Oxazepam for Dogs

Molly Price, DVM
By Molly Price, DVM on Nov. 13, 2023
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PetMD’s medications content was written and reviewed by veterinary professionals to answer your most common questions about how medications function, their side effects, and what species they are prescribed for. This content shouldn’t take the place of advice by your vet.

What Is Oxazepam?

Oxazepam is a prescription medication used to relieve anxiety in dogs. It is often given an hour before an anxiety-inducing event such as separation or a trigger, such as loud noises (fireworks, alarms, construction work, vacuum cleaners).

Oxazepam is still used today, but veterinarians typically opt for newer medications in its drug class such as diazepam. Caution is advised when considering using oxazepam in cats due to reports of liver toxicity.

Oxazepam is FDA-approved for human use as generic oxazepam. The brand name Serax® has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Oxazepam is currently not FDA-approved as a veterinary medication. However, it is sometimes utilized in the veterinary field, and veterinarians can legally prescribe certain human drugs in animals in certain circumstances. This is called extra-label or off-label use because this use isn’t described on the drug label.

In certain circumstances, your vet may recommend a compounded formulation of oxazepam. Compounded medications are prescribed if there’s a specific reason your pet’s health can’t be managed by an FDA-approved drug, such as if your pet has trouble taking pills in capsule form, the dosage strength is not commercially available, or the pet is allergic to an ingredient in the FDA-approved medication.

Compounded medications are not FDA-approved. They are created by either a veterinarian or a licensed pharmacist on an individual basis to best suit a patient’s particular needs. You can learn more about compounded medications here.

Oxazepam is classified as a DEA Schedule IV controlled substance. As such, this may affect the prescribing, dispensing, and refilling of this medication due to federal and state law. Likewise, it is illegal for you to consume, sell, or give away your pet’s oxazepam.

Oxazepam Considerations

Oxazepam should not be used in pets with certain medical conditions, such as liver disease, kidney disease, glaucoma, in pregnant or breeding pets, in sick or debilitated pets, or in pets who are hypersensitive to it.

Giving oxazepam with certain medications can result in health risks to your pet, so it is important to discuss your pet’s medications, including vitamins and supplements, and medical conditions with your veterinarian.

Oxazepam often causes dogs to feel sleepy and groggy, so it may not be an ideal choice for working or assistance dogs because it can reduce their awareness.

It is also important to note that there is a chance oxazepam may cause overexcitement and behaviors that are opposite what would be expected. Your veterinarian will determine whether this medication is right for your pet, based on your pet’s symptoms and circumstances.

How Oxazepam Works

Oxazepam is classified as a benzodiazepine. It enhances the activity of certain chemical messengers in the brain that are responsible for slowing down, stabilizing, and calming the nervous system. This causes sedation and muscle relaxation.

Oxazepam Directions

Follow the directions on the drug label or as provided by your veterinarian.

Oxazepam can be given with or without food, but giving it with food can decrease the risk of digestive upset.

If your veterinarian recommends that you discontinue oxazepam in your pet for any reason, it is important to closely follow your veterinarian’s recommendations on how to wean your pet off this medication. Abruptly stopping oxazepam after your pet has been on it for a long time may cause your pet to experience withdrawal symptoms.

Missed a Dose?

Speak with your veterinarian about what to do if you forget to give a dose of oxazepam. Generally, they may instruct you to give it when you remember, or if it is almost time for your pet’s next dose, to skip the missed dose and resume your normal dosing schedule. Do not give extra or double doses.

Oxazepam Possible Side Effects

Common side effects of oxazepam may include:

  • Grogginess and low energy

  • Loss of balance

  • Drooling

  • Overexcitement

  • Increased appetite

Administering oxazepam in cats is controversial, and it must be used cautiously as life-threatening liver toxicity can occur. Signs of liver injury may include jaundice (yellowing of the whites of the eyes, gums, and skin), weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness.

Oxazepam should not be used in pets with a known hypersensitivity to the medication.

Human Side Effects

Oxazepam is also a prescription medication for humans, frequently with dosages different from those prescribed for your pet by a veterinarian. Due to its possible side effects, humans should never use any medicine dispensed for their pets and pets should not be given any medicine dispensed for a human’s use.

In people, oxazepam can cause injury and death to a developing fetus. If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breast-feeding, ensure that you do not ingest this medication, or talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of administering an alternative medication to your pet.

If you accidentally ingest this medication, immediately call your physician or the national Poison Control Center hotline at 800-222-1222.

Call Your Vet If:

  • Severe side effects are seen (see above)

  • You see or suspect an overdose

  • You have additional questions or concerns about the use of oxazepam

Oxazepam Overdose Information

Signs of an oxazepam overdose in pets are typically related to the nervous system, such as decreased muscle reflexes, confusion, or coma.

If you suspect an overdose, immediately contact your veterinarian, seek emergency veterinary care, or call an animal poison control center. Consultation fees often apply.

Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764-7661

ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888) 426-4435

Oxazepam Storage

Always confirm storage requirements by reading the prescription label.

Oxazepam should be stored at a controlled temperature, approximately 77 F. Brief exposure to temperatures from 59 to 86 F are permitted.

Keep the container tightly closed in order to protect its contents from moisture and light.

Compounded medications should be stored according to the compounding pharmacy’s label.

Keep out of reach of children and pets.

Oxazepam for Dogs FAQS

Is oxazepam safe for pets?

Oxazepam can be used safely in dogs, but under very specific circumstances and only under direct supervision by their veterinarian. It should not be used in dogs with certain medical conditions and can interact with some types of prescription medications. Caution is advised when considering using oxazepam in cats, due to reports of liver toxicity.

No vet writer or qualified reviewer has received any compensation from the manufacturer of the medication as part of creating this article. All content contained in this article is sourced from public sources or the manufacturer.

Featured Image: SeventyFour/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Molly Price, DVM


Molly Price, DVM


Dr. Molly Price has practiced small animal medicine for over 20 years and is a graduate of Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. She...

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