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Benzodiazepine Use in Dogs

Benzodiazepine is a long word, but very simply, it’s a class of psychoactive drugs. Diazepam is one of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines by veterinarians, along with lorazepam, clonazepam and alprazolam. If your dog is taking a benzodiazepine, it may be to control seizures or to help with anxiety issues.




Benzodiazepine Use in Dogs

Sometimes all the love, attention and training in the world isn’t quite enough to help your dog cope with a situation. Though behavior modification helps your dog respond to stress in a healthy, appropriate manner, occasionally medication can help get him over the hump. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety or thunderstorm (or other loud noise) phobias, a benzodiazepine may help your dog cope.


Benzodiazepines to Calm

Benzodiazepines are available by prescription through your veterinarian, in a variety of forms depending on the drug. They’re useful for a host of conditions; for example, diazepam is often used as a sedative to transition a dog in and out of anesthesia.

Alprazolam is helpful for managing anxiety, such as that prompted by car trips or thunderstorms, while clonazepam serves a similar purpose, but also is helpful to treat sleep disorders in dogs. Occasionally they’re called into use for controlling epileptic seizures, however they’re generally reserved for emergency treatment as long-term use decreases their effectiveness at managing seizures.


Side Effects of Benzodiazepines

The most common side effect from benzodiazepines tends to be sedation. Weakness, loss of coordination and disorientation are other common effects. Occasionally a dog may experience what is referred to as a paradoxical reaction, becoming agitated or excited. Depending on the drug, a dog also may become more aggressive and hypersalivate.


Use With Care

Veterinary oversight is critical when using benzodiazepines since their long-term use can lead to dependence. As well, they may interact with a variety of other medications, including narcotics, barbiturates and some antibiotics. Dogs with liver disease, glaucoma and muscular weakness should avoid certain types of benzodiazepines, which also can increase the risk of birth defects in pregnant dogs.


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