Everyone gets a little nervous sometimes, even our dogs, and when things are severe we may have to give them medicine such as Valium(®) for relief. Valium (diazepam) is a rapidly-absorbed benzodiazepine drug which affects chemicals in the brain to reduce levels of anxiety, often working within 30 minutes. Various methods of administration are available but oral and IV injection are the most effective, with IM, rectal and nasal administration offering a lower rate of absorption. The drug is metabolized in the dog’s liver into three different substances: nordiazepam, temazepam and oxazepam and has a half-life of around 3 hours.

After sustained periods of use abrupt withdrawal is not recommended, which means you will have to taper your pet off of the drug slowly.

Does my dog really need medication?

It’s better to attempt treating your pet’s nervousness using natural remedies and methods first. Our favorite natural treatment option is Anxietrex, a natural remedy which dramatically reduces a dog’s anxiety without risking any of the side effects which Valium can cause.

As well as this you can try massage therapy and address the root cause of your dog’s anxiety if possible. If all of these methods fail to provide relief you should talk to your vet about medication/supplement options. Usually softer substances such as Benadryl® and Zylkene® will be the first port of call, but in severe cases your vet may prescribe diazepam.

For correcting behavior it’s both safer and more effective to use a good training program instead of relying on medicine. We recommend Doggy Dan’s Online Dog Trainer which is a very popular and effective training program. Because it’s online you can complete the training exercises from the comfort of your own home.
 

Dosage For Dogs

 
Note: Speak to your vet before giving Valium to your dog.

Valium can be used to treat many different conditions. For the treatment of separation anxiety the dosage ranges between 0.12 mg/lb up to 1 mg/lb administered orally once per day as needed. The graph below shows a typical dosage of 0.25 mg/lb:
 

Chart of the diazepam dosage for dogs

 
Please see the table below for the guideline dosages for use in the treatment of other conditions:
 

Used for…

Method of administration

Dosage

Cluster Seizures/Status EpilepticusRectal0.23 – 0.9 mg/lb
Sedation (causing it)Oral0.11 mg/lb every 8 hours
Shaker Dog SyndromeOral0.11 mg/lb every 6 to 8 hours
Scotty CrampOral0.23 – 0.9 mg/lb every 8 hours
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)Oral0.07 mg/lb every 8 hours
Functional Urethral ObstructionOral0.9 – 4.5 mg/lb every 8 hours

 
In some cases if the dose is being administered by your vet they will slowly inject the drug intravenously. The dosage may differ in these cases.

Owners should be aware that the sedation response varies greatly from dog to dog and for this reason Valium is not considered to be a very consistent sedative for canine use. Owners are advised to discuss alternate options with their vet.

Why does the dosage seem so high?

The human dosage of diazepam is much lower, so when we see figures higher than we are used to it may cause concern. Due to the way dogs metabolize the substance they require these higher amounts to feel adequate relief from their symptoms.
 

Example: For separation anxiety a 20 lb dog would need 5 mg of diazepam administered orally.

How Safe Is It?

 
Valium is usually safe but for anxiety owners are urged to try natural methods of treatment and softer medication first. Owners should familiarize themselves with the contraindications and drug interactions associated with diazepam prior to use and discuss any possible issues with their vet.

Pregnant/Nursing Dogs: Human trials have shown slight risks associated with the use of diazepam during the first trimester of pregnancy. It is classed as category C for use during pregnancy which means there may be risks but use is possible in significant cases where the benefits outweigh the risks.
 

Guidelines For The Safe Use In Dogs

 
As a prescription drug, diazepam should never be given to your dog without first consulting with your vet. Owners found in possession of the medicine without a prescription may be prosecuted depending on the laws of their country. During the consult with your vet we advise that you discuss the following:
 

  • Whether other medicine your dog is taking could interact with diazepam
  • Whether any medical conditions your dog has could cause issues during treatment
  • Whether there are safer options for relieving your dog’s symptoms
  • Bad reactions your dog has had to benzodiazepines in the past

 
After longer term use, you will need to wean your pet off of the drug. Sudden withdrawal could lead to behavioral problems (for example, aggression) amongst several other symptoms. Your vet will be able to help you with this process. If you need a longer term solution for canine epilepsy you will likely be prescribed phenobarbital instead.
 

What Can It Be Used To Treat?

 
Valium is a benzodiazepine with many possible veterinary applications including the treatment of:
 

  • Anxiety
  • Low appetite
  • Seizures
  • White Shaker Syndrome
  • Scotty Cramp
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

 
It can also be administered as a general sedative though effectiveness is not guaranteed and is administered by some vets prior to anaesthetic.
 

Side Effects

 
Owners should be aware of the following possible side effects associated with the use of Valium:

Common
 

  • Fatigue
  • Impaired coordination
  • Increased appetite

 
Rare
 

  • Hyperactivity

 
Incidence Unknown
 

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Behavioral changes

 
Sudden withdrawal after prolonged use can produce unforeseen behavioral changes, and an intense recurrence of symptoms which were present before treatment.

Overdose:

A Valium overdose could be dangerous. The most common effects are related to CNS depression, and can include:
 

  • Extreme sedation
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Delayed reflexes

 
Hypotension and even cardiac arrest have been noted in very rare human cases but how this translates to dogs is not clear. In all cases where you suspect an overdose you should get in contact with the vet immediately, or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline on (888) 426-4435. Typical methods such as removing the drug from the stomach or binding the drug in the stomach will be used to control cases of overdose. Drugs such as flumazenil may also be used along with several other supportive measures.