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BRAND NAME: DIASTAT, VALIUM
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 in anesthetic protocols.
Examples of more specific uses for diazepam include:
HOW THIS MEDICATION WORKS
Diazepam is a psychoactive drug of the benzodiazepine class. It works by altering the receptor for an inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA. The result is enhanced GABA binding to the receptor with resulting sedation, muscle relaxation, and resolution of anxiety.
The oral form of this medication is primarily used in dogs though injectable forms can be used as nasal or rectal liquids for emergency seizure control in the home setting. The oral form has been problematic for cats as some individual cats develop a serious liver reaction within 5-11 days of beginning treatment. Because of this reaction, usually other oral medication choices are selected for feline patients. Injectable forms do not seem to have this issue.
Oral diazepam can be given with or without food and if a dose is accidentally skipped, the next dose should be given as planned without doubling up. As for injectable solutions used nasally or rectally, your veterinarian should provide you with instructions about re-dosing should seizures continue after one administration.
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; further, undesired sedating effects are certainly reported when this medication is used. Some animals paradoxically get hyperexcited 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 the area on anorexia for better options.
In the cat, cases of liver failure have been reported after several days use of diazepam. This reaction is unpredictable in a given cat so it is important to check a cat's liver enzymes prior to the institution of diazepam therapy 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 a consideration, better medicines (that do not have liver reaction potential, have more convenient dosing and less sedation) have supplanted its use. For this reason, oral use of diazepam in the cat is no longer recommended.
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 effect of diazepam.
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 therapy abruptly may lead to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms similar to those that occur in humans.
Diazepam should not be used in early pregnancy; birth defects have been reported.
Diazepam also crosses readily into the milk of nursing mothers and may tranquilize nursing young. Diazepam should thus not be used in nursing mothers.
DIAZEPAM IS A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE
Short version (to help us comply with "Lizzie's Law")
Page last updated: 10/29/2020