As a pet owner, you can detect any changes in your dog’s behavior and monitoring for any signs of pain. When you are aware of this, you work as part of the team with your veterinarian. You help them detect and diagnose possible conditions that are in the early stages, and your pet can get prompt treatment and have higher chances of a complete recovery.
In this educational article, we will give you an insight into gabapentin for dogs, a medication that has a couple of uses, including pain management. We will discuss what it is, precautions, side effects, and drug interactions.
Before we start, we want to remind you not to give any medication to your pet without the proper diagnosis, dosage, and advice of your veterinarian!
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a prescribed human anticonvulsant drug. This medication is also popular in veterinary medicine. However, it is not approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in animals.
The mechanism of action on how gabapentin works in canine companions is not well understood. But, what is known about gabapentin for dogs?
- Its structure: which is similar to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). A neurotransmitter allows communications from cell to cell in the nervous system (neurons) and binds to receptors to keep transmitting a message. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that blocks neurotransmission, and it is also known to produce a relaxing effect in the nervous system. The curious thing about gabapentin is that even though it has a similar design to GABA, it does not bind to GABA receptors.
- A possible mechanism of action is that gabapentin attaches to some calcium channels that release excitatory neurotransmitters (likely to induce an impulse). These are stimulated during seizures and are also present when your pet is experiencing neuropathic pain. The effect of gabapentin in this scenario is to repress the excitatory neurotransmitters.
What Are the Uses of Gabapentin for Dogs?
Veterinarians use gabapentin to treat chronic pain, especially neuropathic pain. Let’s define these terms:
- Chronic pain persists for longer than three or six months and does not have any purpose in contrast to acute pain, which may have meaning such as tissue healing or protection.
- Neuropathic pain is a type of chronic pain, and it disrupts the part of the nervous system that perceives pain, temperature, touch (somatosensory system). The causes of neuropathic pain include lesions and diseases like amputations, nerve damage following surgery, spinal cords tumors.
Gabapentin may work best in combination with other medications (NSAIDs and opioids) to treat neuropathic pain and target different parts of the pain pathway, including the brain and spinal cord. This is called multimodal analgesia.
Gabapentin is also used as part of the management of idiopathic epilepsy and seizures in dogs where other anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital, were not effective or sufficient.
Some veterinarians may also prescribe gabapentin for acute postoperative pain.
Side Effects of Gabapentin for Dogs
It is essential to use gabapentin for your pooch as directed by your veterinarian and keep an eye for any side effects as your vet may need to adjust the dosage:
- Involuntary movement of muscles and loss of coordination (ataxia)
Signs of an overdose include:
- Pale or dark gums
Do not discontinue the use of gabapentin without the consent of your veterinarian. They will advise you on how to do it, and they may prescribe an alternative if necessary.
Gabapentin Drug Interactions
Inform your veterinarian of any drugs and supplements your dog is taking and any other ailments so they can prescribe a treatment that it adjusts to your pet’s needs.
Gabapentin should not be given within two hours of administering antacids to ensure efficacy.
Dosage of Gabapentin for Dogs
The dosage varies for each dog. It may range from 5-30 mg per kilogram of weight every 8-12 hours and depends on the use of gabapentin, your dog’s circumstances (other illnesses, causes of the neuropathic pain, reaction to the medicine), and their weight.
Always follow the instructions of your veterinarian for the wellbeing of your dog. They may start with a low dose and gradually build it as some dogs start creating tolerance to the drug.
How is Gabapentin given to Dogs?
Gabapentin comes in a tablet form of 100 mg, 300 mg, 400 mg, 600 mg, and 800 mg. Ask your veterinarian for the best way to break the tablet if needed.
Here are some guidelines:
- You can give it to your dog with or without food. You may place the tablet in their meal and monitor your canine companion until he eats his pill.
- Always read the ingredients in the label as some liquid versions of gabapentin may contain a substance toxic to dogs (xylitol)
- Alert your vet if your dog is allergic to the medication, pregnant, has liver or kidney disease.
Gabapentin made its way into veterinary medicine and has been used mostly for chronic pain management in dogs and to aid with the treatment of epilepsy. It is also used in cats, but mainly to lower anxiety due to stressful events.
You may have heard of CBD oil and its excellent properties as a tool for bringing additional comfort and alleviate some conditions such as seizure. We wrote a full article about CBD oil for dogs that you can read here.