Medically reviewed and approved by Dr. Sara Ochoa DVM on July 2, 2022
Determining the appropriate Gabapentin dosage for dogs isn’t as straightforward as you might think. It’s an art as much as a science. The important thing to be aware of is that it has a high safety rate for dogs, when prescribed by a veterinarian.
Gabapentin, originally, was designed for humans. In fact, you might even have some in your medicine cabinet.
The problem with human medicine has to do with the other ingredients that could be included. For example, pills designed for you may have higher doses than is necessary for a dog. The liquid formula for Gabapentin is even worse because it likely contains a sweetener known as xylitol.
Xylitol is very toxic to dogs and can cause a fatal drop in blood sugar.
Gabapentin definitely has a place in veterinary practice, which is why it’s best to refer to a licensed veterinarian for the correct dosage.
This post contains a cheat sheet with dosage guides for dogs based on their weight. This is by no means designed to take the place of a veterinarian’s advice.
In this post, we’re going to give you some tips on what the medication is prescribed for, how it works, how long a dog should be on it, and potential side-effects or drug interactions.
What’s So Special About Gabapentin for Dogs?
Gabapentin is a drug that belongs in the “anticonvulsant” group of medications. It’s a drug originally designed for humans to treat seizures. Veterinary medicine, however, has found the drug to have several uses in dogs and cats.
The following are some reasons why a veterinarian may prescribe gabapentin for dogs.
- As a pain reliever
- To help with anxiety disorders in fearful dogs
- For the treatment of seizures
When used to treat pain in dogs, gabapentin may also be prescribed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Gabapentin has a High Safety Profile
What does this mean? It means that there’s little risk of overdosing a dog on Gabapentin provided you follow the veterinarian’s instructions.
When used appropriately, and with a veterinarian’s prescription, gabapentin is safe for dogs. Of course, there are always precautions that should be taken.
Overall, gabapentin is safe, but certain precautions must be taken. Never give your dog human-grade liquid gabapentin. The reason isn’t the gabapentin itself, but the xylitol with which it’s usually mixed.
Although this artificial sweetener is safe for humans, it is toxic and can be fatal to dogs. Do not administer gabapentin without first consulting your veterinarian. It is not the most effective medication for many conditions, it may interact with other medications, and it has side effects (which we discuss below).
How Gabapentin Works
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
Gabapentin is mainly used for pain relief. Because of its sedating effects, it can be used to manage short-term, occasional anxiety in dogs.
In addition to pain relief, it can be used in seizure control, for acute pain, and for mild sedation. This means that your dog’s veterinarian will have to prescribe it, and you’ll only be able to get a limited amount at a time. Gabapentin may help your dog with chronic pain caused by arthritis, spondylosis, tumors, herniated discs, or other conditions.
In some cases, gabapentin is actually used with analgesics to boost the pain-relieving effects. There are, of course, some medications that shouldn’t be taken with them.
Some uses of Gabapentin include:
- Osteoarthritis & Slipped Disc Pain (herniated discs)
- Nerve Pain
- Postoperative Pain
- Epilepsy or seizure control
- Adjunctive therapy for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy.
- Anxiety about stressful events (or situational anxiety)
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 Tramadol
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Volume 33, September-October, 2019, pages 7 – 15, revealed that Tramadol 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 effects of other drugs. In other words, it’s used alongside other medications to get the best results.
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.
Most Common Side Effects of Gabapentin 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 with repeated doses (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.
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 to dogs in pill or tablet form. Some dogs will eat anything and may not think twice about swallowing the pill.
Other dogs, however, need a little coaxing. Here are some ideas to help your dog get his or her medicine down.
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.
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. It’s very important to discuss this with a licensed veterinarian. You don’t want to give your dog too much, but you also want to make sure your dog has enough to be effective.
There are so many individual differences and factors, finding the right Gabapentin dosage for your dog may require some trial and error which is another reason why your dog’s veterinarian should be involved.
Gabapentin is available in 100, 300, and 400 mg capsules as well as 600 and 800 mg tablets. Dosages for pain relief or seizure control vary.
Gabapentin Tolerance in Dogs
A dog’s tolerance to the medication may develop over time, and the dosage may need to be increased. To treat pain, veterinarians recommend that owners give this dosage every 24 hours.
Dogs being treated with gabapentin for pain are likely also being treated with a complementary medication.
The following gabapentin doses are an example of what might be prescribed for anxiety in dogs.
Disclaimer: Please note that suggested dosages do not take into account any other medications your dog may be on, nor do they factor in any underlying medical conditions (kidney disease, liver disease, etc.) your dog may have. Before giving your dog any medicine, you should always talk to a licensed veterinarian.
|Gabapentin Dosage by Weight||Suggested Dosage||Special Notes|
|10 pound dog (4.5 kg)||100 mg||Lowest dose available is 100 mg|
Alternative medication or supplement may be suggested.
|20 pound dog (9.07 kg)||100 mg|
|30 Pound Dog (13.60)||100 mg – 200 mg||Start at lowest dose|
|40 pound dog (18.14)||200 mg – 300 mg|
|50 pound dog (22.67)||200 mg – 300 mg||Gabapentin for anxiety should be administered 60 minutes before triggering event.|
|60 pound dog (27.21)||300 mg|
|70 pound dog (31.75)||300 mg – 400 mg|
|80 pound dog (36.28)||400 mg|
|90 pound dog (40.82)||400 mg – 500 mg|
Dogs should be given 5 mg of gabapentin per kg of body weight every 12 hours, as a general rule of thumb. However, because there are so many individual differences and factors, finding the right gabapentin dosage for your dog may require some trial and error.
Personal story of my dog and gabapentin
I have a 70 pounds Labrador retriever who is terrified of fireworks. Is there a dog that isn’t? She had been taking 300 mg prior to events, but on one particular night there was going to be a fireworks display directly over my condominium. The veterinarian suggested giving her 600 mg the day before the event, and again the day of the event.
Unfortunately, it was too much for her and she become over-sedated. She was so out of it that she urinated on herself and couldn’t keep her head up. She responded to her name and would life her head every so often. With a few hours, she started to come out of it and she’s fine today.
She was later diagnosed with kidney failure, and that may have been the contributing factor in why the dose was too much.
Today, a year later, she is still doing well. Her kidney disease is being treated and, although she’s lost some muscle mass, she’s stable.
Gabapentin does clear out of the system fairly quickly, which is what gives it a good safety profile. I would say she had an overdose of Gabapentin, but I’m happy to say she’s fine. I would never give her that much Gabapentin again.
THAT SAID, my other Labrador retriever/Pitbull mix weighed the same (70 pounds) and had the same dose. It worked beautifully! He was calm and relaxed throughout the fireworks. For him, 600 mg was perfect.
You just don’t know when too much is too much. This is why it’s best to start your dog on a lower dose and work up. Your veterinarian will be the best person to speak to about an appropriate dose for your dog.
Gabapentin comes in three different formulations: capsules, tablets, and compounded liquid. The oral liquid contains 250 mg Gabapentin per 5 ml of suspension, and the capsules and tablets come in various strengths – 100 mg, 300 mg, and 400 mg.
Ask the veterinarian to prescribe a specific form if it is easier for you to use or more acceptable for your dog. Gabapentin is always taken by mouth, and it can be taken with or without food, depending on which form you choose.
Give the Gabapentin dose before feeding if your pet has a sensitive stomach and is prone to vomiting and diarrhea when given medications on an empty stomach.
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 has been 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.
Prices may vary depending on your location.
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.
Pain Management Alternatives for Dogs
Sometimes prescription medications aren’t right for every dog. Severe pain that lowers a dog’s quality of life should be treated by a licensed veterinarian.
BUT, there are supplements available that contain the same type of Glucosamine and Chondroitin that humans use.
This type of supplement doesn’t work overnight. It may take several weeks to see the full benefit. Keep in mind that supplements (even St. John’s Wort) can significantly interfere with various prescriptions or medications your dog is on.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does gabapentin do for dogs?
Gabapentin is first and foremost used as a pain medication. Dogs suffering from conditions like arthritis and other painful conditions are prescribed this drug. It is also used to help alleviate anxiety in dogs and is used on an as-needed basis.
What are the most common side-effects of gabapentin in dogs?
The most common side-effect of gabapentin in dogs is drowsiness. The first time your dog takes this drug, he/she may seem a little wobbly or uncoordinated. This side-effect typically goes away quickly.
Does gabapentin make dogs sleepy?
Gabapentin can make a dog sleepy, but not necessarily.
How much Gabapentin can I give my dog for anxiety?
The amount of Gabapentin you give your dog for anxiety should be the dose prescribed by the veterinarian. Generally speaking, the dosage for dogs with anxiety is calculated at 10–20 mg/kg. That said, it’s vital that a veterinarian prescribe the appropriate dose for your dog.
Does Gabapentin relax a dog?
Gabapentin has a mild, sedating effect on dogs. The initial dose may leave your dog a little wobbly with a drunken gait. Dogs adjust to gabapentin fairly quickly and may not have the same reaction the next time you administer it.
How long does it take Gabapentin to kick in for dogs?
Veterinarians recommend administered prescribed gabapentin to dogs 2 hours before a stressful event.
Will 300 mg of Gabapentin hurt a dog?
Gabapentin is well tolerated and has a high safety margin. Dogs 40 pounds and over can safely take gabapentin if it has been prescribed by a veterinarian.
Do not administer gabapentin that has been sitting around the house for a while. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the medication. The problem is that your dog may have an underlying condition that you don’t know about yet. Also seek the help of licensed veterinarian.
Are There Alternatives to Gabapentin for Dogs with Anxiety?
We recommend our favorite products through The Anxious Pet. Check out the link to their site below for 20% off your first order.
Before you go, we thought you might be interested in reading these:
Dog Tranquillizers – What you need to know.
The Final Verdict
Gabapentin’s 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.
I want to thank you for reading this post, and I hope you’ll come back for more information on dog’s health matters. Please take a minute to Pin, Post, or Tweet!
The use of gabapentin to help manage anxiety in dogs. (n.d.). DVM 360. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.dvm360.com/view/use-gabapentin-help-manage-anxiety-dogs
PhD, C. C. (n.d.). Gabapentin for Dogs: Uses and Side Effects – American Kennel Club. American Kennel Club. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/gabapentin-for-dogs/
H. (n.d.). Pain Management in Small Animals with Lameness – Musculoskeletal System – Merck Veterinary Manual. Merck Veterinary Manual. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/musculoskeletal-system/lameness-in-small-animals/pain-management-in-small-animals-with-lameness
Gabapentin | VCA Animal Hospital. (n.d.). Vca. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/gabapentin