Concerns regarding the use of psychiatric drugs, including benzodiazepines, in pets and animals, has been on the rise. Psychoactive drugs and sedatives now being marketed to veterinarians—who may not have formal training in neuropsychopharmacology—have no real guidelines other than those recommended in humans, according to Merck Veterinary Manuals:

Anxiolytics, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and mood stabilizers used to treat human behavioral disorders are being used more commonly in veterinary medicine as adjuncts to behavioral modification therapy (also see Principles of Pharmacologic and Natural Treatment for Behavioral Problems). Few veterinary clinical studies have been reported, and guidelines for veterinary use are grounded on therapeutic applications in human medicine. – Merck Veterinary Manual

Unfortunately, like as in other innocent beings such as infants and toddlers – our pets can’t talk to us. So they can’t tell us what sort of adverse effects they’re experiencing as their well-intentioned human owners hide the drugs in a treat or squirt it down their throats through an oral syringe every day. However, as with people, the signs of adverse effects are usually there – or they show up eventually. Unfortunately, these signs of distress may be missed because our pets can’t talk to us. And, it is not in the nature of some species of animals, such as small animals, to show signs of distress. How are we to know?

This makes animal testing and vivisection a cruel practice (especially when it involves inducing a benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome in dogs, for example) which does not condone.

Pups for W-BAD! This pup, Blaise, is supporting their human whose life was greatly impacted by benzodiazepines.

As pharmaceutical companies attempt to recycle (repurpose, re-label) their psychotropic drugs, they are furthering their market aim to include our young, our old, our feeble and our pets, spreading the idea that Fido’s barking or fear during a thunderstorm is abnormal or disordered behavior (it’s not) requiring drugging (it doesn’t – because it’s normal). These animals have been our faithful companions without us poisoning them for eons; we shouldn’t start now.

As with people, long-term success in the treatment of behavioral issues is best approached without using mind-altering and possibly brain-damaging chemicals. And as with people, long-term use of sedatives and other psychoactive substances should be limited to short-term use even in pets with other, non-behavioral health conditions as long-term use can and often does result in tolerance, dependence, adverse effects and a withdrawal syndrome necessitating slow tapering. Many of our pets, such as cats, rabbits, and horses have a very delicate gastrointestinal anatomy – much more fragile than that of humans and other species, even – and this makes the use of benzodiazepines, opiates and other sedatives that can worsen (or cause) GI motility problems a very serious concern in these animals.

When you think about it, it all comes down to the same problems we face in people: using drugs we don’t understand to treat medical conditions we don’t understand with the very real potential to make things worse.

For these reasons, discourages the use of long-term use of benzodiazepines (or any other psychiatric drug for that matter) in animals and in our pets, for treatment, testing or otherwise.

Further reading:

Merck Veterinary Manuals: Tranquilizers, Antidepressants, Sleep Aids, and Anticonvulsants (Toxicity)
Veterinary Medicine: Poisoning of dogs and cats by drugs intended for human use
New York Times: Pill-Popping Pets Prozac for Pets (includes petition against this)
Natural News: FDA approves dangerous new antidepressant drug for dogs