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Retrospective evaluation of the effects of diazepam in dogs with anxiety-related behavior problems

Meghan E. Herron DVM1, Frances S. Shofer PhD2, and Ilana R. Reisner DVM, PhD, DACVB3
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  • 1 Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.
  • | 3 Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize the effects of diazepam in dogs with behavior problems and to determine whether adverse effects were of sufficient concern to owners to prompt drug discontinuation.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—37 dogs and their owners.

Procedures—Dogs for which diazepam had been prescribed by the behavior service of a veterinary teaching hospital from July 2005 through June 2007 were identified. Owners were interviewed via telephone to obtain data on dose and frequency of administration of diazepam, effectiveness, adverse effects, and, when applicable, reasons for discontinuing the drug.

Results—Diazepam was described as very (24% [9/37]) or somewhat (43% [16/37]) effective by most owners. At the time of the interview, 18 (49%) owners reported that they were still administering diazepam to their dogs. For the remainder, reasons for discontinuation included adverse effects (58% [11/19]) and lack of efficacy (53% [10/19]). Reported adverse effects included sedation, increased appetite, ataxia, agitation, increased activity, and aggression. Owners administering diazepam to ameliorate fear of thunderstorms (24% [9/37]) were more likely to view diazepam as effective than were owners of dogs that received it for separation anxiety (54% [20/37]). Owners of dogs that received ≥ 0.8 mg of diazepam/kg (0.36 mg/lb) were more likely to report increased activity as an adverse effect than were owners of dogs that received < 0.8 mg/kg.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Adverse effects of diazepam in dogs were commonly reported and often led to drug discontinuation. Owner education and follow-up is recommended to avoid treatment failure when prescribing diazepam for anxiety-related behavior problems in dogs.

Abstract

Objective—To characterize the effects of diazepam in dogs with behavior problems and to determine whether adverse effects were of sufficient concern to owners to prompt drug discontinuation.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample Population—37 dogs and their owners.

Procedures—Dogs for which diazepam had been prescribed by the behavior service of a veterinary teaching hospital from July 2005 through June 2007 were identified. Owners were interviewed via telephone to obtain data on dose and frequency of administration of diazepam, effectiveness, adverse effects, and, when applicable, reasons for discontinuing the drug.

Results—Diazepam was described as very (24% [9/37]) or somewhat (43% [16/37]) effective by most owners. At the time of the interview, 18 (49%) owners reported that they were still administering diazepam to their dogs. For the remainder, reasons for discontinuation included adverse effects (58% [11/19]) and lack of efficacy (53% [10/19]). Reported adverse effects included sedation, increased appetite, ataxia, agitation, increased activity, and aggression. Owners administering diazepam to ameliorate fear of thunderstorms (24% [9/37]) were more likely to view diazepam as effective than were owners of dogs that received it for separation anxiety (54% [20/37]). Owners of dogs that received ≥ 0.8 mg of diazepam/kg (0.36 mg/lb) were more likely to report increased activity as an adverse effect than were owners of dogs that received < 0.8 mg/kg.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Adverse effects of diazepam in dogs were commonly reported and often led to drug discontinuation. Owner education and follow-up is recommended to avoid treatment failure when prescribing diazepam for anxiety-related behavior problems in dogs.

Contributor Notes

The authors thank Katherine Magliente and Melissa Jones for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Herron.