Gabapentin for Cats
- Medication type: Pain relief, Anti-seizure
- Form: Capsule, Tablet, Suspension
- Prescription required? Yes
- FDA approved? No
- Brand names: Neurontin, Gralise, Gabarone, Fanatrex
- Common names: Gabapentin
- Available dosages: 100 mg, 300 mg, and 400 mg capsules; 300 mg, 600 mg, and 800 mg tablets; 50 mg/ml liquid
- Expiration range: Gabapentin capsules are typically stable for several years. The stability of liquid gabapentin for cats may vary based on formulation and storage conditions.
If your feline friend becomes fearful or feisty at the veterinary clinic, you may be familiar with gabapentin for cats. Although this medication has other applications in human patients, its most common use in cats is to treat fear and anxiety associated with veterinary visits.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993 for the treatment of epilepsy in humans. In addition to preventing seizures, gabapentin was later approved to treat neuralgia (nerve pain) occurring after herpes infection in people.
Over time, veterinarians began adopting the use of gabapentin to treat pain and seizures in cats. A 2017 study determined that gabapentin was highly effective in alleviating the stress associated with veterinary visits in cats. This led to a dramatic increase in the use of gabapentin as a cat anxiety medication.
Although gabapentin is not labeled for use in feline patients, it is frequently used in an “off-label” manner. This means that the manufacturer has not submitted the testing and documentation that is requires for FDA approval, but there are published research studies to support its use and veterinarians have safely used this drug for years.
Most veterinarians in the United States stock gabapentin capsules that are appropriately sized for dogs and cats. If your veterinarian does not stock this medication, they may provide you with a prescription to obtain this medication from a human or veterinary pharmacy. Gabapentin does not require a visit to a veterinary specialist.
What Does Gabapentin for Cats Look Like?
Most veterinary hospitals provide gabapentin to cat owners as 100 mg or 300 mg capsules. The color of these capsules may vary, depending on the manufacturer.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin binds to multiple receptors within the brain and spinal cord, influencing the levels of certain neurotransmitters (chemical signals) that are circulating within the body.
In the brain, gabapentin primarily acts to decrease the excitability of neurons. This slows the transmission of abnormal electrical signals, reducing the likelihood of seizures and exerting a calming effect. In the spinal cord, gabapentin limits the transmission of pain signals, reducing the sensation of pain.
What Is Gabapentin Used For in Cats?
Gabapentin is primarily intended to control seizures and reduce neuropathic (nerve-associated) pain.
However, this medication has also been shown to reduce stress associated with veterinary visits. Therefore, many veterinarians prescribe gabapentin for cats who become anxious or aggressive in the veterinary clinic.
Common scenarios in which your veterinarian might prescribe your cat gabapentin include:
- Anxiety with veterinary visits
- Anxiety in other short-lived situations
- Chronic pain
- Nerve pain
How to Give Gabapentin to Cats
Gabapentin is typically given by mouth. This medication can be given with or without food.
You can also dissolve gabapentin in water for cats, but your cat might notice the taste of the medication and resist this method. Instead, consider mixing the contents of a capsule with wet cat food or another tasty treat.
Gabapentin acts quickly and its effects are typically seen within one to two hours. The effects of gabapentin typically begin to wear off within approximately eight hours, though they may persist for 24 hours.
Gabapentin for Cats Side Effects
The most common side effect of gabapentin is sedation or sleepiness. You might also notice that your cat cannot or will not walk after gabapentin, and they may appear extra-clumsy. Less commonly, gabapentin may cause vomiting.
Fortunately, gabapentin side effects are often short-lived and resolve within 10-12 hours.
Gabapentin side effects in cats may include:
- Inability to walk
- Reluctance to walk
Reactions with Other Drugs and Medications
Gabapentin should be used with caution in cats taking morphine. Combining morphine with gabapentin may increase the amount of gabapentin that is present in the bloodstream, leading to an increased risk of side effects.
Caution should be used when combining gabapentin with other sedating drugs, due to the potential for increased sedation.
Antacids may decrease your cat’s ability to absorb gabapentin from the gastrointestinal tract. If your cat is taking antacids, your veterinarian may prescribe a higher dose of gabapentin to overcome this interaction.
Talk to your veterinarian about any medications, vitamins, supplements, or anxiety medications for cats that your pet is taking before starting treatment with gabapentin.
Gabapentin Dosage for Cats
Your veterinarian calculates a gabapentin dosage for cats by weight, taking into account the medication’s intended purpose.
Cats that are taking gabapentin for the control of seizures may require a relatively high dose of gabapentin, which may be given as often as every eight hours. In contrast, a gabapentin dose for cats with chronic pain is often relatively low and these cats may receive gabapentin just once daily.
What if My Cat Misses a Dose of Gabapentin?
If your cat misses a dose of gabapentin, you should give the missed dose as soon as you remember. Adjust your cat’s dosing schedule and continue to give the rest of your cat’s doses at the recommended intervals.
If it’s almost time for your cat’s next dose of gabapentin, you may want to wait and give the dose at the scheduled time. This will allow you to get your pet back on a regular dosing schedule.
If your cat has a history of seizures, do not stop giving gabapentin abruptly. Cat gabapentin withdrawal could lead to a recurrence of your cat’s seizures.
Cost of Gabapentin for Cats
Gabapentin is a relatively inexpensive medication and the generic form of medication is usually dispensed. In most cases, you will pay less than $1 per pill for gabapentin.
A one-month supply of gabapentin for a cat that is taking this medication once daily will likely cost around $30.
Keep in mind, however, that veterinary hospitals and pharmacies may charge a prescription dispensing fee to account for supplies and staff time spent labeling and dispensing medications. If you are purchasing a few gabapentin capsules to give before veterinary visits, you may spend approximately $15-$20 due to medication costs and dispensing fees.
Gabapentin Storage Instructions
Gabapentin capsules can be stored at room temperature, in a cabinet, or on your kitchen counter. Liquid gabapentin may require refrigeration. Talk to your veterinarian or pharmacist if you have questions about appropriate gabapentin storage.