Sleep Aid Toxicosis (Benzodiazepines) in Dogs

Published on
Last updated on
3 min read

Key takeaways

Sleep aid toxicosis is a form of poisoning due to overdose or incorrect administration of benzodiazepines.

  • Benzodiazepines are a medication prescribed in dogs and humans to treat anxiety, seizures, and to correct behavioral issues such as phobias
  • In cases of overdose, these medications can affect the nervous system and cause slowed heart and breathing rates
  • Common symptoms include weakness, confusion, aggression, increased thirst and urination, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and lack of coordination
  • The diagnostic process consists of a complete physical examination, thorough history, and screen drug testing of blood and urine
  • Treatment depends on the severity of intoxication and might involve inducing vomiting, flushing the stomach, supportive therapy, administering antidotes or reversal agents, and administering activated charcoal
Are you concerned?

Connect with a vet to get more information about your pet’s health.

Book an online vet

A closer look: Sleep Aid Toxicosis (Benzodiazepines) in Dogs

Benzodiazepine toxicosis is an uncommon condition and usually happens due to accidental exposure.

Severe cases can be life-threatening and immediate veterinary care is necessary.

With appropriate treatment and symptomatic care, the prognosis is excellent and no long-term complications are expected.

Risk factors

In severe cases, dogs can go into cardiovascular and pulmonary depression making it difficult to pump blood and breathe properly.

Possible causes

Benzodiazepine toxicosis is usually due to accidental exposure in dogs. It can also be caused by inappropriate administration of a prescribed drug.

Main symptoms

The first reaction to an overdose of benzodiazepines is excitement followed by depression.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics include medical history, physical examination, and observation of the symptoms. Drug screening, testing blood and urine, is usually necessary to confirm the diagnosis, especially in cases where exposure is not in the history.

Steps to Recovery

Treatment is focused on removing and inhibiting absorption of the drugs in the gastrointestinal tract, followed symptomatic relief.

Treatment varies according to the severity of the intoxication and might include:

  • Inducing vomiting
  • Flushing the stomach
  • Administration of activated charcoal to prevent the drug from being absorbed into the bloodstream
  • Reversal agents or antidotes

Note: Induction of vomiting and administration of activated charcoal should only be performed by a veterinarian. There is no safe way to induce vomiting or administer activated charcoal at home.

Supportive care may involve keeping the patient warm, close heart monitoring, anti-nausea and liver protectant medications, and IV fluid therapy.

With proper symptomatic care, the prognosis is excellent and no long-term effects are expected.


Antidepressant poisoning is not contagious. Prevention includes keeping medications out of dogs’ reach and administering prescribed drugs exactly as prescribed on the label.

Is Sleep Aid Toxicosis (Benzodiazepines) in Dogs common?

Sleep aid toxicosis is an uncommon condition in dogs

Typical Treatment

  • Inducing vomiting
  • Activated charcoal
  • Antidotes or reversal agents
  • Flushing the stomach
  • Supportive therapy


Safdar A. Khan , DVM, MS, PhD, DABVT, ASPCA - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Barri J. Morrison, DVM - Writing for PetMD
Joan Capuzzi, VMD - Writing for dvm360®
Leticia Mattos de Souza Dantas and Sharon L. Crowell‐Davis - Writing for Veterian Key

Our editorial committee

Our medical review team is responsible for validating and maintaining the quality of our medical information.