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Has your dog been prescribed Gabapentin? Pet owners tend to worry about serious side effects, but they also don’t want their dog to be in pain.
There are a few common side-effects, including sedation, that tend to go away after a few doses. The first dose can make a dog very wobbly and uncoordinated.
It might look as if your dog is drunk (known as ataxia) and it’s scary when you’re not ready for it. Most dogs, however, adapt to the medication very quickly.
If your dog has been prescribed Gabapentin, you should know that most veterinarians prescribe it because of its safety profile.
Gabapentin is not metabolized by the liver and poses no risk of elevated enzymes or damage to liver function.
On the other hand, this drug is excreted through the kidneys and isn’t recommended for dogs who have or are at risk of kidney disease.
Gabapentin Breaks Into Main-Stream Veterinary Medicine
Gabapentin (brand name Neurontin) was developed in 1975 as a human medication to treat seizures. It wasn’t until 1993 when it was approved for human use by the Food and Drug Administration.
In later years, Gabapentin was shown to be effective in treating nerve pain in people.
Over time, veterinary medicine discovered the benefits of using Gabapentin to treat seizures, neuropathic pain, and anxiety in dogs.
Gabapentin is most commonly prescribed to dogs in its capsule form and is available in 100 mg, 300 mg, and 400 mg doses.
The preference of Gabapentin capsules over the liquid oral solution has to do with the presence of xylitol (an artificial sweetener), which is toxic to dogs.
How Gabapentin Works in Dogs
Research shows that Gabapentin binds to specific spots on voltage-gated calcium channels.
The brain works on neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) called GABA that send signals to the brain.
GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the nervous system and is distributed throughout the brain and spinal cord.
When a medication like Gabapentin is used, it alters electrical activity in the brain which reduces seizure activity, eases situational anxiety, and decreases the sensation of pain.
Although the mechanics aren’t entirely known, it’s thought that Gabapentin acts on the spinal cord to decrease the sensation of neuropathic pain by interfering with pain signals from the brain.
Common Uses of Gabapentin in Dogs
Pain relief is the main use of Gabapentin in dogs. In addition to being a pain reliever, it can be used in seizure control, for acute pain, and for mild sedation.
In some cases, Gabapentin is actually used with analgesics to boost the pain relieving effects. There, of course, some medications that shouldn’t be taken with
Some uses of Gabapentin include:
- Osteoarthritis & Slipped Disc Pain
- Nerve Pain
- Post Operative Pain
- Epilepsy or seizure control
- Adjunctive Therapy for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy.
- Anxiety of stressful events (or situational anxiety)
- Post-operative pain
Gabapentin Precautions – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Mixing medications often poses a risk of adverse effects due to drug interaction. With Gabapentin, drug interactions can affect the level of medication in the bloodstream
If this happens, it can reduce the effectiveness of the medication.
The following drugs should not be combined with Gabapentin:
Antacids that contain aluminum or magnesium can prevent Gabapentin from working to its full potential.
Gabapentin vs Trazodone
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Volume 33, September-October, 2019, pages 7 – 15, revealed that Trazodone may not be as effective at relieving nerve pain in dogs.
In this study, 10 dogs with degenerative lumbosacral stenosis were administered oral Tramadol (3 mg/kg every 8 hours) along with Prednisone (0.5 mg/kg) for 4 weeks.
After one week, researchers discovered that only half the dogs showed signs of improvement.
As a result of this observation, Tramadol was discontinued and replaced with oral Gabapentin. By the end of the treatment period, all dogs showed lower pain scores.
Gabapentin as an Adjunctive Agent
Gabapentin is sometimes used as an adjunctive agent to complement the effect of other drugs.
A study published in the *Australian Veterinary Journal 2005, October; 83 assessed whether there would be a change in refractory seizures in dogs with refractory epilepsy with Gabapentin was added to phenobarbitone and/or potassium bromide.
*Citation: GOVENDIR, M., PERKINS, M. and MALIK, R. (2005), Improving seizure control in dogs with refractory epilepsy using gabapentin as an adjunctive agent. Australian Veterinary Journal, 83: 602-608. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-0813.2005.tb13269.x
The result was that, in some dogs, seizures were prevented completely. In other dogs, the amount of time between seizures was increased.
Gabapentin and CBD Oil
CBD oil, the compound found in cannabis and hemp, is a trend with some dog owners.
It’s thought that CBD oil (which has no psychoactive properties) can treat neuropathic pain and control seizures in dogs.
Unfortunately, to date there hasn’t been enough conclusive data to support this theory. When compared to its effect on humans, it’s thought that CBD oil may cause the same side effects which include:
Lowered Blood Pressure
Talk to your veterinarian before administering CBD oil as a supplement with Gabapentin.
Common Side Effects in Dogs
Gabapentin, especially if it’s the dog’s first time taking it, will leave your dog very groggy.
Your dog may experience mild sedation which usually disappears on repeated dose (i.e. the next day).
Side effects in dogs are usually 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.
Your dog might be a bit wobbly after the first few doses. Side effects in senior dogs could include a dangerous loss of coordination or dizziness.
Mild Tummy Upset
If your pet vomits after the first dose of Gabapentin, try administering the drug with food the next time.
Allergic reactions to Gabapentin are rare but could happen. Watch for signs of skin rash, hives, difficulty breathing, or fever.
What is the Right Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs?
Determining the proper Gabapentin dose range for dogs depends on a few things including:
- the dog’s medical condition
- the dog’s weight
Gabapentin has a wide dosing range that makes it difficult to offer a one-size-fits-all solution.
Generally speaking, when Gabapentin is used to treat anxiety the dose is 10 – 20 mg/kg. Higher doses are prescribed for dogs with seizures. Lower doses would be used to treat dogs with anxiety.
Tips for Administering Drugs to a Dog
It’s important to follow the instructions so that your dog doesn’t become over-sedated. In case you miss giving your dog a dose you can administer it as long as it isn’t too close to the next dose.
If the next dose will be due soon, skip the missed one and continue with the next scheduled dose .
Gabapentin is typically prescribed in pill or tablet form to dogs. Some dogs will eat anything and may not think twice about swallowing the pill.
Other dogs, however, need a little coaxing.
Try wrapping the pill in a teaspoon of peanut butter. Gently “hook” the peanut butter with the capsule in it on the roof of the dog’s mouth, just behind the front teeth.
Pill or Capsule Treats
You can purchase treats that are designed to hide medicine. A popular one is Greenies Pill Pockets
Don’t Open Capsules or Crush Tablets
Medication is compounded and formulated in specific ways. By taking the active ingredients out of the capsule you could be changing the way the drug interacts within the body.
Should Gabapentin Be Weaned?
If your dog has been prescribed to be taken on an as-needed basis (i.e. for anxiety), there’s no need to wean him/her from the medication.
If your dog happens to be on a higher dose, or is taking the medication regularly for longer than two weeks, gradual weaning might be appropriate.
In some cases, an abrupt cessation of medication could lead to withdrawal seizures.
Always check with the veterinarian.
You might be interested in reading: Diphenhydramine for Dogs – 7 Medical Uses
Is Gabapentin Expensive?
Gabapentin is approximately $30 for a one-month supply. Prices will vary depending on where you buy the medicine.
If you are interested in shopping for the best price, keep a copy of the prescription and have a look at 1-800-petmeds.com.
They often offer discounts and other incentives that are less expensive than veterinarian clinics.
How Should I Store Gabapentin
It’s fine to store this medication at room temperature. The important thing is to keep it away from children.
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.
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.
The Final Verdict
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.
Although it is not FDA approved for use in dogs, veterinarians are still permitted to use it to treat pain. Gabapentin should not be used in pregnant pets or animals with kidney disease.
Do not adjust the dosage or stop the medication before speaking with a veterinarian.
This post was designed to help pet owners better understand the uses of Gabapentin and how it works to relieve seizures, pain, and anxiety.
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