Dealing with Canine Ingestion of Trazodone®
Dogs commonly eat things they shouldn’t, especially the stray tablet or capsule from the medicine cabinet that may ultimately fall on the floor. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, almost half of their calls are about pets ingesting human medications such as Trazodone. Many of these drugs can be toxic due to a dog’s smaller size and differences in human and canine metabolism and toxicities.
Today, we’ll look at what happens to your dog if it accidentally ingests Trazodone®, and what you should do.
What is Trazodone®?
Oleptro, Desyrel®, Desyrel Dividose, also known by the generic name “Trazodone”, is a drug commonly used for the treatment of human depression, anxiety disorders, and insomnia. Other uses in humans include for the treatment of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorders, panic disorders, control of nightmares, fibromyalgia, alcohol and cocaine withdrawal, migraine prevention, schizophrenia, and erectile dysfunction. Trazodone was extremely popular as an antidepressant in the 1980s and 1990s but is less commonly used due to the common side effect of sedation associated with Trazodone.
Trazodone is categorized as a serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It works by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced.
Trazodone is available as both brand name and generic formulations. Common tablets sizes include 50mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg.
Is Trazodone® Routinely Prescribed to Dogs?
Trazodone® is prescribed to dogs and cats for a variety of behavioral problems including aggression, fears, anxieties, urine marking and compulsive disorders. For more information on the therapeutic use of Trazodone in dogs and cats, go to the pet drug library: Using Trazodone in Dogs.
The therapeutic dose used in dogs is as follows:
In dogs, there is a range of doses. A lower dose is generally started and gradually tapered up to minimize side effects. The dosage range goes from approximately 2.5 mg per pound per day to 15 mg per pound per day. The average dose is approximately 3.5 mg per pound per day. Lower doses are used when combined with other behavioral modification medications.
Currently, trazodone is not widely used in cats but appears to be safe and well tolerated. Doses generally used are 50 mg to 100 mg per cat for anxiety.
What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone®
In general, Trazodone® is considered toxic to dogs if enough drug is ingested. The toxicity depends on the amount ingested relative to your dog’s body weight.
The most common side effects include agitation, aggression, incoordination, excessive drooling, panting, hyperactivity, vocalization such as barking or howling, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils and/or sedation. Some dogs will experience elevated blood pressure, heart rates and body temperature.
The amount of drug that can cause problems in a dog varies with each individual dog. Some depression and sedation have been documented when a dog ingests 3 mg of Trazodone per pound of body weight. Most dogs will experience neurologic abnormalities including drooling, trouble walking, incoordination, tremors and seizures at higher doses. Neurologic side effects can be more severe in dogs with a history of seizures or epilepsy. Doses over 250 mg per pound can be fatal. Some dogs can be much more sensitive to Trazodone than other dogs and lower doses can cause severe side effects in death in some dogs.
If your dog ingests Trazodone®, call your veterinarian for recommendations. Some veterinarians may recommend that you induce vomiting in your dog if toxic doses were ingested within the past few hours. For more information, go to How to Make a Dog Vomit. For Trazodone® the best time to induce vomiting to prevent drug absorption is within 15 minutes of ingestion. Induction of vomiting is NOT recommended if your dog is showing any neurological abnormalities.
Monitor your dog carefully and ensure they are behaving normally. Monitor for tremors, seizures, sedation, hyperactivity, trouble walking, vomiting, or lack of appetite.
When Should You Call Your Veterinarian?
Call your vet immediately if your dog ingests Trazodone® and get his or her advice.
Call your vet if you see any abnormalities or concerns with your dog. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, pale gums, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite, tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, trouble walking or any other signs, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
How is Trazodone® Toxicity in Dogs Treated?
There is no specific antidote for Trazodone toxicity in dogs. Treatment will be determined on the amount your dog ate, the size of your dog, concurrent medical problems, when the toxic dose was ingested, and the symptoms your dog is displaying. If your dog ingests Trazodone®, call your veterinarian for recommendations.
The first and most important recommendation when toxic doses of Trazodone are ingested is to prevent absorption of the drug. The two most common methods to prevent absorption is to get the drug out of your dog’s system by inducing vomiting or to prevent absorption with a product called Activated Charcoal. Activated charcoal works to prevent further absorption of Trazodone into your dog’s body.
Some veterinarians may recommend that you induce vomiting in your dog if toxic doses were ingested within the past few hours (preferably within 15 – 30 minutes). They may recommend you do this at home or come to their office. For more information, go to How to Make a Dog Vomit. Vomiting should never be induced if your pet is sedated or showing abnormal neurologic signs such as lethargy, weakness, or inappropriate behavior. Induction of vomiting in a dog without normal neurologic control can result in aspiration pneumonia.
Your dog may be hospitalized and monitored for abnormalities in blood pressure and heart rate, body temperate, and for neurologic abnormalities.
Treatment is often dependent on your dog’s symptoms. For example, for dogs that are agitated, sedation may be recommended. Drugs can be given to reduce high heart rates and blood pressure. Intravenous fluids may be given to help flush the drug out of your dog’s system. Anti-seizure medications may be given to treat tremors and seizures.
Other Emergency Plans if Your Dog Eats Trazodone®
If your dog ingests Trazodone® and you can’t get in touch with your vet, call your closest emergency clinic. Another option is to call a poison control hotline for pets.
The two most common are:
Pet Poison Helpline, 855-764-7661(http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com). A per-incident fee applies.
ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline, (888) 426-4435 (https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control). A consultation fee applies.
How to Prevent Drug Exposure
Dogs are so good at getting into things, and it’s easier to prevent a problem than it is to resolve it.
- Store all medications out of the reach of pets. For example, some pets get on tables or can knock things over on coffee or end tables so avoid these areas. Many pet owners store their medications on counters, tables and night tables.
- Take extra special care with pill bottles and weekly pill holders. The shape of the containers and the sounds they make when shaken can mimic toys, tempting some dogs into playing with and chewing on them.
- Weekly pill holders are especially dangerous because they open easily and expose dogs to a multitude of medications.
- Avoid using plastic bags to store pills; if you are taking medications to work or otherwise traveling, keep them in your purse or pocket. Bags can be easily chewed through and ingested.
- Purses are a hazard because we commonly carry our human mediations in our purses. Make sure you close your purse, hang up or secure in an area inaccessible to your pet.
- Encourage houseguests to keep their luggage closed and medications secure from your pets. This may include keeping access closed to guest areas.
- Help visitors secure their belongings out of the reach of pets. Ensure visitor’s purses are closed and out of reach.
- Plumb’s Veterinary Drug Handbook, 9th Edition
- Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Ettinger & Felman
- Current Veterinary Therapy XV, Bonagura and Twedt
- ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline
- Pet Poison Helpline