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 the recovery period is easier said than done.

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

Poor Cookie was under house arrest to get her iliopsoas muscles to heal. Naturally, strict rest was the mainstay of her treatment. Cookie and strict rest? You haven’t met her.

The moment I heard strict rest, I knew it wouldn’t fly.

Not with Cookie. She needed 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 highly 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 knew that mind games and training games are supposed to tire a dog out just as well as physical exercise. But I also knew, 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.


The orthopedic specialist wasn’t overly surprised and suggested a drug she often uses in her patients and 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. But, of course, there are side effects listed. So 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 of anybody.

What about side effects?

I went and asked every vet I knew.

Some of them had 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 had already found myself. They all tried 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 appears 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 options available for our purpose, I liked this one the most.

More importantly, I was able to get hold of 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.

Trazodone potential side effects include:

  • lethargy
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • sedation
  • incoordination
  • increased aggression
  • increased anxiety

Further reading: Trazodone for Dogs: Dosage, Side Effects, and Alternatives

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 went. 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. So 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 change how the drug was prescribed before talking to Cookie’s vet about it.

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

On the second day, the effect seemed about the same, but by the third day, instead of things leveling out, the impact 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.

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

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

She wasn’t going crazy, wasn’t jumping out of her skin, wasn’t frustrated, and wasn’t depressed. Although, of course, she still could get quite bouncy when she got outside in the cold weather. However, knowing what things would have been like otherwise, the Trazodone seemed to be doing exactly what we needed.

Cookie remained clear-headed and could still enjoy her puzzles and training games.

She didn’t seem overly sedated. She was still curious, interested in things, and excited about things. But she could cope with the activity restrictions.

Related articles:
Canine Iliopsoas Injury: A Common Undiagnosed Injury in Dogs

Further reading:
Trazodone for Dogs: How It Works and Signs Your Dog Needs It

Share your thoughts