09 February 2016

Can I Give My Dog or Cat Valium { Diazepam }? What Dose Rate?

I am often asked if it is safe to give Valium { diazepam } to dogs and cats, and what this drug would it be used for in pets, what diseases would it be used to treat? A follow-on from this would be what is a suitable dose rate, and what would be the likely side effects and drug interactions. Some owners also want to know if they can safely give this drug to their dogs and cats without seeing a vet. But let's talk things over in more depth.

1. Valium { Diazepam } is a benzodiazepine class drug which is commonly prescribed for dogs and cats by vets, and as it seems to be a drug which owners sometimes have access to without veterinary prescription so my experience is that valium is also sometimes given to pets on a self-treatment basis without reference to a vet.

2. Valium { diazepam } is, of course, a sedative and one of its primary uses in dogs and cats is as a tranquiliser where stressful events are going to occur such fireworks, it is also used to facilitate minor procedures such as nail clipping in nervous dogs, to treat convulsions and epilepsy and also as a muscle relaxant. In the cat at lower doses it can act as an appetite stimulant and again at lower dose rates it can help control inappropriate behaviour in cats such as urinating in the house or another antisocial behaviour. Finally, some vets use diazepam as part of various anaesthetic protocols.

3. A typical dose rate for Valium in the dog for such things as fireworks-related anxiety would be 0.25 mg per pound of the dog's body weight given orally up to every six hours, this should be given one hour before the event. Higher doses of up to 1 mg per pound of the dog's bodyweight are possible depending on the particular case but it is always wise to start at a lower dose rate and observe the effects.

For cats, the usual dose varies from between 1 to 4 mg per cat as total dose depending on the weight of the cat and the condition it is used for. { Unlike dogs this is not a weight-related calculation but a total dose } Lower doses than 1 mg may be appropriate for antisocial behaviour in the cat since the intention is not to sedate the cat in any way but impart a feeling of well being to reduce anxiety.

4. For minor conditions, Valium is usually given orally but the IV, rectal and intranasal routes are also possible.

5. Drugs of this class are best prescribed by a vet and used under veterinary direction, but my experience is that this is a drug with a very high margin of safety in the dog and cat and with care very little is likely to go wrong where it is given to otherwise healthy animals. That said there are reports of liver damage in a small number of cases following the long-term use of this drug in cats.

6. Where an animal is also being given other drugs then there is a danger of drug interaction and related side effects. If in doubt consult with your vet on this point but such drugs can include other sedatives and tranquillisers, antacids, omeprazole, erythromycin, ketoconazole and digoxin to name but a few.

Finally, valium is not really suited for long-term use unless under direct veterinary supervision.

I hope this article has been of interest to you.

Dr Scott