Overview of Diazepam for Canines and Felines
- Diazepam, commonly known as Valium®, is used as a sedative and depresses the brain in dogs and cats. Exactly how the drug works in dogs and cats is uncertain, but it is thought to reduce serotonin levels and reduce acetylcholine levels.
- Diazepam is a controlled substance Accordingly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States (and similar regulatory agencies in other countries) strictly control these drugs. Controlled drugs are classified into categories (“schedules”) based on abuse potential. These drugs require a prescription by a veterinarian with an appropriate DEA license, and any refills are tightly controlled and regulated. and can only be prescribed by a veterinarian.
- Diazepam is classified as a benzodiazepine class drug. Related drugs include midazolam, clonazepam, clorazepate, and alprazolam.
- Diazepam 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 but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.
Brand Names and Other Names of Diazepam
- This drug is registered for use in humans only.
- Human formulations: Valium® (Roche) and other generic names.
- Veterinary formulations: None
Uses of Diazepam for Dogs and Cats
- In animals, diazepam is given as a sedative, to treat convulsions, to manage excitement or as a muscle relaxant.
- Diazepam is often used with other drugs to ease an animal in and out of anesthesia.
- In some animals, particularly cats, diazepam in small doses has been used to increase appetite and treat behavior problems such as urine spraying or aggression.
Precautions and Side Effects
- While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, diazepam can cause side effects in some animals.
- Diazepam should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
- Diazepam may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with diazepam. Such drugs include cimetidine, antacids, omeprazole, erythromycin, rifampin, antifungal drugs such as ketoconazole and itraconazole, propranolol, narcotics, barbiturates, digoxin, dexamethasone, and certain antibiotics.
- Diazepam can cause sedation and disorientation in animals; they may become uncoordinated and weak.
- In some animals, however, diazepam causes the paradoxical drug reaction of excitement.
- Although rare, diazepam can cause a severe liver problem in cats that can be fatal. This adverse effect should be carefully considered before administering diazepam to cats, especially on a long-term or recurrent basis. If a cat taking diazepam becomes excessively depressed, vomits, stops eating or becomes jaundiced (yellow) while receiving diazepam, a veterinarian should be contacted immediately.
- Diazepam should not be administered to animals long-term without discussing the potential for side effects with your veterinarian. Long-term treatment also can lead to dependence that could bring undesirable behavior changes once the drug is discontinued.
- Diazepam is a controlled drug because it has high abuse potential in people. This drug, if prescribed for animals, should be carefully monitored and kept in a secure location.
- Diazepam is deactivated by light and adheres to plastic. Therefore it should be stored in a dark glass vial at room temperature.
- Dogs and cats receiving valium may have false positive urine glucose tests and may test positive for ethylene glycol (antifreeze) testing.
How Diazepam Is Supplied
- Diazepam tablets are available in 2 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg tablets. An oral solution is available in 1 mg/ml and 5 mg/ml concentrations. There also is a 5 mg/ml solution for injection.
Dosing Information of Diazepam for Dogs and Cats
- Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
- The typical dose administered to dogs is 0.25 to 1 mg per pound (0.5 to 2 mg/kg) and 0.25 to 0.5 mg per pound (0.5 to 1 mg/kg) in cats, intravenous as needed or as often as every six hours or as a constant rate infusion (a slow drip through the intravenous line).
- Diazepam has been administered as a liquid solution into the rectum or by intranasal (in the nose) routes in the dog having convulsions (because other routes of administration are difficult to use in this instance). The dose is higher, 0.5 to 1 mg per pound (1 – 2 mg/kg). The injectable diazepam solution is used in these instances. Dog owners with a history of seizures are commonly sent home with diazepam to use for uncontrolled seizures.
- Diazepam has been administered to cats at a dose of 1 to 4 mg per cat orally every 12 to 24 hours.
- 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.