Even though it is not the best-known medication out there, Gabapentin can be quite useful for dogs, especially in some situations. In fact, it has a range of uses in veterinary medicine, and in the past several years, many veterinarians have started to prescribe it for anxiety and other health problems.
In today’s article, we’re looking at what Gabapentin is, its indications, dosage, and side effects, and also whether the human form is indeed safe or not to give to your canine companion.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin can be used as an anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, and also pain management drug in pets. However, a very important note that we must make right from the beginning is that Gabapentin for people has yet to be approved by the FDA and other national and international safety associations for pets.
Its use in both dogs and cats is off-label, meaning that while it can be prescribed for dogs, pet parents have to strictly stick to the recommendations that their veterinarians have given them.
In short, Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant mostly prescribed to treat chronic pain in a variety of species, including our canine friends. The way this medication works is by inhibiting the transmission of the neural signal ‘telling’ the brain that a certain area of the body is in pain or suffering some other type of damage.
What can it be used for in dogs?
As previously mentioned, Gabapentin proves its worth, particularly when it comes to managing the effects of chronic conditions which involve severe pain. While Gabapentin is not an analgesic by itself, it seems to offer good results when combined with other anti-inflammatory medications, particularly NSAIDs.
The condition where this drug is especially useful is arthritis, but it can also be used in cancer patients. When combined with other types of drugs, it is also quite effective in treating refractory idiopathic epilepsy (or rather, managing its symptoms).
About 50% of the patients that vets administer Gabapentin to show some improvement, so its use remains questionable in veterinary medicine, at least.
In a nutshell, this medication might be helpful in preventing seizures, soothing anxious dogs, or keeping chronic pain under control.
Dosage of Gabapentin for dogs
The dosage depends on the exact type of commercial product that is administered to dogs.
Gabapentin is available under several commercial medication names, such as Aclonium, Gantin, Gralise, or Neurostil. Progresse and Gabarone are two others.
Only the capsule and tablet form are safe for dogs, but we will detail this in another section below.
Since every commercial product is different and it has a unique concentration, your veterinarian needs to advise you with regard to how you are supposed to administer the drug to your pooch and how often.
The most common forms are capsules and tablets with 100mg, 300mg, or 400mg concentrations, but they all have to be administered depending on your dog’s body weight, but also keeping in mind their potential chronic health problems, age, and other factors that might affect how the drug is metabolized.
The typical dosage is 1.4 to 5 mg of Gabapentin per pound of body weight (approximately 0.45kg). Its effect lasts for several hours, so in some dogs, it might have to be administered three to four times per day.
Is the human type safe for our canine friends?
Not all Gabapentin forms are safe for dogs. Capsules and tablets are typically safe enough provided that you do not choose to medicate your dog without consulting your vet beforehand.
However, the oral form is generally unsafe as it contains xylitol, which is known to be a highly toxic and life-threatening ingredient, particularly for dogs.
Side effects of Gabapentin for dogs
Given its uses, the two most common adverse reactions that can be encountered in dogs that are given Gabapentin are incoordination and somnolence. For this reason, many veterinarians recommend gradually increasing the dosage.
It’s also worth noting that this medication should never be administered to patients who are known to suffer from liver or kidney disease. While the metabolism of healthy adult dogs allows them to eliminate the drug in less than 24 hours, that is not the same for dogs with hepatic or renal conditions.
Since Gabapentin is a pharmaceutical product, it can always cause allergic reactions, including anaphylactic ones. Although rare, these have to be considered. Always tell your veterinarian if your dog is undergoing treatment for any other conditions or if you’re already giving them any other type of pain-relieving medication (including CBD).
If your vet has prescribed Gabapentin and you believe that it’s not doing its job, or you notice any side effects in your canine companion, go to the animal hospital.
In some cases, such as when it is used for treating epilepsy or anxiety, completely stopping the administration of such a human-grade medication can have even more serious side effects than the therapy itself.
Even though the capsule and tablet forms of this medication aren’t associated with any severe side effects in dogs, you should always give your dog Gabapentin if your vet has recommended or prescribed the drug.
The liquid form is unsafe for pets as it often contains xylitol.