By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is oxazepam?

Oxazepam (brand names: Serax®, Novoxapam®, Oxpam®) is a benzodiazepine used to stimulate appetite and to treat behavior-related disorders, such as anxiety and phobias, in conjunction with other therapies.

Its use in cats and dogs to treat behavior-related disorders and to stimulate appetite is ‘off label’ or ‘extra-label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

How is oxazepam given?

Oxazepam is given by mouth in the form of a capsule or tablet. It may also be given in the form of a compounded liquid suspension. It may be given with or without food; however, if vomiting occurs when dosed on an empty stomach, give future doses with food. Measure liquid forms carefully.

If used for behavior triggers, give this medication an hour before the triggering event. Monitor your pet closely the first time this medication is given. If giving long-term, do not stop this medication abruptly as withdrawal can occur.

This medication will take effect quickly, in about 1 to 2 hours, and improvement in clinical signs should follow.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

Give the missed dose as soon as you remember, and then wait the recommended amount of time between doses. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

The most common side effect is sleepiness. Other side effects include drooling, increased appetite, incoordination, excitability, vocalization, or aggression. Serious side effects include seizures or yellowing of the skin, gums, or eyes, lack of appetite, or continued vomiting.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Do not use oxazepam in pets that are allergic to it or other benzodiazepines, nursing pets, or those that have glaucoma. Use oxazepam cautiously in pets with myasthenia gravis, seizures, kidney disease, or liver disease. Use cautiously in cats. Oxazepam should be used with caution in pregnant, older, sick, or debilitated pets.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with oxazepam: central nervous system depressant drugs, phenytoin, probenecid, rifampin, St. John’s wort, or theophyllines.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working. Monitor your pet at home for serious side effects.

How do I store oxazepam?

Store this medication at room temperature, protected from direct sunlight.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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