Diazepam (Valium®) has many uses in both dogs and cats and is a commonly used medication. Diazepam is effective as an anti-anxiety medication, a muscle relaxant, an appetite stimulant, and as a medication to control seizure activity.
Diazepam (Valium®) Usages in the Dog and Cat
Because of the variety of different effects that diazepam has, it can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions.
- It is sometimes used to control seizures and epilepsy, especially in cats. It is also used to control status epilepticus (a non-ending seizure) or cluster seizures (two or more seizures that occur in a short period of time and do not allow your pet time to recover between seizures). In these cases, it can be administered intravenously at the veterinary hospital or rectally by the pet owner at home before transport to an emergency facility.
- Diazepam can be used to treat muscle cramping disorders, such as "Scotty cramp."
- Irritable bowel syndrome is sometimes treated with diazepam to help relieve pain and discomfort.
- Pain from sources such as intervertebral disk disease (a "slipped disk" in the back) is also sometimes treated with diazepam.
- Cats with urethral (urinary) blockages can also benefit from both the pain relief and muscle relaxant effects of diazepam.
- Diazepam is frequently used as an appetite stimulant. Its use is especially common in cats. However, the sedative effects of diazepam often negate the appetite stimulation and there may be other medications which are more appropriately used as an appetite stimulant.
- Diazepam is also used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. Examples include cats that urinate outside of the litter box as a result of stress in the environment and dogs that suffer from fear of thunderstorms, fireworks, or other situations.
- Certain toxicities that result in tremors, seizures or other abnormal muscle contractions may also benefit from treatment with diazepam.
- Diazepam is frequently used in the veterinary hospital as part of the anesthetic protocol as well.
Considerations for Using Diazepam in Dogs and Cats
Diazepam can interact with many different medications, including antacids such as cimetidine (Tagamet®), heart medications such as propranolol and digoxin, antibiotics such as erythromycin, antifungal medications such as ketoconazole, and other medications.
If diazepam needs to be used in conjunction with these medications, the dosage may need to be altered. Always make your veterinarian aware of any other medications your pet is receiving.
Diazepam should not be used in pregnant or nursing females. The drug may adversely affect the unborn fetuses or the nursing puppies or kittens.
In cats, liver failure can occur as a result of using diazepam. Blood tests to evaluate your cat's liver enzymes should be performed prior to starting diazepam and a few days after the drug started. If increases in the liver enzymes occur, diazepam should be discontinued.
If your pet has been receiving diazepam, it is not a good idea to suddenly stop giving the medication. This may lead to withdrawal symptoms.
Diazepam should be used cautiously in aggressive animals as it can sometimes cause a contradictory reaction in which the animal actually becomes more excitable and difficult to manage.
Source: Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook, 6th edition, Donald C Plumb