Gabapentin for Dogs Side Effects & Alternatives
Gabapentin, more popularly known by its brand name Neurontin, is a drug that is given to canines for the treatment of seizures and chronic pain. Gabapentin is actually not yet FDA-approved to be administered to dogs but a lot of veterinarians are already prescribing it, provided the owners strictly adhere to the given instructions.
Gabapentin is usually not taken alone. It is prescribed together with NSAIDs or opioids to make it more effective. Gabapentin’s mode of action is inhibiting neurotransmitters in the nervous system to help the dog become less sensitive to pain.
Some of the illnesses that Gabapentin is usually prescribed for are:
- Allodynia – the abnormality of perceiving pain in reaction to stimuli that should not be painful
- Chronic arthritis – refers to the condition wherein inflammation of the joints make movement limited and painful.
- Hyperalgesia – the condition of being extremely sensitive to pain beyond the normal perception.
- Pain due to cancer
- Idiopathic epilepsy – these are seizures brought about by excessive neuronal activity in the brain due to genetic irregularities.
- Seizures – Gabapentin works specifically for seizure by immitating the GABA neurotransmitter, thereby calming excessive electric activity in the brain’s nerves.
Gabapentin must be stored at room temperature, and should not be exposed to heat and moisture to maintain full potency.
Dosage of Gabapentin for Dogs
The amount of Gabapentin to be administered will depend on whether the medication is being given to treat seizures or chronic pain.
If Gabapentin is being given to address chronic pain, the recommended dosage is between 1.4 to 5 mg. per pound of the dog’s weight. This amount is taken once every 24 hours. The veterinarian may closely observe the dog’s response to the medication or if the pain is being alleviated, and adjust the amount given accordingly. The dog may also develop tolerance to Gabapentin if continuously taken for a long period of time; therefore, dosage may gradually be increased.
If Gabapentin is aimed to treat seizure, the dosage should be slightly higher compared to when it is used for pain management. The dosage must be 4.5 to 13.6 mg per pound of the dog’s weight. It is also administered more often compared to when it is for pain management as it should be given every 8 to 12 hours (2 to 3 times per day).
Owners must be very careful in following the exact dosage prescribed and should measure accurately. This is because Gabapentin may come in 100mg, 300mg, and 400mg capsule forms.
Aside from accurate measurement, owners must be sure to purchase the correct form. Some Gabapentin may be bought in liquid form, however, they often contain xylitol. Xylitol is toxic for dogs.
In the event that a dog owner forgets to give his/her dog his required dosage at the correct time, he may give it as soon as he remembers, provided that it is still within the same day. If the owner only remembers to give it the next day, the missed dose must be skipped and only the scheduled dose must be given. It is not safe to give your dog a double dosage in one go or if it is very nearly spaced apart.
Side Effects of Gabapentin for Dogs
Gabapentin may have adverse effects on dogs that are nursing or are pregnant, and those that are suffering from kidney or liver diseases. Because of this, it is all the more imperative that your dog has been examined by a veterinarian familiar with its history and present conditions before giving it any drugs.
Aside from the above, Gabapentin may also induce deficiency in folate, calcium, vitamin B1, and vitamin D. These vitamins are essential to nerve repair that is even more crucial especially if the condition being addressed to begin with is related to seizures. To counteract against potential deficiencies, your veterinarian may prescribe other supplements.
Aside from the above precautions, Gabapentin is generally safe as long as the correct dosage is strictly followed.
Other common and not so serious side effects that may be observed in your dogs are:
There are rare cases when more serious side effects may occur. If any of below symptoms is observed, you must notify your veterinarian immediately:
- Loss of coordination
- Bulging eyes
- Allergic reaction such as hives, difficulty in breathing and swelling of the face, lips or tongue.
In cases of accidental overdose, do not panic as it is rarely fatal; however, it may trigger the above more serious side effects.
In the event that Gabapentin does not really sit well with your dog, it must not be stopped abruptly. Your veterinarian will give you a schedule for gentle weaning off the medication. Abrupt stopping may cause withdrawal symptoms and seizures.
Cost of Gabapentin
Gabapentin capsules cost the following, depending on the dosage:
Interaction with Other Drugs
Gabapentin may not work well on dogs that are already taking hydrocodone, antacids and morphine.
If it needs to be taken, antacid must have at least a 2 hour gap from taking Gabapentin as antacid may affect the level of Gabapentin in the blood stream.
Ingredients in Gabapentin
Gabapentin is the only active ingredient in Gabapentin. Its amount just varies depending on the dosage of the capsule.
If you and your veterinarian are still hesitant about giving Gabapentin to your dogs due to various reasons, perhaps you could explore the following more natural means of managing pain and seizures.
First off, Dr. Josie Beug, DVM on DogsNaturallyMagazine.com, strongly suggests the more natural path for treating dogs. As a veterinarian, it is her personal opinion that she is not comfortable with prescribing a medication that is not FDA-approved, specifically for dogs. She has also observed in her practice that there are some patients who come in still suffering from pain and seizures, plus the added side effects after taking Gabapentin.
What she recommends is a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine and CBD oil. Of the three, she has personally found CBD oil to be the most effective.
CBD oil is 100% organic. From that fact alone, many dog owners’ and veterinarians’ fears are allayed. Another plus, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD or cannabidiol interacts with the receptors in the spine and brain without the psychoactive properties.
Aside from it being natural, CBD doesn’t just stop at effective pain and seizure control, it also boosts the dog’s immune system, thereby promoting overall good health. Emerging studies also link CBD with inhibiting cancer cells growth.
Please note that CBD oil does not cure epilepsy as a cause of seizures, but it is definitely a natural and yes, legal way of effectively managing the disturbing symptoms. CBD works by acting on the CB1 receptors of the dog to calm overactive neurons, thereby lessening the incidence and/or severity of the seizures.
- Mike Clark, Dogtime.com, https://dogtime.com/dog-health/53089-gabapentin-dogs-uses-dosage-side-effects
- The Kennel Club, https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health/for-owners/arthritis-in-dogs/
- Veterinary Health Center University of Missouri, http://vhc.missouri.edu/small-animal-hospital/neurology-neurosurgery/facts-on-neurologic-diseases/canine-idiopathic-epilepsy/
- 1-800-PetMeds, https://www.1800petmeds.com/Gabapentin-prod11172.html
- Dr. Josie Beug, DVM, Dogs Naturally, https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/gabapentin-why-this-vet-will-never-prescribe-it/
- Kat Hegelson, Dogs Naturally, https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/cbd-oil-for-seizures-in-dogs/