Gabapentin for Dogs: Uses and Dosage

Although it is a drug for human use, gabapentin can be used in dogs with very specific diagnoses. Learn how it works and in which cases it's prescribed.
Gabapentin for Dogs: Uses and Dosage
Samuel Sanchez

Reviewed and approved by the biologist Samuel Sanchez.

Last update: 25 November, 2022

Gabapentin is a human drug that has been prescribed in recent times by some veterinarians to treat certain medical problems in dogs. Let’s go deeper into the nature of this drug, as there are many questions that may arise among owners about its composition of gabapentin for dogs, its use, and possible side effects.

Before continuing, we should make it clear that it isn’t recommended to medicate pets without an expert’s authorization. This is even more inadvisable when it comes to remedies for human use.

Because of this, the dosage should always be calculated by the veterinarian, considering the conditions, weight, breed, and size of the animal, among other factors. Otherwise, this practice could be fatal.

What is gabapentin for dogs?

Gabapentin belongs to the group of gabapentinoids, which are related to the neurotransmitter GABA (gammaaminobutyric acid). According to Mayo Clinic, this drug has antiepileptic action in humans, so it’s used in the treatment of seizures, neuropathies, and different neurological and psychological diseases.

This drug’s exact mechanism hasn’t been identified, but it’s believed to inhibit the release of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain.

Specialists have observed that the function of this drug interrupts the uptake of the substance P by the nerves, which is responsible for signaling pain. It also promotes the release of noradrenaline, which, together with the above, efficiently reduces the perception of pain.

As mentioned above, this drug has been manufactured for use in humans. However, the efficacy it has demonstrated in dogs has led it to be prescribed by veterinarians, although this practice isn’t approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

You might be interested in: New Legislation on Veterinary Drugs

A dog with a pill.

What is gabapentin for dogs used for?

As with humans, gabapentin for dogs is used to treat certain diseases of a nervous nature. These include seizures, pain, and even anxiety. In the following points, we’ll explain its action in each case.

1. Prevents seizures

Gabapentin is used as an adjunctive therapy to prevent complex or refractory partial seizures in dogs. It’s often prescribed especially for dogs in cases where other medications have already been tried and aren’t fully effective.

In fact, some research that sampled 11 dogs diagnosed with refractory idiopathic epilepsy reported that in 6 of the dogs treated with gabapentin there was a reduction in the number of seizures per week of 50%. For this reason, its use is considered effective in canines.

2. Gabapentin to control pain in dogs

Another of the most outstanding uses of this medicine in canines has to do with pain control. According to scientific research, gabapentin should be the first choice in the treatment of neuropathic and oncologic pain. It can be the sole treatment, or part of a multimodal approach.

It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of postoperative pain and pain associated with degenerative joint disease. In fact, according to medical criteria, it reports good results in combination with analgesics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and opioids.

3. Relieves symptoms of anxiety

Although science needs to research a little further, there’s some data that suggests that gabapentin helps to decrease anxiety in dogs  and cats. If you suspect that your dogs are suffering from this disorder, don’t medicate them at home. You should first consult an expert for them to make a diagnosis and prescribe the relevant drug according to the symptoms and the origin of the problem.

Dosage of gabapentin for dogs

The recommended dosage of gabapentin for dogs depends on the disease or condition to be treated and must be prescribed by a veterinarian. We need to remember that this medicine is manufactured for human consumption and comes in capsules and tablets of 100, 300, and 400 milligrams. Likewise, there’s an oral solution of 250 milligrams per 5 milliliters of syrup.

However, this last format may contain xylitol, a sweetener present in different products that, according to the FDA, is toxic to canids and can lead to death. Sometimes its chemical name is omitted and nominatives such as wood sugar, birch sugar, or birch bark extract are used, so be careful.

In dogs, the dosage of gabapentin usually ranges from 5 to 30 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Under normal treatment, this drug is usually administered 3 to 4 times a day, as it is rapidly eliminated by the body. In any case, the owner should follow the recommendations of the treating veterinarian to the letter.

Side effects of the drug

Gabapentin has mild side effects such as sedation, drowsiness, and ataxia (difficulty in coordinating movements), which depend on the individual dog under treatment. These signs may be more noticeable at the beginning of the treatment, so they will prescribe a dosage that should be adjusted according to how the dog progresses.

The side effects should disappear when the ideal dosage of medication is reached.

Contraindications

Gabapentin is contraindicated in dogs with hypersensitivity to the active ingredient, as well as in some dogs with renal or hepatic insufficiency. This is due to the fact that these organs are the main ones in charge of metabolizing the drug. On the other hand, the abrupt suspension of this drug is not recommended, since it can cause withdrawal seizures.

Reaction with other drugs

Like any drug, gabapentin reacts with other drugs, in some cases positively and in others negatively. Here are the drugs that you can and can’t combine it with.

1. Gabapentin and trazodone

Trazodone is a drug used in dogs as an antidepressant. It acts as a serotonin reuptake inhibitor and is widely prescribed to treat acute anxiety and promote post-surgical relaxation.

Contrary to tramadol, trazodone can be prescribed in conjunction with gabapentin. In fact, there are already products on the market that combine these two drugs. However, this combination doesn’t work in all clinical cases, and the dosage must be calculated and prescribed by the treating professional.

2. Mixed with CBD

Cannabidiol or CBD is used to treat pain and inflammation in pets. It has been identified as having few side effects, but is contraindicated if gabapentin is also being given. This is because the risk of sedation is high, changing the health status of the canine under treatment.

3. Tramadol and gabapentin

Tramadol is used to control pain in pets and humans. However, studies have shown that its effectiveness isn’t as wide as previously thought. It isn’t recommended to mix it with gabapentin because they have a similar action.

A dog taking a pill.

Were you familiar with gabapentin for dogs?

As you can see, gabapentin is a drug that brings benefits for dogs, although it still has a long way to go at a scientific level to be recognized as a veterinary drug. In the meantime, its prescription should be in the hands of an expert, and you should never give it without prior authorization. Without a proper assessment, the dog could be in more danger from the medication than from its illness.

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