Dog Recovery Chemical Restraint: Our Use of Trazodone during Cookie’s Iliopsoas Injury Recovery

Strict rest at first, and limited activity thereafter are essential to successful recovery from injury or surgery.

Keeping an active dog for re-injuring themselves during recovery period is easier said than done.

Dog Recovery Chemical Restraint: Our Use of Trazodone during Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Recovery

Cookie’s recovery from iliopsoas injury

Poor Cookie is under house arrest to get her iliopsoas muscles to heal. Strict rest is the mainstay of her treatment. Cookie and strict rest? Clearly you haven’t met her.

The moment I heard strict rest, I knew it wasn’t going to fly.

Not with Cookie. She needs a minimum of three hours of activity a day to be content. After the last event, we reduced it to two hours and she was already bouncing off the walls. Getting no exercise at all? That was not happening. Not without her jumping out of her skin and losing her mind. She’d be extremely wound up, frustrated and likely depressed.

Right there and then I voiced this concern.

The need to facilitate exercise restrictions

Cookie on strict rest was not going to happen without some serious chemical help.

I know that mind games and training games are supposed to tire a dog out just as well as physical exercise. But I also know, from the few days last Winter when temperatures dropped so low that even Cookie couldn’t spend more than 10 minutes outside, that no amount of those could cut it. And that was only one day at the time AND she was getting a few of the ten-minute runs outside.

As much as I hate drugs, this wasn’t happening without some.

Trazodone

The orthopedic specialist wasn’t overly surprised and suggested a drug she uses often in her patients as well as for her own dog – Trazodone. That sounded good. Of course, being a diligent mom, I asked about potential side effects to which I was told there weren’t any.

When I came home, though, I looked it up and, of course, there are side effects listed. I was supposed to start Cookie on this right away but I wasn’t going to do that until I had a chance to discuss the side effects issue. And I wasn’t able to get hold off anybody.

What about side effects?

I went and asked every vet I know.

Some of them never heard of it, some of them had another preference but most thought it was a good drug. Some of them directed me to an article that I have already found myself. They all tried really hard to help me out.

From all that digging I gathered that Trazodone for this purpose seems to be a drug of choice for most surgeons. It also seems to be a drug of choice for many veterinary behaviorists. Trazodone is an antidepressant but it has also been used to calm post-surgical dogs. From the three choices available for our purpose, I did like this one the most.

More importantly, I was able to get hold off Jasmine’s vet and it turned out that he’s been using it for many of his post-op patients for 11 months now. He discussed the potential side effects with me in detail and we covered every last one of them. From his own experience, he had only one complaint where the owners felt the dog was too sedated and instead of having the dose adjusted they opted to withdraw the use altogether.

Sedation is a side effect? I thought it was the goal

Sedation was the least of my worries.

I was finally comfortable enough to try giving one dose and see how it goes. We did that in the morning, just in case something did crop up, so it would be easy enough to see the vet.

Dog Recovery Chemical Restraint: Our Use of Trazodone during Cookie's Iliopsoas Injury Recovery

Cookie was prescribed 75 mg every 12 hours.

About 40 minutes later it seemed to have kicked in. My concern was that Cookie seemed unsteady on her feet. I was worried that the dose might be too high for her and that being this wobbly she might further injure the muscles we were trying to treat.

Also, about 7 hours later the effect seemed to have worn off completely. And there were still 5 hours to go. I felt the dosage and distribution should be reconsidered.

Should it work like this?

There were some technical difficulties contacting Cookie’s vet but Jasmine’s vet, as always, was there for us again. He said that often it takes a couple of days to get things on an even keel and that’d he leave things as they are for now.

I didn’t want to arbitrarily make any changes to how the drug was prescribed before talking to Cookie’s vet about it.

We continued the Trazodone as prescribed while I was trying to get hold of her.

The second day the effect seemed about the same but by the third day, instead of things leveling out, the effect of the drug seemed to have worn off after five hours instead of the previous seven.

Should the dose be adjusted?

I was convinced we needed to make adjustments.

Finally, I made it through the technical issues and got to talk to Cookie’s vet. I explained my observations and concerns and we agreed on adjusting the administration to 3x daily while looking for a minimum effective dose.

We started with 50 mg 3x daily. But that was not enough so we ended up giving 75 mg 3x daily which now seems to be the ideal dose and distribution for Cookie.

Trazodone was an important part of Cookie’s successful recovery

I have to say that I’m quite thankful for this drug.

Other than the unsteadiness the first two days, Cookie hasn’t been having any side effects. And this drug helps her to remain at peace with the sudden lack of exercise and fun.

She isn’t going crazy, isn’t jumping out of her skin, isn’t frustrated and isn’t depressed. She still can get quite bouncy when she gets outside in the cold weather but knowing what things would have been like otherwise, the Trazodone seems to be doing exactly what we needed.

Cookie remains clear-headed and can still enjoy her puzzles and training games.

She doesn’t seem overly sedated. She’s still curious, interested in things and excited about things. But she is able to cope with the activity restrictions.

Categories: Chemical restraintConditionsDog careIliopsoas injuriesReal-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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