Dog Medication

11 Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine in Dogs

Common side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs include low fever, fatigue, and localized swelling at the site of the injection.  

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Rare, but serious, side effects can occur. This includes hives, minor swelling (especially around the face), acute onset of vomiting and/or diarrhea, and breathing changes.

This post starts with 11 side-effects of the rabies vaccine in dogs, and also discusses the pros and cons of vaccinations in general. 

As dog owners, it is up to us to make the best medical choices for our pets. This is tricky when our personal beliefs come into conflict with the legal system.

11 Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine in Dogs
A special thank you to Loved at Last Dog Rescue for allowing me to use this photo.  Rescue a dog at

Dog owners have a lot of choices…except when it comes to the rabies vaccine. Legally, we are required to keep them up to date, regardless of the side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs.

Common Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine In Dogs

FAST FACT:  Dogs contribute up to 99% of rabies transmission.  It can be passed from animal to human through a dog bite.  A rabid dog is more likely to bite than a healthy dog.

1. Discomfort and Swelling

Vaccinations are normally given as injections and whenever you stick a needle into the skin, it’s going to hurt. This is temporary and not harmful.

2. Mild Fever 

Mild fevers are common side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs. Vaccines do not contain live disease, but they do create a temporary immune-response that tells the body, “Hey, let’s get busy fighting this new thing.”

3. Nope – Not Hungry Mom

While the antibodies “get to work”, the body slows down other functions including the appetite.    This is temporary.

4. No Playing Ball Today!

Some dogs will be a little drowsy after a vaccination. Again, this is temporary and not harmful. 

5. Mom! I’m All Dubbed Up!

Some side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs includes cold or flu-like symptoms.

Sneezing, mild cough, or even a runny nose are all possibilities. It could take up to 5 days for these symptoms to disappear, but they are not serious.

A deranged animal foaming at the mouth?? Take a second and watch this video!

6. Hard Lump Under the Skin

The rabies vaccine is an injection.  A little swelling can occur at the site of the injection.  This is one of a few minor side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs. It’s nothing to be alarmed about.

If you suspect your dog might be experiencing more severe side-effects (like facial swelling) please don’t hesitate and get your dog to the veterinarian.

7. Severe Vomiting

This is one of the more severe side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs. If your dog starts vomiting frequently after a rabies vaccination (or any vaccination), bring him/her to the vet.

8. Your Dog Can’t Stop Itching

We’ve all seen dogs writhe around on their backs, blissfully getting that itchy spot. The difference with this is that the dog will become frantically itchy. His/her skin may even develop hives.

9. Face, Neck, or Eye Swelling

NOTE: More severe side effects like this usually occur within 30 minutes of the injection.

This is a serious side effect of rabies vaccine in dogs.  If you notice any swelling around your dog’s face get your dog to a veterinarian right away.  Do not wait until it gets worse. Swelling can cut off your dog’s airway.

Watch the YouTube Video about Rabies Vaccine Side Effects in Dogs

10. Severe Cough

This is a rare side effect of rabies vaccine in dogs, but it can happen.  You might notice a mild cough along with the sneezing and runny nose mentioned above. However, if the coughing gets worse, consult your veterinarian. 

11. Difficulty Breathing

If your dog is having difficulty breathing, you’ll see it in the rise and fall of his/her chest cavity. Your dog will be distressed and might paw at his/her mouth. As your dog tries to take in more oxygen, it might sound like he/she is coughing. This could go hand-in-hand with the symptom above.

NOTE: Your vet will report serious reactions, and often the vaccine manufacturer will pick up part or all of the tab for the emergency treatment.

Side Effects of Rabies Vaccine, or Something Else?

The one challenge with identifying side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs is that the vaccine is often given with other vaccines, usually at an annual exam.

If It Hasn’t Happened Yet, It Probably Never Will

Uncommon and rare side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs will usually show up the very first time your dog is given the vaccine.  If your dog has never had a strong reaction to the rabies vaccine, chances are very high that they never will!

Pre-Vaccination Prep

If your dog does experience some swelling and/or itching, your veterinarian might recommend a medication like Benadryl.

NOTE: Most vets will not recommend stopping vaccinations entirely just because of a minor vaccine reaction.

Was it Really the Rabies Vaccine that Caused the Side Effects?

Veterinarians usually give each vaccine in a separate location. That way they can identify local reactions to specific vaccines. But this still leaves a grey area when a dog has general side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs.

One way to avoid this problem is to break up the vaccines, and give them separately a few weeks apart.

Some veterinarians encourage this and some don’t. Talk to you vet about splitting up your dog’s vaccines if this concerns you. It absolutely can’t hurt to do them each separately!

STATISTICS:  40% of people bitten by a rabid animal are under the age of 15. ~ World Health Matters Organization

What is IN a Rabies Vaccine for Dogs?

A rabies vaccine is manufactured from a killed form of the rabies virus. There is no chance of your dog getting rabies from having the vaccine.

When injected under the skin (subcutaneous injection) or into the muscle (intramuscular injection), it stimulates the immune system to produce antibodies to the virus.

Rabies Outbreak 2018 – Watch the Video!

These antibodies will prevent your dog from contracting an active form of rabies if they should happen to be exposed to the virus. 

Who Can Give a Rabies Vaccine to a Dog?

A rabies vaccine is not one that you can buy and give at home, like many other canine vaccines. It must be given by a licensed veterinarian, or a certified veterinary technician under the supervision of a veterinarian.

Records of rabies vaccinations are kept meticulously by all veterinarians. Every time your dog gets a rabies shot, you should receive a certificate proving your dog has had the vaccine. Your vet will also keep this information, which includes the vaccine brand and lot number.

Your vet may be legally obligated to provide your home county or state with a listing of every pet they have given rabies vaccines to. This will vary from location to location. In my area, vets must be mandatory reporters to the county. This allows the county to ensure that all of the dogs get licensed locally.

Rabies is Fatal in Humans and Other Animals

Once an animal or person is showing signs of rabies infection, there is no cure. It is 100% fatal.  The risk of the vaccination far outweighs the deadly disease.

People exposed to rabies can undergo a series of shots that prevent them from developing the active disease.

This is why the vaccine is a legal requirement of dog ownership. In many parts of the world, rabies still kills animals and people.

Rabies is entirely preventable and, in some countries, vaccinations are the law.

NOTE: In the 10 years I worked in veterinary medicine, I only knew of 1 dog out of thousands who had a severe reaction to the rabies vaccine.

Rare side effects to a rabies vaccine include severe swelling of the face, neck, and possibly other parts of the body (severe anaphylaxis), difficulty breathing, collapse/seizures.

How Often Does a Dog Need a Rabies Vaccine?

Your dog should get a rabies vaccine between 4 to 6 months of age. It is good for 1 year.

The manufacturer recommends your dog get a rabies vaccine at 6 months old, then a booster at a year and a half, followed by a second booster at age 4 and a half (and every 3 years thereafter).

Some areas have laws that require the rabies vaccine be given more frequently. I have seen locations that require the vaccine to be given every year- even though the manufacturer has licensed it as a 3 year vaccine!

What About Doing a Rabies Titer Test instead of Vaccinating?

Many owners are interested in doing titer testing, rather than just routinely vaccinating their dogs.

A titer test is a blood test that measures whether a dog is producing antibodies to a specific, vaccine preventable disease.

Titer testing is only done by some laboratories, and is more expensive than vaccinating.

Problems with Titer Testing

Problems with titer testing rather than straight vaccination include not being able to license your dog. Authorities will not consider your dog as having been vaccinated.  It is not legally recognized.

Second, there is not enough science behind titer testing to know when a specific immune response means a dog is protected from contracting rabies.

What this means is while a titer test can show that a dog is producing antibodies in response to a vaccine, we have no idea where the cut off is for immunity.

There is no magic number a vet can point to and say “your dog is immune to rabies.” This is why titers are not a legal substitute to vaccination against rabies.

The third problem with titer testing, and the rabies vaccine in general, is that we have no idea how long the titer/vaccine is good for beyond the manufacturer’s 3 year license. It probably varies from dog to dog.

Try out the lifestyle-based vaccine calculator. It was created by the AAHA and should give you a clearer picture of what you should do.

Rabies Laws Are Strict

If you are concerned about the side effects of rabies vaccines in dogs, please talk to your vet. They can give you information about your local laws, and your dog’s specific risks based on their lifestyle.

If, like me, you have a dog who should not have vaccines due to a medical problem, please know that in many locations a veterinarian can NOT exempt your dog from the legal requirement to be up to date on the rabies vaccine.

NOTE: Current laws about rabies vaccination derive from a time when most dogs lived outside and were exposed to wild animals frequently. The laws have not been updated much to reflect that most of our dogs now live indoors, as members of the family.

When It’s Just Too Dangerous

Legally, I am suppose to give my dog the rabies vaccine, even though it could kill her. If she were to bite someone (no teeth left, so I’m not very concerned), I could be in serious legal jeopardy.

To protect myself, and her, I make sure that this problem never comes up.


The ramifications could be anything from a state mandated quarantine period and heavy fines, all the way to having your dog euthanized.

Rabies is no joke, and the law is firmly on the side of public safety. If you can, keep your dog’s rabies vaccines up to date. 


Rabies is a serious, fatal disease both to humans and animals.  Mild side effects of rabies vaccine in dogs do occur, but serious side effects are rare. 

Getting your dog vaccinated against rabies is the law. There can be serious consequences for not having it done, including euthanizing your dog.

If you are worried, or if your dog has had reactions to vaccines before, talk to the veterinarian.  Don’t miss those vaccination appointments!

11 Rabies Side Effects in Dogs
Rabies Side Effects in Dogs Do NOT include lips and ear growth.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you’ll come back often  so that you don’t miss out on some great material!

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Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website

Phenobarbital Side Effects in Dogs

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Phenobarbital side effects in dogs include fatigue, anxiety, increased thirst, extra food intake, anemia, and sometimes weight gain.

Epilepsy and seizure disorders in dogs are scary. They often start without any warning, sometimes with a cause.  I know if my dog had a seizure, I would totally panic.

By the time you’re finished this post, you’ll have a better understanding of seizures, and the medications used to treat them, including phenobarbital.  

Most Common Breeds Prone to Seizures Include:

Australian shepherds, beagles, Belgian Tervurens, border collies, boxers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Irish setters.

Other dogs more likely to have seizures include Labrador retrievers, poodles, Saint Bernards, Shetland sheepdogs, Siberian huskies, springer spaniels, Welsh corgies, wirehair fox terriers and vizslas. 

Phenobarbital Side Effects in Dogs versus Seizure Activity

We often have no idea why some dogs start having seizures. Sometimes it is linked to illness or trauma, but many times it just comes out of nowhere. One minute your dog is fine, the next they are having a seizure. 

Epilepsy, however, can occur in dogs of all ages.  Seizures may also be caused because of liver disease, brain tumors/trauma, or toxins (poisons) in the body.

Some dogs, like this one, are trained to detect early signs of seizures in their owners.

As frightening as seizures can be, you may not need to take your dog in. The general protocol is three seizures in a 24-hour period.

Seizures in Dogs Might Not Look the Way you Expected Them to.

Dogs might foam at the mouth, twitch, drool, chomp, collapse and make paddling motions with their legs when having a seizure.

If your dog suddenly has a seizure for the first time, make sure he/she hasn’t gotten into something toxic or deadly, like rat poison or antifreeze.

How to Help Your Dog During a Seizure

Try to stay calm and quiet if you notice your dog having a seizure.  It’s not easy to do, but it will help your dog tremendously. Move furniture out of the way and quickly move any other animals out of the room.  

Don’t try to put anything in your dog’s mouth when he/she is having a seizure.  There’s no need to hold your dog down either. The seizure should stop as quickly as it started.  As noted above, it could just be a one-time thing.  Frankly, I would still give the veterinarian a call just to see whether he/she recommends a visit.

Keep a Seizure Log!

The most common thing recommended to an owner whose dog has had seizures is that they keep a seizure log, listing the time of day and any activities that happened right before the event. These logs can help in piecing together the reasons (triggers) for the seizure.

If you are concerned about phenobarbital side effects in dogs, consider keeping track of signs and symptoms.  These could come in handy at some point.

When a veterinarian recommends starting a dog on phenobarbital, it is usually because the seizures are frequent enough and strong enough to risk brain damage if the activity continues.

In a case like that, any side effects of phenobarbital in dogs is going to outweigh the risk of brain damage. 

Keep a Log for Phenobarbital Side Effects in Dogs

If your dog continues to have seizures and the veterinarian prescribes phenobarbital, you might want to keep a checklist nearby for any unusual symptoms. 

Starting Phenobarbital- Common Side Effects

Phenobarbital is a controlled drug, and requires a prescription from a veterinarian. It is a member of the barbiturate family, and works as a sedative and anticonvulsant (anti seizure) medication. Vets usually don’t prescribe this medication lightly.

Phenobarbital side effects in dogs usually occur within the first few weeks.  If the dosage needs to be increased, you might notice more pronounced side-effects.

Most dogs develop a tolerance to the medication soon after starting it, and these side effects decrease or disappear.

You Don’t Want to Miss Follow-Up Appointments, and Here’s Why:

Mild phenobarbital side effects in dogs are usually nothing to worry about. However, the veterinarian still needs to make sure that the dosage is appropriate and that the medication is working.

Sometimes, dogs with epilepsy require more than one medication to keep seizures under control. Follow-up visits and blood work will measure levels of phenobarbital in their system, and will provide an indication of how the liver and kidneys are dealing with the medication.

Every animal (including humans) metabolizes phenobarbital differently, and so blood work is the only way to be sure the dosing is at the right level.

Maintaining the Phenobarbital Levels

You will be instructed to give your dog the medication every 12 hours, and it is important to give it as directed. The goal is to reach a “therapeutic” level of phenobarbital in your dog’s blood.

Giving the medication on a more erratic schedule could lead to your dog having breakthrough seizures, where the amount of phenobarbital in the dog’s system drops too low.

Dosing on a different schedule can make your blood test results unreliable. If you have missed doses, or given doses off schedule, then let your vet know this when you come in for blood work. They might want to postpone the test for a week while you focus on giving the medications correctly.

Never just stop giving phenobarbital! The medication can cause withdrawal symptoms, including severe seizures, if it is stopped suddenly. Talk to your vet about how to wean your dog off phenobarbital safely.

Other Options for Seizure Disorders

Phenobarbital is not the only medication that vets prescribe for seizures in dogs. Potassium Bromide (KBr) is alternative that is frequently used, especially when phenobarbital isn’t working well or a dog is having severe side effects from the first medication.

The side effects of KBr are similar to phenobarbital. 

Here’s Something You Should Know:

I’ve noticed that some websites list diazepam as an alternative medication for seizures, but this is a bit of a misunderstanding.

Diazepam is usually prescribed as an emergency medication for pets with severe and dangerous seizure disorders.

It is given (usually rectally) during a seizure event to stop a seizure and allow the owner time to rush the pet to an emergency clinic. It is short acting (around 20 minutes), and it is not a medication given as a normal anticonvulsant preventative.

What About CBD Oil/Treats?

CBD oils, treats and potions for dogs are all over the internet, and they promise many miracle effects. So should you consider switching your dog from phenobarbital to a CBD product?

Poor Dog!  This tweet shows a dog having a mild seizure. The owners feel confident that CBD oil has helped.  I am not endorsing or recommending CBD oil use in your dog, however.  Always check with your veterinarian.

CBD stands for cannabidiol, one of the active ingredients in the marijuana plant. CBD is the active ingredient that does not get a person high (that would be THC). There have been NO laboratory studies proving that CBD works to prevent seizures in dogs.

There are a LOT of anecdotes about CBD on the internet. There is some research in humans that indicates the potential for CBD products to suppress some kinds of seizures. So CBD could very well be a magic pill for dogs with seizure disorders. We just don’t know enough yet to say so with any certainty.

The next video shows the other side of the discussion regarding CBD oil for dogs.

Since CBD products for dogs are usually supplements and not medications, they are not tested or monitored by any agency. You really have no way to know that any given treat or oil contains what it says it contains, unless you are buying a product in a state that sells legal cannabis products. Often, these products undergo state mandated testing.

I am not against CBD products! I think they show a lot of promise! But…when it comes to my dogs, I am super cautious.

Switching from Phenobarbital to a CBD Product

If you decide you would like to try this kind of anti seizure therapy, I recommend you seek out a holistic or naturopathic veterinarian with experience in using CBD products.

They can guide you in making the switch safely, and can point you towards a product they have had good experiences with. Please, do not make this switch without the input of a Vet!

Seizures in dogs are scary, but they can be medically controlled. While phenobarbital side effects in dogs can be disturbing, they usually subside within a few weeks.

If your dog does not tolerate the phenobarbital, there are other options. Talk to your veterinarian…they are a great resource!

Thank you for reading this post.  I look forward to any comments you have so go ahead and use the form below.  You can also email me directly at:

I love getting feedback (even constructive criticism).  Please take a minute to share this post. 

Special thanks to the writer of this post, Jen Clifford. Please check out her bio below!


Jen Clifford has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College. She was a field biologist for several years and then spent 10 years working in veterinary medicine as a receptionist and technician.  Jen is currently a freelance writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her tribe of pets. She is a passionate animal lover who is dedicated to helping people find solutions to their pet-related challenges. You can find more of her work on her website

Avoid Acepromazine for Dogs with Anxiety

As a dog owner, I know what it’s like to have a nervous dog. I have two dogs and one is particularly nervous.  I’m really glad my veterinarian never mentioned Acepromazine for dogs, because I might have tried it. Now that I know more about it, I’m glad I didn’t.

Why Acepromazine for Dogs Might Not Be the Anxiety Cure it Was Once Thought to Be!

Here’s what you’ll get from this post:

  • Acepromazine for dogs is not the miracle drug it was once thought to be!  I am going to tell you why.
  • Canine behaviorists can unlock the secrets to your dog’s anxiety (including the resulting bad behavior) often without added medication.
  • Side-effects of acepromazine for dogs.
  • Medications that are sometimes required in extreme fear-based aggression and separation anxiety.
  • 13 proven tactics for walking your dog out of his or her deep-seated fears.
  • How to identify the signs of mild, moderate, or extreme stress in dogs and what to do about it.

Prison of the Mind

Acepromazine (trade names Atravet or Acezine 2) blocks receptors in the dog’s brain. This causes sedation or drowsiness.   While the dog appears relaxed, the mind is still fearful.

13 Ways to Avoid Acepromazine for Dogs

Anxiety in dogs is not a new phenomena, particularly in shelter and rescue dogs. If treating it were easy, there wouldn’t be a number of dogs with fear-based aggression or severe separation anxiety.

Side-effects and Dangers of Acepromazine for Dogs:

  • Over Sedation
  • Depression
  • Incoordination
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Slow Heart Rate
  • Depressed respiration

The following 13 alternatives to acepromazine for dogs have different applications depending on whether the anxiety is perceived as mild, moderate, or severe.

NOTE:  The following suggested methods of stress control often work better when used in combination with other appropriate treatment methods. Keep in mind differences in dog temperament and breed.

Also, as I mentioned above, there are certain situations where antidepressants can be a useful short-term solution.

The Following are Some Alternatives You Might Try:

  1. Weighted Vests for anxiety.  
  2. Regular exercise that is appropriate for the dog breed and size.
  3. Nutritious food and weight control.
  4. Engage in regular play with the dog.
  5. Regularly grooming a mildly anxious dog can help lower and relieve symptoms and provide a bonding experience for you and the dog.
  6. Holistic calming treats available at most pet stores work great for short-term stress.  Note: Might not be appropriate for some dogs.
  7. Gauging your reaction to stress.  Dogs pick up on your energy and vibe. If you are demonstrating signs of anxiety and stress, it will be very hard to work with your dog to bring their levels down.
  8.   Moderate and frequent anxiety may need a full examination by the veterinarian to rule out underlying disease.  Certain conditions like pre-diabetes and thyroid disease, for example, could be causing some of the problem.
  9.  Fear biting and fear aggression may not be something you can deal with on your own. In some cases, working with a canine behaviorist is the best way to work with your dog.
  10.  Gradual desensitization to the anxiety triggers may help.  It might also remove the need to prescribe acepromazine for dogs.  Again, working with a professional in the beginning may be the best option.
  11.  Antidepressants in combination with behavioral therapy is something to think about. You would need a prescription from the veterinarian for this. Keep in mind that all medications have some side-effects. It takes a while for the medication to work, but when it does, it might allow you to work with the dog’s relaxed mind until he/she is better able to handle stressful situations.  It is possible to successfully wean dogs from antidepressants.

Click this link to find out how to wean a dog from antidepressants like Prozac!

  • 12. Patience.  This can be tough in the beginning, especially if your dog is showing signs of extreme stress. Try to minimize as much stress as possible while maintaining a normal, daily routine. Dogs love two things:  their pack and their routines.
  • 13. Books on canine behaviour can be particularly enlightening and helpful. 

Signs and Symptoms of Mild, Moderate, and Severe Stress in Dogs.

Inappropriate behavior in dogs is a symptom of anxiety. Triggers such as firework explosions, loud noises, riding in cars, or meeting new people are just a few stresses that dogs encounter.  We seem to live in a society where prescription drugs are often the first-line defense, but it’s important to understand appropriate options other than acepromazine for dogs.

Dog anxiety can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe, with variations in between.  In many cases, your dog might look the same (tail tucked under, head lowered, whites of the eye showing (known as “whale eye”) no matter what the stressor is.  It’s up to you, the owner, to assess the situation and determine if this is just a mild, occasional event, or a common occurrence that leads to more severe symptoms of anxiety.

Examples of Situations that Induce Mild Anxiety:

  • noise from the television
  • a new visitor in the house
  • disruption to the daily routine
  • changes in weather (high humidity; extreme heat; extreme cold)
  • riding in the car
  • boredom
  • lack of exercise

The Behavioral Results of Mild Anxiety Might Include:

  • Dog’s head is lowered
  • Gaze is down
  • Tight lips
  • Occasional tongue flicking
  • Tail tucked between legs.

NOTE: These behaviors can present themselves in any stressful situation.  In a mild case, the dog may gradually come around and begin to ease into the new situation with fewer signs of anxiety.

Examples of Situations that Induce Moderate Anxiety:

Behavioral Results of Moderate Anxiety Might Include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Growling
  • Raised Hackles
  • Ears flattened against the head
  • Tail between the legs
  • Attempts to get away from the situation
  • Uninterested in normal daily activities like catching the ball, etc.

Examples of Situations that Can Induce Severe Anxiety

  • A history of abuse
  • Inappropriately caged or tied up for too many hours
  • Exposed to extreme weather without adequate shelter
  • Taunting and inappropriate play with humans
  • Inappropriate diet and lack of exercise

Any form of neglect and/or abuse is going to severely affect the dog’s ability to cope with confidence. You might notice poor appetite, weight loss, fur loss, recurrent infections, gastrointestinal problems, severe allergies, diarrhea, fear biting, destructive behavior, vomiting, defecating in the house, shivering or shaking, etc.

I’ve given you a lot to think about in this post, and I hope you’ll consider signing up for more information on upcoming canine behaviour courses! These courses are for people just like you.  Whether you have a rescue dog with worrisome behaviour, or just need some tips and tricks…I can help you.

PLEASE feel free to comment in the box below or email me with your comments and questions:

Gabapentin for Dogs: Uses, Side-Effects and Weaning.

Dogs are generally prescribed gabapentin for epilepsy, nerve pain, cancer pain, and post-operative pain.  Although the drug was originally formulated for people, veterinarians began using it when they discovered it also helped animals with similar conditions. In some cases, gabapentin is used to treat anxiety.

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his post may contain affiliate links.  If you click on one, I could be compensated a small amount but it will never cost you a thing.

Gabapentin, also known by the brand name “Neurontin”, is used as a booster drug to amplify the effects of narcotic pain medication and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. 

Using gabapentin as an add-on, or booster drug, helps to lessen the more severe side-effects of narcotics.  It also eliminates the need to over-prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. 

In this post, you will learn why gabapentin is prescribed to dogs, what side effects to watch for, and how to safely wean your dog when/if the time comes. 

Gabapentin works in a complicated manner. It doesn’t act as a pain blocker the way a narcotic would. Instead, the mechanism of action in the nervous system is to follow pain pathways and alter the dog’s experience of them.  In other words, the dog has a different perception of pain. Gabapentin in dogs is also very sedating.

Pain Control Helps Improve a Dog’s Quality of Life

Dogs are pretty good at hiding pain from us but there are a few telltale signs including poor appetite, depression, lack of enthusiasm for play, withdraws, sleeps more (or less), or becomes irritable and aggressive.  

Gabapentin helps improve a dog’s quality of life by shutting down the pain receptors.  A dog’s body takes longer to heal when in constant pain. That’s because pain often prevents the body from adequate rest. It can also inhibit the appetite and limit mobility, all of which slow down recovery time.

Gabapentin Side-Effects in Dogs 


I’ve read several anecdotal stories about gabapentin from dog owners online, and most of them make sense. However, some dog owners tend to panic when their dogs are groggy and “not themselves” while taking gabapentin. The truth is, that’s exactly what you want. It’s not something you want your dog to experience long-term, but you certainty want (and need) your dog to take a break from suffering. 

Gabapentin side effects in dogs are mild, but if it makes your dog too drowsy, the veterinarian might suggest  giving the drug in the evening before bed. Once your dog adjusts to the medication, the drowsiness should go away.

Gabapentin for dogs works by amplifying the effects of other medications. It relaxes your dog so that he can finally get the sleep needed to recover.  I’m not a veterinarian, but my advice would be that if your veterinarian prescribed gabapentin for your dog, give it time to do its job. 

Incoordination or Dizziness

Your dog might be a bit wobbly for the first week or so after taking Gabapentin.  Gabapentin side effects in senior dogs could include a dangerous loss of coordination or dizziness.  

Gabapentin side effects in dogs can be minimized by adding regular non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to the treatment plan. Since gabapentin and NSAIDS seem to complement each other, it’s possible to get away with a lower dose of both drugs. Talk to your veterinarian about it.

Peak side effects of gabapentin can occur within a few hours. This medication has a short half-life, meaning it doesn’t stick around in the body for a long time. For that reason, you might need to dose your dog two or three times per day. 

Nausea and Vomiting

There are a lot of drugs on the market that affect the gastrointestinal system and gabapentin is one of them. A little stomach upset is normal; however, if your dog is vomiting excessively, has dark, tarry stool or shows signs of allergic reaction (hives or difficulty breathing) acontact the veterinarian immediately.

Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs 

The right gabapentin dosage for dogs is  5 – 10 mg/kg, administered orally every 8 hours. This dosage (the International Veterinary Academy for Pain Management), is a guideline for veterinarians. Dosage may change depending on how your dog responds to the treatment. If your dog has epilepsy, the gabapentin dosage for dogs is generally a little higher.

According to a recent report by CBS News, authorities are worried about gabapentin abuse in people, calling it the alternative to opioids.  Read about it here:  CBS NEWS.

The formulation used for dogs is the 100 mg capsule. Since the drug is required by prescription only, you don’t have to worry…your veterinarian will know which one to administer.

For reference:  1 kilogram is the equivalent of approximately 2 pounds.

Reasons for Gabapentin Use in Dogs Include:


Slipped Disc Pain

Post Operative Pain

Cancer Pain (to boost the effectiveness of other medications)


The benefit of being able to supplement gabapentin with stronger drugs is the ability to limit the severity of gabapentin (and other) side-effects in dogs.

Where to Buy Gabapentin for Dogs

Online Pharmacy

In this case, you’ll need a veterinarian prescription before you can purchase gabapentin online.  Ask the veterinarian for ethical, legit online pharmacies. You can also check with the National Association Boards of Pharmacy  to find out if a particular pharmacy is licensed. Click on the link above to find the Board of Pharmacy for your state.

Before your veterinarian phones or writes in the prescription, make sure you understand the instructions.  The gabapentin dosage for dogs will follow the standard 10 mg/kg of dog weight, but the veterinarian might have specific times during the day (or night) he wants you to give the medication.  For example, the veterinarian might suggest starting gabapentin at bedtime due to its sedating effects.

IN CANADA, it’s illegal to buy prescription medications online. It’s happening because US officials are allowing it to happen, but it’s still illegal.

You might be interested in reading:  Diphenhydramine for Dogs – 7 Medical Uses

Veterinarian Clinic

Veterinarian clinics and animal hospitals tend to keep the most commonly prescribed medications in stock.  If this is the case, you can buy gabapentin right there. From what I understand, gabapentin is prescribed per capsule and a capsule costs approximately .30 cents/ea.   Capsules for dogs come in 100 mg and 300 mg.

Veterinarian Phone In

Instead of presenting the pharmacist with a written prescription, your veterinarian can phone a local pharmacy known to have gabapentin in stock.

However, in the interest of saving money, you might be tempted to accept a borrowed medicine from your friends’ medicine cabinet, or your own. Don’t do this.  The formulation prescribed for people is not the same.

Xylitol Side Effects in Dogs – Warning

As I mentioned above, the standard gabapentin dosage for dogs is 10 mg/kg. The veterinarian will prescribe capsules because they do not contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is highly toxic for dogs. 

If you happen to have the liquid form of gabapentin in your medicine cabinet, do not give it to your dog. 

More Severe But Rare Side-Effects:

Contact your veterinarian right away if you notice your dog is extra-sleepy, vomiting, develops diarrhea, shows loss of coordination (more than just being a little dizzy) or shows signs of depression.

NOTE:  Depression in dogs can mimic other serious diseases and should be brought to the veterinarian’s attention. Signs of depression include low appetite, excessive sleep, apathy, weight loss. 

Xylitol Kills Dogs & is an Ingredient in Some Gabapentin Formulations.

Xylitol is an artificial sweetener found in food and many products like gum and toothpaste.  Please watch the following video about a woman who almost lost her dog to chewing gum.

Xylitol, a sweetener found in many products including toothpaste and pre-packaged food products (low-sugar or “diet” foods) is toxic to dogs.  It can cause your dog’s sugar to drop dangerously low and can cause liver damage. There’s no “safe” amount of xylitol in dogs; therefore, it’s best avoided.  Small amounts could actually be fatal for some dogs.

You might also want to know how to remove plaque from your dog’s teeth!

 Watch this quick youtube video on pain-killers for dogs.

When the Medication Doesn’t Seem to be Working

If you think your dog is still in pain, check with your veterinarian before giving an increased dose of gabapentin. Veterinarians treat dogs on a case-by-case basis, and he/she might want to see your dog in the clinic to check for worsening of the underlying condition, weight gain (or loss), or any other side-effects. 

If your dog is on any other medications that he/she doesn’t know about (including vitamins and supplements), it’s important to share that information.  Some drugs and herbal or natural supplements can interact with gabapentin in a way that reduces its effectiveness.

Weaning Gabapentin for Dogs

Gabapentin appears to have a history of causing rebound pain if stopped abruptly.  However, the more common reason veterinarians prefer to wean Gabapentin for dogs is when the dog is taking it to boost the effects of other seizure medication. 

Stopping a long-term dose suddenly can trigger more severe seizures in dogs. For that reason, it’s important to maintain the prescribed gabapentin dosage for dogs until the veterinarian gives you clearance to start weaning.

I wrote an article recently about weaning dogs off of Prozac, and I would say the process is fairly similar. Anecdotally, I’ve heard people say they’ve tapered their dog 25% to 50% of the original dosage daily until the dog was down to 100 mg. The dog was completely weaned shortly thereafter. 

Please follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for weaning properly.  By slowly reducing the amount of gabapentin your dog is taking, you will reduce (if not eliminate) the possibility of unwanted withdrawal.

Again, withdrawal isn’t always necessary (especially when it was being used to treat pain).  But I’m not a veterinarian.  

Summing up Gabapentin Side Effects in Dogs

Gabapentin side effects in dogs are usually quite mild. The most common side-effect is sleepiness.  Occasionally, dogs are a little wobbly until they become accustomed to the drug. 

Even though Gabapentin is not FDA approved for use in dogs, veterinarians are still permitted to use it to treat pain.  Dogs in pain tend to exhibit behavior that makes them appear afraid, anxious, or depressed.  A dog in pain is a dog that can bite.  Overall, there are bigger things to consider than Gabapentin side-effects in dogs.  Wean slowly when the time comes, and also check with your veterinarian before attempting an increased dose.

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Gabapentin Side Effects in Dogs

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What is Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs?

Serotonin Syndrome in dogs is most often caused by accidental ingestion of owner’s medication. 

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This is especially dangerous if the dog is already on medication to begin with. Antidepressants on their own are generally safe. Dangerous interactions can occur if combined with certain medications.  

The safety of antidepressants in dogs has to be measured in strict dosing guidelines.  This post will explain some of the more popular antidepressants and dosages considered dangerous.

People opt to treat their dogs with antidepressants for behaviours that might otherwise pose a risk to other people or animals.  

If you’ve ever watched The Dog Whisperer, you’ve seen Cesar Milan at work. It’s amazing what he can do to modify and correct a dog’s behaviour.  Nine out of ten times, the owners must claim responsibility for encouraging the bad behaviour. 

Sometimes, however, the dogs that Cesar Milan sees require more intensive training. At that point, he brings the dog to his ranch where he can spend time rehabilitating the dog.  Most people don’t have that luxury.  Antidepressant use in dogs is a valid option for some people.

 In many cases, antidepressants work to alter the dog’s mood in a way that enables the dog to learn better behaviors. Once these new behavioral systems are imprinted onto the dog, antidepressants are slowly weaned.  For information on how to wean your dog off of prozac, visit the post: 5 No-Fail Steps to Wean Your Dog Off of Prozac.

Signs of Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs

Serotonin Syndrome is a risk taken when prescribing antidepressants. Mild signs of Serotonin Syndrome in dogs includes diarrhea. Severe signs include the following:

  • rigidity
  • hyperthermia
  • arrhythmias
  • transient blindness
  • vocalization
  • seizures
  • renal failure

Serotonin Syndrome in dogs can occur when the dog ingests other antidepressants (the owner’s medication) or is given a higher than normal dosage. The antidepressants listed below are a few of the common ones. These include an explanation of the dosages that can cause mild serotonin syndrome up to high doses that can be deadly. 

The following YouTube video explains one reason why dogs are administered antidepressants.


Antidepressant Dosing to Avoid Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs

  • Amitriptyline

This class of antidepressant, known as a tricyclic, was one of the first antidepressants available in the late 1950’s. Although it works well to treat depression, high doses can be lethal in dogs.

Mild to moderate symptoms of Serotonin Syndrome can begin at a dosage greater than 2 to 3 mg/kg.

Potentially deadly symptoms appear in dosages of 15 mg/kg.

  • Citalopram

This antidepressant, known as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), was granted approval for use in 1998. Although veterinarians were treating dogs with antidepressants during that time, the practice wasn’t sanctioned.

This SSRI can induce serotonin syndrome in dogs in relatively small doses. For example, a dog will experience mild symptoms of serotonin syndrome at just 0.5 mg/kg.

At 2 to 3 mg/kg, signs of serotonin syndrome in dogs becomes apparent. Anything over 20 mg/kg can be lethal to a dog.

  • Clomipramine

Clomipramine is a tricyclic (similar to Amitriptyline) that is classified as an antidepressant, but typically used to treat obsessive compulsive disorder in humans.

Serotonin syndrome in dogs becomes evident at 2 to 3 mg/kg, which can turn fatal at doses greater than 10 mg/kg.

The next video from YouTube is a previously aired newscast discussing the risk of serotonin syndrome to humans.


Escitalopram (Brand name: Lexapro)

Lexapro is another SSRI used in the treatment of depression and anxiety. As with people, fast tapering can result in serious side-effects including confusion, electric shock sensations, insomnia, and lethargy. 

If a dog is administered this anti-depressant, serotonin syndrome becomes apparent at only 0.3 mg/kg.  Increase that to 4 or 5 mg/kg and the ravishes of serotonin syndrome become severe.

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac): 

Prozac is another SSRI used to treat depression in people.  Veterinarians began prescribing Prozac in the 1990’s to treat severe behavioral issues in dogs caused by anxiety.  Dosing should remain under 1 mg/kg because anything above that level could initiate mild to moderate symptoms of serotonin syndrome in dogs.

If dosing is set at anything over 10 mg/kg, severe or even fatal effects of serotonin syndrome emerge.

  • Sertraline:

This classification of antidepressant is another SSRI used to treat behavioral disorders in dogs. 

Serotonin Syndrome in dogs begins with mild symptoms at dosages within the 10 to 2- mg/kg range.  Doses within the 30 to 50 mg/kg range are dangerous, and deadly at 80 mg/kg.  

  • Venlafaxine:

This antidepressant is classified differently and is known as an SNRI (selective-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor). This particular drug works by increasing serotonin and norepinephrine in the body and brain.

Veterinarians who chose to prescribe this antidepressant know that a dosage of 1 mg/kg can create signs of serotonin syndrome in dogs. Dosages at the 6 – 7 mg/kg range are simply dangerous.

The Timeline of Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs

Signs of serotonin syndrome in dogs can occur anywhere from 10 minutes to 4 hours post ingestion. This isn’t because the veterinarian failed to treat properly.  In most cases, the dog got into the owner’s medication and, essentially, overdosed.

Not all dogs will experience serotonin syndrome. That depends on the size of the dog and how much he/she has ingested. If you refer to the list of antidepressants above, you will see how varying dosages become dangerous.

Clinical Treatment of Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs

When a dog presents with serotonin syndrome, the first thing the veterinarian will do is stabilize the dog according to his/her clinical signs. Other medications may be used to block the effects of serotonin on the body (seizures, agitation, heart disturbances, etc.). 

If the dog hasn’t vomited, the veterinarian will administer activated charcoal to absorb the excess medication out of the dog’s system. This is especially important to administer if the dog has swallowed extended-release tablets.

Preventing Serotonin Syndrome in Dogs 

The best way to prevent serotonin syndrome in dogs is to keep medications away from your dog. I know, it sounds simple but it’s so easy to forget. I’ve had things on the counter that I didn’t think my dogs could reach only to come home to a big surprise. Luckily, it wasn’t anything serious like medications. 

The worse place to store antidepressants are in the bathroom cabinet. Heat and moisture can affect the medication. I keep my medications in the kitchen, in a designated cabinet above the counter. My dogs would have to learn how to drag a kitchen chair to the counter, climb up, and open the cupboard drawer. They’re smart…but not that smart.

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