Gabapentin is a medication that veterinarians are prescribing with increasing frequency, sometimes alone but more commonly in combination with other medications, for the management of pain in dogs. It’s also increasingly prescribed in combination with other medications for canine anxiety. Why has it become so popular? I’ll get to that, but first we have to discuss pain. Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant prescribed by veterinarians predominantly to treat chronic pain in dogs, cats, and other animals. It also is used as a seizure-control agent, either by itself or in conjunction with other anti-seizure medications. Dosage can vary widely.
Gabapentin is a structural analogue of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The mechanism of action of Gabapentin is not well understood, although it does not affect GABA binding or reuptake, or behave as a GABA agonist. Gabapentin is used in human medicine to treat seizures and many types of pain, including neuropathic pain, diabetic neuropathy, malignant pain, central pain, complex regional pain, and trigeminal neuralgia.
Gabapentin (brand names: Neurontin®, Aclonium®, Equipax®, Gantin®, Gabarone®, Gralise®, Neurostil®, Progresse®) is an anti-seizure and pain medication that is used with other medications to treat seizures and is also used to treat chronic pain, primarily nerve pain. It has also been used in cats to treat fear and anxiety associated with veterinary visits. Its use in cats and dogs to treat seizures and pain is ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their direction may be significantly different from those on the label.
Uses/benefits of Gabapentin For Dogs
Gabapentin is often used as a treatment for chronic pain in dogs, though it’s usually not used by itself. Vets typically combine it with other medications such as opioids or NSAIDs. It amplifies the effects of these drugs. Though we don’t fully understand the mechanisms, vets think gabapentin inhibits the neurotransmitter glutamate by affecting calcium channels in the nervous system. In doing so, it reduces a dog’s ability to perceive pain.
Some painful conditions that vets might treat with gabapentin include chronic arthritis, pain associated with cancer, hyperalgesia, which is a heightened sensitivity to pain, or allodynia, which is a sensation of pain to normally non-painful stimuli. Vets can also use gabapentin to treat seizures, anxiety, and idiopathic epilepsy in dogs. Because it affects the nervous system, it can prove particularly useful for pain associated with neuropathic disorders. Some vets may prescribe it to calm anxious behavior before a vet visit. In the case of seizures, the medication mimics the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps calm excessive electrical activity in the nerves of the brain.
Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs
The dosage range for gabapentin varies widely depending on what it is being used to treat. Gabapentin should be used with caution for animals with liver or kidney disease, as it will take longer to metabolize. Gabapentin is available in several forms that are human-labeled products:
- 100 mg (capsules and tablets)
- 300 mg (capsules and tablets)
- 400 mg (capsules and tablets)
There is also an oral solution made at 250 mg/5 mL; however, sometimes the solution is formulated with xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Your veterinarian will help you order this medication in a form that is safe for your dog.
Common Side Effects Of Gabapentin In Dogs
- Diarrhea, black tarry stools and vomiting
- Change in behavior, aggressiveness
- Low energy, drooling, sedation and mental distress
- Rolling eye movement
- Ataxia, clumsiness, loss of balance, unsteady gait, loss of coordination
- Loss of appetite
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Increased anxiety or agitation (from a medication prescribed to treat both!)
- Fluid retention in limbs and extremities
Prices of Gabapentin For Dogs
$48.4 – $86.8