- 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
Although gabapentin was initially developed as a human drug, it is now used to treat a variety of conditions in pet dogs, including seizures, pain, and anxiety. The clinical benefits of gabapentin, combined with a low risk of side effects, have made it a commonly-prescribed medication in many veterinary practices.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin was initially developed in 1975, as a treatment for seizures in humans. The brand-name version of the drug, Neurontin, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993. Nearly ten years later, 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. It is prescribed by many veterinarians throughout the United States to treat a number of different conditions. Like in human medicine, gabapentin may be prescribed for the treatment of seizure disorders and nerve pain in dogs. Gabapentin can also be used to treat other types of chronic pain in dogs, including arthritis and cancer pain.
In addition to prescribing gabapentin for seizures and pain, veterinarians observed that gabapentin can alleviate situational anxiety in dogs. This medication is now commonly prescribed for pets that become anxious during veterinary visits and other high-stress situations.
What Does Gabapentin Look Like?
Gabapentin is available in a variety of formulations. The most commonly-used formulation in veterinary medicine, however, is a small capsule. This capsule is typically white or yellow in color, although some capsules 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 of gabapentin for human patients, xylitol is toxic to dogs. If your veterinarian requires a liquid formulation of gabapentin, your veterinarian may be able to prescribe a xylitol-free formulation, which can be compounded specifically for your dog.
How Does Gabapentin Work?
Gabapentin is structurally similar to GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that performs chemical signaling within the brain. This similarity may account for its actions, although we don’t know the exact mechanism by which gabapentin influences a dog’s brain and spinal cord.
Gabapentin’s effects on the brain decrease seizure activity, alleviate anxiety, and can cause mild sedation (at higher doses). Gabapentin’s actions on the spinal cord decrease the sensation of pain, by interfering with the transmission of pain signals.
What Is Gabapentin Used For in Dogs?
Gabapentin can be used to control seizures in dogs with epilepsy, either alone or in combination with other medications.
Gabapentin also plays a role in canine pain control. It offers particular benefits in nerve pain (for example, intervertebral disk disease or a pinched nerve), but it also has been used to control the pain associated with cancer and other conditions.
Finally, gabapentin is often used as a mild sedative, to decrease anxiety in dogs with situational anxiety (for example, a fear of veterinary visits).
Gabapentin main be prescribed to help dogs with:
- Seizure control
- Neuropathic pain
- Cancer pain
- Arthritis pain
- Other types of pain
- Situational anxiety
Gabapentin Side Effects in Dogs
Gabapentin is generally regarded as a safe drug for dogs that is associated with few side effects. If administered with other sedating medications or if a dog is overdosed, sedation and/or weakness may occur.
Gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, may also occur in dogs being treated with gabapentin, especially at higher doses.
If your dog is taking gabapentin, contact your veterinarian if you notice the following side effects:
- Ataxia (drunk appearance or wobbly gait)
- Decreased appetite
Reactions With Other Drugs and Medications
Gabapentin should not be given to your dog within two hours of antacids. Antacids decrease the absorption of gabapentin and may lessen its clinical benefits.
Caution should be used when giving gabapentin to 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, as the dog acclimates to the medication, but a dose change may be necessary if sedation persists.
Gabapentin is often given in combination with trazodone for dogs with situational anxiety. In particular, this combination of medications may be used for dogs who are fearful at the veterinary clinic. Combining gabapentin and trazodone appears to provide more sedative and anti-anxiety benefits than the use of either drug alone, enhancing the effects of each medication.
Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs
The dosage of gabapentin varies, depending on several factors. First, gabapentin has a wide dosing range—some conditions require higher doses of gabapentin per unit of body weight, while some conditions require lower doses. Second, drug dosages in veterinary medicine are always based upon the weight of your pet.
Your veterinarian will determine the appropriate dosage for your dog, based 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 just wait until it is time to give the next scheduled dose.
Another option is to give the missed dose as soon as possible, then wait eight hours before giving your dog the next dose of medication.
Price of Gabapentin for Dogs
Gabapentin is a relatively low-cost drug. Most veterinary clinics stock generic formulations, which cost approximately $30 for a one-month supply of medication.
Gabapentin Storage Instructions
Gabapentin capsules and tablets can be stored at room temperature, either in a cabinet or on your counter. This drug should be kept out of the reach of children.
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