Better known by its trade name, Valium, diazepam is a relaxer for humans that may be prescribed for cats for several reasons. Cats suffering from seizures, anxiety or lack of appetite -- or exhibiting behavioral problems such as inappropriate elimination or aggression, -- may receive the drug. Your veterinarian should determine a proper dosage based on your cat's body weight. While giving a small dose of diazepam does not differ from the way you give other pills to your cat, you must take precautions due to the sedative and sometimes paradoxical nature of the medication.
One of the earliest anti-anxiety drugs developed for humans, diazepam is classed pharmacologically as a benzodiazepine. It is available in 2mg, 5mg and 10mg tablets, as well as in injectable form; but your vet is likely to prescribe tablets for at-home administration. You may have to break a tablet in half or in quarters to give a small dose of the drug to your cat.
Storage and Precautions
Store diazepam at room temperature, keeping it in a cabinet or other area away from light. Do not abruptly stop giving diazepam to your cat without contacting your veterinarian, as the cat may suffer difficult withdrawal symptoms if not weaned off the drug gradually. Do not give diazepam to a pregnant cat, a cat you suspect is pregnant or a nursing mother.
Pilling the Cat
Some cats are easy to pill -- others are nearly impossible. Unlike dogs, most cats won't fall for the trick of hiding a pill in meat or cheese, so you'll have to use your fingers or a pill gun to accomplish the task. Because it is a small dose, it may be easier for the cat to swallow. If your cat is cooperative, hold her upright in your arms, open her mouth with your fingers and insert the pill near the back of her throat. Quickly close her mouth. Keep it gently closed with one hand and stroke her throat with the other hand until she swallows. Make sure she has actually swallowed the pill. Observe her for several minutes to see that she is not waiting for a chance to spit it out. Wrap an uncooperative cat in a towel or small blanket so it can't struggle out of your arms or off a table as you try to administer the pill. If the cat bites, try using a pill gun and always wrap the cat for your protection. Insert the pill in the pill gun into the cat's mouth and dispense the pill quickly. Your vet should be able to provide you with a pill gun and demonstrate how to best use it with your cat.
Always watch your cat carefully after administering diazepam. Make sure the cat is in a safe area, where he can't accidentally fall off anything due to uncoordination after receiving the medication. A small percentage of felines react badly to diazepam, with death resulting from kidney and liver damage. Although this drastic and fatal reaction is uncommon, take the fact into consideration when determining whether to use this drug for your cat. Ask your veterinarian if there are safer alternatives if the possibility of this rare reaction concerns you.