Jan 11, 2022

A Guide to Gabapentin for Dogs

Gabapentin is a medication commonly prescribed to treat nervous system ailments such as neuropathic pain, seizures, or restless leg syndrome in humans. 

Even though it's not FDA-approved for animals, more and more veterinarians prescribe it for use in certain conditions, like chronic pain, for our four-legged family members. 

So is this medication effective for canines? Is it safe? We put together this guide with everything you should know about the uses, proper dosage, and the side effects of Gabapentin for dogs.

Always consult your vet first before starting your animals on any new medications.

What is Gabapentin for Dogs?

Gabapentin (Neurontin) is an anti-seizure and pain relief medication used to treat dogs' seizures, pain, and anxiety. 

Veterinarians usually use Gabapentin in conjunction with other drugs, such as opioids or NSAIDs. It helps intensify the effects of these drugs to manage a dog's health issues effectively. 

What does Gabapentin treat in dogs?

Preventing Seizures in dogs

Gabapentin is considered an anticonvulsant. Therefore, it's an excellent adjunct therapy for dogs who suffer from refractory seizures. These are types of seizures that are unresponsive to other medications. 

This medication imitates the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps calm excessive electrical activity in the nerves of the dog's brain.

Controlling chronic pain in dogs

If your dog shows signs of pain, you should take them to the vet right away. Since dogs can't verbally express pain, indications of distress can include:

  • Shaking

  • Trembling

  • Panting

  • Crying

  • Excessive licking or scratching

  • Aggression 

  • Not wanting to be touched

  • Arched back

  • Inability to stand up/walk/lie down

  • Hesitant to go up or down stairs

  • Restlessness

  • Limping 

Gabapentin is also an analgesic and is commonly prescribed to treat neuropathic pain in dogs from intervertebral disk disease, spinal cord tumors, or nerve damage. It can also help control chronic pain linked to degenerative joint disease.

Since our pups can't tell us exactly where their pain is located, vets tend to treat all possible sources and aspects of pain. Multimodal pain control is a treatment plan that includes more than one pain medication. This option treats all points where the pain is relayed in the body to reduce/prevent the pain from occurring. Gabapentin is often part of most multimodal pain relief treatments because of its effects on nerves. 

Easing Anxiety

Traditionally used for seizures and pain in dogs, many vets are also turning to Gabapentin to help treat animals’ anxiety. Similar to its use in chronic pain and seizures, Gabapentin is beneficial when just one anti-anxiety medication hasn't worked.

What Are the Side Effects of Gabapentin in Dogs?

There are common side effects in dogs taking Gabapentin as with any medication. These side effects may include:

  • Sedation

  • Ataxia (wobbliness/unsteady) 

Since the level of sleepiness that can occur varies from dog to dog, your 

vet will most likely prescribe a starting dose. If it makes your dog too sedated, they can make adjustments. 

There is a slight chance that a dog could be allergic to Gabapentin. Call your vet immediately if your dog shows signs of an allergy, including:

  • Anaphylactic shock (cold legs, vomiting, pale gums, collapse, extreme sleepiness, hyperventilation, muscle weakness, respiratory failure, weak pulse)

  • Diarrhea

  • Hives

  • Intense scratching

  • Licking and biting fur and skin

  • Red rash anywhere on the body

  • Runny nose

  • Shaking their head

Other severe side effects may also occur. Contact your vet if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea

  • Vomiting

  • Depression

  • Bulging eyes

  • Loss of coordination

  • Oversleeping

What is the correct dosage of Gabapentin for dogs?

Gabapentin is available in several forms that are labeled for human dosage:

  • 100 mg (capsules and tablets)

  • 300 mg (capsules and tablets)

  • 400 mg (capsules and tablets)

The dosage of Gabapentin for your dog will depend on what the medication is treating. Be sure to measure this medication carefully and follow your veterinarian's guidelines strictly.

  • Chronic pain- Typical dosage is 1.4 to 5 mg of medication per pound of the dog's weight. (Vet may adjust based on your dog's reaction and how effective the drug is.)

  • Seizures- Dosage can range from 4.5 to 13.6 mg per pound of weight. 

Gabapentin is also available in an oral solution. However, it should not be given to your pet because it contains xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. 

How long does it take for Gabapentin to take effect on dogs?

Gabapentin should start to take effect quickly, and relief is usually noticed within one to two hours after administration. 

It's considered a short-acting drug, so the effects usually wear off in 24 hours. However, dogs with liver or kidney disease may experience effects longer due to the medication taking longer to metabolize. Let your vet know if your pup has a history of kidney or liver issues. 

Never stop Gabapentin abruptly if it's being used to treat seizures in your dog, as it can cause withdrawal seizures.

Final thoughts

Although classified as an anti-seizure drug, Gabapentin is valuable as part of an any anti-pain and anti-anxiety management plan for your dog. 

Gabapentin is a safe and efficient treatment option for dogs. However, you should always consult your vet before starting your pet on it or any other medications. 

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This guide is meant to be informative only and should not be used in lieu of professional veterinary advice.

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