What is Valium?
It is also known as its generic name, diazepam.Valium is a name brand of the drug and it is frequently prescribed for insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, and anxiety. It can also be prescribed for neurological diseases, irritable bowel disease, seizures, and tremors.
You may ask why valium is used for dogs. The same reasons, to be honest. Dogs aren’t likely to have an alcohol addiction problem but they may have been on benzos which are addictive and valium may have been prescribed to help them through the withdrawals. Dogs are also prone to anxiety and panic if they’ve had a traumatic experience and sometimes even if they’ve never had one. They may be genetically predisposed to these issues, especially anxiety.
Dogs with seizures have been prescribed Valium to help reduce the spasms that cause the seizures and to relax the muscles afterward. When you’ve suffered a seizure, it is common to have cramping and sore muscles after. Valium can help with this condition.
Valium wasn’t developed for dogs, it was developed for humans but, like many medications, has been found to be useful for animals as well. Sadly, Valium is addictive and is often abused. It can give people a euphoric relaxation and many will use it for social anxiety and become dependent upon it. It is also addictive to animals that are on it for too long.
In dogs, Valium works to block the neurotransmitters in the brain that cause excitement and overstimulation, leading to anxiety. Because it works in the brain, this medication is relatively strong and it works quickly. It is often given before medical procedures that may cause severe stress to the dog. Some dogs quickly lose their grip as soon as they walk into a veterinarian’s office. If they need their nails clipped and it is so stressful to them that they begin panting, barking, snapping and could cause harm to themselves or staff, they may well be given a shot of Valium to help them get through the visit.
This once-in-a-while use of Valium is not addictive and you can be assured that it is only administered when the doctor is concerned for your dog’s stress levels and the potential harm they can suffer from the experience, both physically and emotionally.
Valium’s immediate effect is drowsiness. You may see a very combative dog lay down and get tired within a few moments after Valium has been administered. They may pant when given a shot of Valium as it overtakes them and makes them drowsy.
If your dog is on regular pills at home, for a specific condition, some of the more common side-effects that you might see include:
- Low Energy – Your dog may begin sleeping more and have less interest in some of the activities that he used to enjoy. Naps will be more common. He may develop a total lack of desire to participate in normal daily activities and be unwilling to participate in many things. He could also suffer from a lack of coordination. Your dog may begin stumbling, running into things, falling, and not be the graceful creature that he once was. This is an unfortunate side effect that makes dogs seem as if they are working in slow motion. Be careful with this condition and if your dog is not waking from sleep, falling into a coma is a symptom of overdose that you should watch for. Never assume he is just asleep.
- Behavior Changes – Some dogs can become aggressive and quite irritable. They might also develop pawing and licking behaviors that are uncharacteristic. He may experience an overstimulated appetite and seem to be hungry all of the time. When combined with being low energy, this leads to weight gain and needs to be managed. Some dogs get very irritable. Some dogs just seem depressed and lethargic. Watch your dog and speak to your veterinarian about changes in behavior.
- Slowed Breathing – Valium is meant to help regulate breathing and slow it down in response to panic and anxiety, which increase heart rate. That said, be careful with Valium and never use more than prescribed. There is a danger of cardiac arrest if breathing is too slow or stops completely.
- Vomiting and Diarrhea – This is a side-effect that is common whenever you introduce anything new to the body. Monitor it closely and call your vet if it lasts more than a few days. Make sure that your dog continues to drink plenty of water and keep clean, fresh water down at all times.
- Withdrawals – If medication is discontinued, you must step it down slowly. If you accidentally forget a dose, you can cause your dog to have withdrawal symptoms as well. Monitor the use of Valium closely, don’t skip doses, and speak to your veterinarian about any changes in medications or dosages.
- Allergic Reactions – Changes in breathing, whining, yelping, etc can all be signs of reactions to the medication. Watching your dog closely and knowing what is normal for him is absolutely critical to understanding changes that can be a result of new medications. You should always watch your dog closely and make a note of any changes. If something like breathing changes, gets raspy or labored, see your veterinarian immediately to ensure that your dog is able to breathe.
- Drug Interactions – Valium doesn’t mix well with some other medications and over-the-counter medications. Please, speak with your veterinarian about all medicines and OTC drugs that you give your dog. Include herbal remedies and flea control medications so that it can be determined if Valium will be safe.
Consider Other Routes First
While Valium is an acceptable means to calm an animal in a medical room scenario or an animal about to encounter their first long flight or ride, it shouldn’t be the first thing you try when general anxiety is the issue.
Many dogs simply lack the exercise and mental stimulation that they need to keep from being bored and having pent-up energy. If you have a dog that races around the living room, bouncing off the furniture, this is a general lack of exercise and you’d do him a much greater service to do more for his need for physical stimulation.
For dogs that seem to have obsessions with window barking, work with a good dog trainer to help you redirect their behavior and learn about puzzle games and toys that will help expand the mental focus of your dog.
Dogs are like 3 to 5-year-old children. They get bored and they need something to do. When they are bored and have nothing but time on their hands, they can be a bit obsessive compulsive, which presents as anxiety in most cases. Some dogs will chew on their own feet out of boredom. Some dogs will sit in a window and lose their minds over anything that moves. Others will become aggressive and irritable because they are frustrated with their situation.
The dog needs mental stimulation as much as they need physical exercise. When you give them challenges to focus on, it is like handing a child a coloring book. They have a constructive thing to focus on and forget about their other previous obsessions for a while. As you learn to redirect them, they learn to be calm around new things, ignore distractions and become better behaved.
If you work with a good dog trainer, you’ll find that dogs can make amazing progress in just a few weeks and you should try these solutions before resorting to drugs that can have a derogatory effect overall. Everything has its place, with Valium being no exception, but it should never be the first option simply because there are risks associated with using it. Think carefully about how to address your dog’s needs in the way that is best for his health and happiness.
Valium may change his personality and cause medical issues later on. Training may seem like an expensive or time-consuming endeavor, but once you get through it, you’ll find that it was worth the time. It should be noted that sometimes medication for the dog during training works well for the extreme cases, particularly with aggression. Sometimes it is necessary for safety to use the medication but as training makes progress, you may gradually reduce the medication and the outcome may be that you don’t need the meds anymore, or a very low dose.
Dawn Greer is a passionate blogger and animal rights activist. She is a pet lover, certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, pet nutritionist, and former veterinary technician. She continues her work while writing blogs for pet lovers around the globe.