canines and Felines

  • Trazodone HCl, also known simply as Trazodone and by the brand names of Oleptro®, Desyrel®, is used in dog and cats with behavioral problems or various anxiety related problems including fears and anxiety related to veterinary visits and hospitalization.
  • Trazodone is categorized as a Serotonin 2a antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It is an antidepressant that is often used for behavioral disorders. It works by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced. This drug increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that facilitates transmission of “messages” among brain cells.
  • Behavioral disorders in dogs and cats are common causes for veterinary visits. Behavioral problems are also a frequent reason for euthanasia of pets, especially when unacceptable or dangerous animal behavior is involved. Over the past decade, veterinarians have begun placing increasing emphasis on training and behavior modification, and animal behavior specialists have adopted drugs used in modifying human behavior for animal use. Trazodone is one of these drugs.
  • It is relatively inexpensive making it appealing over some other behavioral modification drugs.
  • Trazodone is used to treat depression, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal, and migraine prevention, as well as other uses which can make it available for accidental exposure in dogs. For more information about Trazodone Toxicity – go to: What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone® Medication? (ADD ARTICLE AND LINK)
  • Trazodone is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.
  • This drug is not approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.

Brand Names and Other Names of Trazodone

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Oleptro, Desyrel®, Desyrel Dividose and various generic equivalents.
  • Veterinary formulations: None.

Uses of Trazodone in Dogs and Cats

  • Trazodone is used for behavior modification of dogs. Trazodone may be used for separation anxiety and other anxiety related conditions (such as fear of fireworks).  Learn more about – Is Your Dog Suffering From Anxiety?
  • Other uses may include for the treatment of anxiety during hospitalization and for short-term relief of anxiety associated with activity restriction such as cage rest after surgery, especially orthopedic surgery.
  • Studies documenting use of Trazodone in cats was limited, however Trazodone is being frequently used in cats for travel anxiety and trips to the veterinarian for cats who are very fearful and anxious.  Data shows that it is safe and well tolerated for use in cats.

Precautions and Side Effects of Trazodone

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, Trazodone 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 (prolonged erection) in humans and therefore should be used with caution in male breeding dogs.
  • Trazodone may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with Trazodone. Such drugs include drugs classified as diuretics, antibiotics (enrofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, clarithromycin), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (selegiline and amitraz), diazepam, phenylbutazone, digoxin or buspirone. Certain anti-fungal medications (i.e. ketoconazole, fluconazole itraconazole) can change the metabolism of Trazodone and require that a lower dose be used. Additional drugs that have potential interactions include aspirin, cisapride, metoclopramide, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. carprofen, Rimadyl®, Novox®, Deramaxx®, Meloxicam and more), ondancetron, tramadol, and/or fluoxetine (Prozac®).
  • Side effects associated with Trazodone include lethargy, sedation, vomiting, diarrhea, panting, hyperactivity, ataxia, increased anxiety, increased appetite, shaking, restlessness, and/or agitation.
  • Side effects will generally improve with time so may veterinarians recommend waiting a few days to determine response if the side effects are mild.
  • When large quantities of Trazodone are ingested, pets may seizure or even go into a coma state. It is recommended that overdoses should be promptly treated by your veterinarian.

How Trazodone Is Supplied

  • Trazodone is available as both brand name and generic formulations.
  • Common tablets sizes include 50mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg.
  • Trazodone extended-release oral tablets sizes include 150 mg & 300 mg.

Dosing Information for Trazodone in Dogs and Cats

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • In dogs, there is a range of doses. They include 2.5 mg per pound per day to 15 mg per pound every 24 hours. The average dose is approximately 3.5 mg per pound per day. Lower doses are used when combined with other behavioral modification medications. Most veterinarians prescribe Trazodone at the lower dosage range to minimize side effects and may gradually taper the dose up after 3 to 5 days.
  • Another method to dose dog is by total mg size based on weight. For example, initial dosing for dogs less than 22 pounds is total dose of 25 mg every 8 to 24 hours, dogs 22 to 44 pounds the total dose of 50 mg every 12 to 24 hours, dogs over 44 pounds may be prescribed 100 mg every 12 to 24 hours. After 3 to 5 days of the initial dosing, a higher target dose may be recommended. Target dosing for dogs less than 22 pounds is a total dose of 50 mg every 8 to 24 hours, dogs 22 to 44 pounds the total dose of 100 mg every 8 to 24 hours, dogs 44 to 88 pounds may be prescribed 200 mg every 8 to 24 and dogs over 88 pounds may be prescribed a total dose of 200 – 300 mg every 8 to 24 hours.
  • Trazodone may be given on an empty stomach or with food. If your dog gets nauseated or vomits after dosing, give Trazodone with a small meal or treat.
  • For cats, Trazodone has been infrequently used. The documented doses used in cats is 50-100 mg total dose for short term use.
  • Pets must receive Trazodone for 2 weeks before it can be determined that the medication is ineffective.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Even if your pet feels better, the entire treatment plan should be completed.
  • Dose should be gradually withdrawn or withdrawal symptoms made 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 Pet Poison Hotline
  • Pet Poison Helpline

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