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Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant originally created as a treatment for epilepsy in humans. Over time, clinical application revealed gabapentin was also successful in “off-label” uses such as the treatment of nerve pain and mood disorders in humans and canines.Anticonvulsants like gabapentin work by influencing neurotransmitter activity and changing how the brain interprets information from the body. Gabapentin isn't a cure for these conditions, but for many dogs, it significantly increases their quality of life.
Gabapentin comes in three forms: capsules, tablets, long-acting tablets, and oral solutions. To calculate a starting dose of gabapentin, vets consider the animal's kidney function, age, size, medical issues, and the bioavailability of the brand. An average starting dose of gabapentin for dogs ranges from 3 mg to 20 mg per kg twice daily. Owners may offer this medication with or without a meal.
One study of gabapentin for dogs with epilepsy found it decreased seizure activity in half of the test subjects. A study on felines published by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that gabapentin helped control anxiety and compliance before stressful events.
Clinical data supporting gabapentin's analgesic effects in canines is limited; however, there's much anecdotal evidence of its pain-relieving properties for dogs. A study of postoperative pain levels in canines found that this medication boosted the effectiveness of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like ibuprofen) and vice versa. The dogs given gabapentin required fewer doses of narcotic painkillers than those who were given NSAIDs alone.
Nausea and vomiting
Loss of coordination
Sleeping a lot
Some gabapentin oral suspensions contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, a known canine toxin. Talk to your vet about which type of gabapentin is right for your dog.
Epileptic dogs should be tapered off this medication. Sudden discontinuation of gabapentin can cause withdrawal seizures.
The following medications may intensify or limit the absorption of gabapentin in dogs:
Allergic reaction and hypersensitivity is a concern with any medication. Contact the vet immediately if your pet exhibits any of the following symptoms:
Extreme muscle weakness
Swelling of the tongue, throat, lips, or face
Never double up doses of gabapentin to make up for a missed dose. Many vets and doctors follow the 2-hour rule for oral medications. If you realize you've forgotten your dog's meds within 2 hours of the missed dose, you can give go ahead and it to them. If it's nearly time for the next scheduled dose and your pet isn't exhibiting signs pain or epileptic activity, then continue their dosage at their regular time.
When gabapentin starts working, your dog may be more active, have a happier demeanor, and return to activities they once avoided (like jumping on furniture or using the stairs). If your dog is doing any of the above, chances are they're feeling much better.
Most dogs hate taking pills — unless they're flavored, of course. Make things easier for you and your pup by hiding their meds in a piece of cheese, meat, or flavored "pill pouch".
Sleepiness is the single most common side effect of gabapentin for dogs. The drowsiness should subside as your pet gets used to their dosage,
Most veterinarians prescribe gabapentin as needed for anxiety. For some dogs with anxiety disorders, this means taking gabapentin once or twice a month. Dogs with more frequent nervous episodes may need the maximum dosage of 3 times a day. Consult with your vet to find the right dosage schedule for your dog.
For most pets, gabapentin takes effect within 2 hours. Some pet owners notice their dog shows signs of relief after only one hour.
Gabapentin should only be used in pregnant or lactating dogs if absolutely necessary. Studies show gabapentin can cause spontaneous abortion and deformities in offspring if taken during pregnancy.
Dogs with renal failure or low liver function are at higher risk for gabapentin toxicity since their body isn't as efficient at metabolizing these medications. Talk to the vet about the benefits and risks of using this medication for your dog's condition.
Gabapentin is available at most human pharmacies with a written prescription. Do not administer this medication to an animal without a prescription — severe, and sometimes fatal reactions can occur.
Gabapentin goes by many brand names, the most well-known being Neurontin. Other common gabapentin brands are Aclonium, Equipax, Gantin, Gabarone, Gralise, Neurostil, and Progresse.
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