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THE PET PHARMACY
By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP
Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com

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Diazepam (Valium)

Brand Name: Valium, Diastat

Available in 2 mg, 5 mg and 10 mg tablets, and injectable

Uses of this Medication

There are many uses for this medication since it is effective as an anti-anxiety medication, a muscle relaxant, an appetite stimulant, and a seizure control drug. The injectable form of diazepam is often used with anesthesia.

Examples of more specific uses for diazepam include:

  • Treatment of seizure disorders (as an injectable, anal suppository, or even nasally during an emergency, or orally for long-term seizure management in cats although there is some controversy with this use, as discussed later)
  • Treatment of "Scotty cramp" and other muscle cramping diseases
  • Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome
  • Post urinary blockage in cats
  • Appetite stimulation, especially in cats
  • Treatment of inappropriate urination due to territorial anxiety in cats
  • Panic disorders, such as thunderstorm or fireworks phobias in dogs
  • As a muscle relaxant in snail bait poisoning or in other situations of extreme involuntary muscle contraction.

How this Medication Works

Despite the widespread use of this medication in the human field, it is still unclear exactly how this medication is able to affect the brain. It is a psychoactive drug of the benzodiazepine class. It was one of the first anti-anxiety drugs used but because of its sedating properties it is best used for short-term situations rather than long-term anxiety states.

Side Effects

As with many medications, it is difficult to sort out the side effects from the desired effects since there are many uses for this drug. Diazepam is rarely used as a tranquilizer for animals as it simply is not very long lasting and not very reliable; furthermore, undesired sedating effects are reported when this medication is used.  Some animals paradoxically get hyper excited on diazepam.

Diazepam is sometimes used as an appetite stimulant but its sedating properties preclude it from being the drug of choice for this purpose. See anorexia for better options.

In cats, cases of liver failure have been reported after several days use. This reaction is unpredictable in a given cat so it is important to check a cat's liver enzymes prior to taking diazepam and to recheck them a few days after. The idea is that if the enzymes are stable, the cat in question will not be reactive to the drug. That said, for most situations where diazepam might be considered, better medicines that do not have liver reaction potential, have more convenient dosing and less sedation have supplanted its use. For this reason, the use of diazepam in cats has become somewhat controversial.

Interactions with Other Drugs

Diazepam may have a stronger than expected effect if used in conjunction with cimetidine (an antacid more commonly known as Tagamet®), omeprazole (an antacid more commonly known as Prilosec®), erythromycin (an antibiotic), ketoconazole or other "azole" antifungal drugs, fluoxetine (an anti-anxiety medication), or propranolol (a heart medication).

Antacids may slow the onset of diazepam's effect.

The use of diazepam may increase the effect of digoxin, a heart medication, and of amitriptyline, an anti-anxiety medication.

Concerns and Cautions

This medication should be stored at room temperature and protected from light.

Urine dipsticks that measure glucose may be falsely negative in patients taking diazepam.

Discontinuing diazepam abruptly may lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms similar to those that occur in humans.

Diazepam should not be used in early pregnancy as birth defects have been reported.

Diazepam also crosses readily into the milk of nursing mothers and may tranquilize nursing young, so it should not be used in nursing mothers.

Diazepam is a controlled substance and specific records must be kept by doctors prescribing it.

It is our policy not to give dosing information over the Internet.

 

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