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Medication details

  • Medication type: Pain relief, Sedative, Anti-seizure
  • Form: Liquid, Capsule, Tablet
  • Prescription required? Yes
  • FDA approved? No
  • Life stage: All
  • Brand names: Neurontin, Therapentin, Gralise, Horizant
  • Common names: gabapentin
  • Available dosages: The most common dosages used in veterinary patients are 100 mg and 300 mg capsules. Other dosages include 400 mg capsules; 300 mg, 600 mg, and 800 mg tablets; and 50 mg/ml suspension. The suspension is not typically prescribed to dogs because it often contains xylitol.
  • Expiration range: 2-3 years from date of manufacture

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved gabapentin as a human drug in the 1970s. Now veterinarians use it to treat dogs for seizures, pain, and anxiety. Gabapentin for dogs has a low risk of side effects. That, along with its benefits, make it a commonly-prescribed medication by many veterinarians. 

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin was developed in 1975, as a treatment for seizures in humans. The FDA approved he brand-name version of the drug, Neurontin, in 1993. In 2002, Neurontin was also approved for the treatment of post-herpes nerve pain. 

Over time, gabapentin became a commonly-utilized medication in veterinary practice. Veterinarians prescribe it to treat different conditions. These include seizure disorders and nerve pain in dogs. Gabapentin also treats chronic pain in dogs, including arthritis and cancer pain

Veterinarians also observed that gabapentin can help situational anxiety in dogs. It is now prescribed for anxious pets for veterinary visits and high-stress situations.  

What Does Gabapentin Look Like?

Gabapentin in bottle on shelf
PureRadiancePhoto / Shutterstock.com

Gabapentin is available in a variety of formulations. The most commonly-used formulation in veterinary medicine is a small capsule. This capsule is white or yellow in color, although some may be a combination of white and yellow. Gabapentin is also available as a tablet, which may be white or another color. 

Gabapentin liquid, although available, is rarely prescribed for dogs. Many liquid formulations contain xylitol as an artificial sweetener. While this sweetener may improve the taste for human patients, xylitol is toxic to dogs. Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe a compounded, xylitol-free formulation if necessary. 

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin is structurally similar to GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter that performs chemical signaling within the brain. We don’t know the exact mechanism by which gabapentin influences a dog’s brain and spinal cord. However, veterinarians believe it acts in a similar way to GABA.

Gabapentin acts on a dog’s brain by:

  • Decreasing seizure activity
  • Reducing anxiety
  • Causing mild sedation (at higher doses)

Gabapentin’s acts on a dog’s spinal cord by:

  • Decreasing the sensation of pain
  • Interfering with the transmission of pain signals 

What Is Gabapentin Used For in Dogs?

Veterinarians prescribe gabapentin to control seizures in dogs with epilepsy. The medication also plays a role in canine pain control. It is beneficial for managing nerve pain in conditions like intervertebral disk disease or a pinched nerve. Vets may also prescribe it for pain associated with cancer and other conditions. 

Finally, gabapentin is often used as a mild sedative and an anti-anxiety medication. It may benefit dogs with situational anxiety (for example, a fear of veterinary visits). 

This medication is prescribed to help dogs with: 

  • Seizure control
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Cancer pain 
  • Arthritis pain
  • Other types of pain 
  • Situational anxiety

Side Effects in Dogs

Gabapentin is generally regarded as a safe drug for dogs. Side effects of gabapentin in dogs include sedation or weakness. Use with other sedatives may amplify these effects. 

Dogs treated with gabapentin may also experience gastrointestinal effects, especially at higher doses. These include vomiting and diarrhea

Contact your veterinarian if you notice the following side effects: 

  • Sedation
  • Ataxia (drunk appearance or wobbly gait)
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite

Reactions With Other Drugs and Medications

Do not give gabapentin to your dog within two hours of antacids. Antacids decrease the absorption of gabapentin and may lessen its clinical benefits. 

Use caution in dogs who are also receiving morphine, phenobarbital, or potassium bromide. These dogs may experience higher levels of gabapentin-associated sedation. The sedation typically resolves within a few days, but a dose change may be necessary if it persists. 

Gabapentin is often given in combination with trazodone for dogs for situational anxiety. This combination may be used for dogs who are fearful at the veterinary clinic. Combining gabapentin and trazodone provides anti-anxiety benefits than using either drug alone.

Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs

Senior dog outside

The dosage of gabapentin for dogs varies, depending on several factors. Some conditions need higher doses per unit of body weight, while others require lower doses. Drug dosages in veterinary medicine are always based upon the weight of your pet. 

Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate dosage for your dog. They will base it on your dog’s body weight and medical condition(s). 

What if My Dog Misses a Dose of Gabapentin?

If your dog misses a dose of gabapentin, there are several ways to get back on schedule. If the next dose is due soon, you may want to wait until it is time to give the next scheduled dose. 

Another option is to give the missed dose as soon as possible. If you do this, wait 8 hours before giving your dog the next dose of medication. 

Price of Gabapentin for Dogs

Gabapentin is a low-cost drug. Most veterinary clinics charge approximately $30 for a one-month supply of medication. Prices may vary by clinic and dose.

Gabapentin Storage Instructions

Store gabapentin capsules and tablets at room temperature. It’s best to keep this medication in a cabinet, out of the reach of children and pets.