If you’re familiar with human medications, you would be surprised to know how many human medications are used in veterinary medicine. While some human medications are very unsafe for dogs (like Tylenol and pseudoephedrine), there are prescription medications that are quite safe for your dog.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant and pain reliever used to treat pain and prevent seizures in canines. If it’s being used to treat/prevent seizures, it is never given as a primary treatment; it’s always used in conjunction with other medications. When it’s prescribed for pain relief, it isn’t administered to treat short-term pain. Instead, it’s given to dogs suffering from conditions causing chronic pain like severe arthritis. It’s most effective when it’s used in combination with NSAIDs or analgesics like tramadol.
How Safe is Gabapentin?
This a very well-tolerated drug in healthy dogs, but it should be given carefully to dogs with kidney problems because these organs are responsible for metabolizing the drug. It isn’t necessarily unsafe for a dog with kidney disease, but the dose will need to be altered depending on the condition of the kidneys. Because it’s a prescription medication, gabapentin should never be given without the direct supervision of your veterinarian.
Gabapentin does interact with certain drugs like antacids, hydrocodone, and morphine, so always tell your veterinarian if your dog is on any kind of medication. Gabapentin should always be stopped slowly, especially if it’s supposed to be treating seizures. Your vet will give you safe and detailed program to slowly wean your dog off to prevent seizures from occurring.
Side Effects of Gabapentin
Side effects are typically quite minimal. Sedation and loss of coordination are the most common, necessitating caution in dogs with severe arthritis or muscle weakness. Contact your vet immediately if your dog has a loss of coordination, excessive sleeping, vomiting or diarrhea, or bulging eyes. These are concerning side effects and should be brought up to your vet. Allergic reactions are rare but possible. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include facial swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting soon after taking the medication, and hives. Allergic reactions should never be treated without talking to your veterinarian.
Gabapentin is used in humans, but your dog should never take the liquid form of Neurontin. To make it palatable for humans, it’s sweetened with xylitol which is incredibly toxic to dogs. If your vet has prescribed a liquid form, make sure it’s been compounded for dogs and doesn’t contain any artificial sweeteners like xylitol.
Your vet is the only one who can calculate an adequate and safe dosage for your dog. Gabapentin comes in 100 mg and 300 mg capsules. Dosing varies depending on what is being treated. For the treatment of seizures, the typical dose is 4.5 to 13/5 mg per pound every eight to 12 hours. This dose depends on the dog’s weight, overall health, and the severity/frequency of the seizures, as well as what other medications have been prescribed.
For managing chronic pain, the typical dose is 1.4 mg per pound once a day. This is just a baseline for calculating the appropriate dose, so it varies based on your dog’s age, the severity/cause of their pain, and what other medications they’re currently taking.
Your vet will want to keep your dog on the lowest dose possible. The initial dose might be a lot lower than what it will end up being, but this is to protect your dog’s kidneys. The lower the dose, the less strain is put on your dog’s organs.
Gabapentin is not something you should just give your dog without the advice of a vet. Even if you have your own prescription, remember the human form isn’t safe for canines. Treating seizures and pain until they become manageable requires a lot of trial and error, making the skill of a knowledgeable veterinarian vital.