Symptoms to Watch for When a Dog Eats an Antidepressant

What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone® Medication?

Symptoms to Watch for When a Dog Eats an Antidepressant

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 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 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( A per-incident fee applies.
ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline, (888) 426-4435 ( 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 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 the reach of pets. Ensure visitor’s purses are closed and 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


What To Do If Your Dog Eats Human Medication

Symptoms to Watch for When a Dog Eats an Antidepressant

Dogs are curious animals that love to participate in everything we do. When it comes to medications, these traits sometimes put them in danger.  According to the Pet Poison Helpline, nearly 50% of all pet poisonings involve human drugs, with pain relievers, antidepressants and heart meds topping the list of common culprits. Do you know what to do if your dog eats human medication?

Whether or not a case of accidental medication ingestion is a serious emergency depends on the type and quantity of the drug. If your 80 pound dog snags a single Benadryl tablet off the floor, he is unly to even feel drowsy, let alone have any ill effects. However, several over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs are harmful or deadly to dogs, even in small amounts.

If your dog eats human medication or any potentially harmful substance, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline Immediately.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Nearly every household has one type of NSAID or another.

This category of drug contains Ibuprofen – which comes under the brand names Advil and Motrin – and Naproxen, which has the brand name, Aleve.

These medications are used to reduce inflammation and pain. While they are quite safe for humans, just one or two pills can cause stomach and intestinal ulcers or even kidney failure in dogs.

Symptoms of Ibuprofen or Naproxen Poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloody vomit
  • Diarrhea
  • Black, tarry stool
  • Inappetance
  • Lethargy
  • Inappropriate urination or thirst
  • Abdominal pain
  • Seizures

While NSAIDs Ibuprofen and Naproxen are harmful, there are several medications approved for veterinary use to help dogs suffering from pain and inflammation.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin)

Acetaminophen is widely known by its popular brand names, Tylenol and Excedrin. It may also be found in over-the-counter medications labeled for cold, flu and allergy symptoms. Used as a safe, effective pain reliever and fever reducer in humans, Acetaminophen can cause liver failure and red blood cell damage in dogs.

Symptoms of Acetaminophen Poisoning:

  • Lethargy
  • Swelling of the face and/or paws
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Brown or blue gums
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Jaundice

Antidepressants (Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, Lexapro)

When a dog eats human medications that fall under the antidepressant category, there are a variety of possible results.

Some of these medications are safe in small quantities, and may be used to help pups dealing with anxiety or behavioral issues. Others cause clinical symptoms ranging from sedation and lethargy to over-stimulation and anorexia.

If your dog ingests a large amount of drug, a condition known as serotonin syndrome may be seen.

Clinical signs of serotonin syndrome include:

  • Central Nervous System sedation or stimulation
  • Vomiting and/or Diarrhea
  • Tremoring
  • Seizures
  • Hyperthermia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dilated pupils

Benzodiazepines & Sleep Aids (Xanax, Klonopin, Ambien, Lunesta)

These medications are designed to help humans sleep and feel less anxious. Strangely enough, they have the opposite effect on about half of the dogs who ingest them. Rather than becoming calm and sedate, they act nervous and agitated. In other dogs, these drugs work a bit too well, causing severe lethargy, incoordination, and slowed breathing.

Symptoms of Benzodiazepine Poisoning:

  • Severe sedation
  • Incoordination
  • Aggression
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Respiratory depression
  • Cardiovascular depression

Blood Pressure Drugs

There are two major types of blood pressure drugs, ACE Inhibitors and Beta-blockers. ACE inhibitors are sometimes used to treat high blood pressure in dogs, and are generally quite safe.

If your dog eats a small amount of this type of medication it may cause low blood pressure, dizziness and weakness, but is not life-threatening.

However, you should still contact your vet, as dogs with kidney failure or heart disease may be more seriously affected.

Beta-blockers, on the other hand, can cause toxic poisoning in dogs. Even small amounts of these drugs can dangerously drop a dog’s blood pressure, leading to heart and kidney failure.

Symptoms of Beta-Blocker Overdose:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Lethargy

Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)

Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine work by constricting the blood vessels in the nose to reduce post-nasal drip. These medications can be very dangerous to dogs, causing symptoms such as vomiting, dilated pupils, severe blood pressure changes (hypertension), abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, and seizures.

Preventing Accidental Medication Ingestion:

Dogs are very resourceful and occasionally accidental ingestions happen. Luckily, there are precautions you can take to reduce your dog’s risks. Dr. Ernie Ward offers the following tips:

  • Never leave any medications on low countertops or tables where a curious canine could access them.
  • Keep your purse high reach if you carry medications inside.
  • Keep all medication and supplement bottles securely closed with childproof caps.
  • If you spill a liquid or topical medicine, immediately and thoroughly clean it up.
  • If you spill your pills, pick them up right away and count them.
  • Never give your dog any kind of medication or start a supplement without first talking with your veterinarian.

While it is not always life-threatening when a dog eats human medication, it should always be treated as such.

 Pets metabolize medications very differently than humans, so even a drug that seems harmless could potentially cause problems.

If your dog ingests any human medication – including vitamins or herbal supplements – call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline’s 24-hour animal poison control center at 855-764-7661 immediately.

H/T to Pet Poison Helpline


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