In order to examine the respiratory effects of tonic-clonic seizures and their treatment with i.v. diazepam or lorazepam, we utilized a spontaneously breathing piglet seizure model. A tracheostomy, arterial catheter, and epidural electrodes were inserted and pigs were maintained under ketamine anesthesia. After baseline recordings, seizures were induced with a pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) bolus and a 20 min infusion (5-6 mg/kg/min). After 10 min of PTZ infusion, randomly assigned animals received diazepam (D; N = 7; 0.5 mg/kg), lorazepam (L; N = 7; 0.2 mg/kg), or 0.9% saline (C; N = 7; controls) by rapid peripheral vein injection. Minute ventilation (Ve), Pa(CO2), and the pressure change in response to airway occlusion at end-expiration (P0.1) were measured at standard intervals. All groups had comparable increases in respiratory drive during untreated seizures. Changes in Ve and P0.1 were reduced to at or below baseline values in groups D and L, but not C, from 2 to 45 min after treatment (P < 0.05). No significant changes were observed in Pa(CO2) after either intervention. Following anticonvulsants, the cumulative duration of seizures was significantly reduced in L and D groups, compared to C (P < 0.05). We conclude that increases in respiratory drive occur during tonic-clonic seizures induced with PTZ. Amelioration of seizure activity with lorazepam or diazepam results in a reduction in respiratory drive, but not respiratory failure, in this tracheostomized model.