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Gabapentin For Dogs: Safe Dosages And Uses

Gabapentin For Dogs: Safe Dosages And Uses

If your dog suffers from seizures or chronic pain, your veterinarian may have prescribed a medication called gabapentin.

Originally approved by the FDA as anti-seizure medication for humans, gabapentin is now used off-label by veterinarians, including with dogs.

Gabapentin has been shown to be effective in helping to manage seizures and pain in dogs, and with most pet insurance plans covering the cost of the medication, it can be an inexpensive solution to alleviate your dog’s suffering.

What Is Gabapentin Used for in Dogs?

Gabapentin is used by veterinarians to manage chronic pain, especially nerve pain, in dogs. It can also be used to manage seizures, according to the Veterinary Information Network.

“Although not approved or authorized by the FDA for dogs, gabapentin is evolving into a more frequently administered ‘off label’ drug in veterinary medicine to treat seizures, anxiety and to neutralize neurological pain,” Dr. Michael Fleck, D.V.M., veterinarian and co-host of the nationally syndicated radio show The Pet Buzz wrote in an email to Forbes Advisor.

It’s not uncommon for drugs to be used “off label” in veterinary medicine, but it does make it that much more important to follow your veterinarian’s directions exactly as prescribed.

Gabapentin is most often used in conjunction with other medications for managing seizures, says Dr. Julie Sanders, D.V.M., veterinarian and director of operations for Heart + Paw, a chain of veterinary facilities in the East Coast.

Is Gabapentin Safe To Give to Dogs?

When used as directed, gabapentin is a safe medication for dogs.

“Gabapentin is generally safe for dogs when prescribed by a veterinarian for specific conditions,” says Dr. Michael Thompson, D.V.M., veterinarian and founder of Pets Food Safety, an online resource about consumption safety in dogs.

When Owners Can Give Gabapentin to Dogs

Owners should talk to their vet first about the appropriate use of gabapentin and whether their dog is a good candidate, Sanders says.

“Like any medication, individual responses can vary, so it may or may not be the best or most effective choice for your pet,” Sanders says. “It is not as effective as a single medication for anxiety or fear in dogs, but may be used in a combination of drugs for that purpose.”

When Owners Shouldn’t Give Gabapentin to Dogs

Gabapentin should not be given to your dog for the following reasons:

  • The dog is allergic to gabapentin
  • The dog is pregnant or lactating
  • The dog has significant kidney or liver disease
  • The dog is on other medication unknown to their vet
  • Human liquid gabapentin contains xylitol which is toxic and should never be given to dogs

What Is a Safe Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs?

A safe dosage of gabapentin will depend on several factors, including the dog’s weight and why it’s being used. Fleck notes that most effective and safe dosage will be determined by your veterinarian.

The recommended dosage starts at 5 mg/kg or 2 mg/lb every 12 hours, and it can go up to as high as 30-60 mg/kg, twice a day, according to Fleck.

Can Dogs Overdose on Gabapentin?

“You can absolutely overdose a dog (with gabapentin), in which case they get very ataxic (poor muscle control) and sedated,” says Dr. Erin O’Leary, D.V.M., veterinarian and co-founder of Heal House Call Veterinarian in Cary, North Carolina.

It’s also important to share all medications and supplements you are giving your dog when speaking to the vet about implementing gabapentin into its medical care.

Can I Give My Dog Gabapentin Every Day?

Gabapentin can be given daily, but it’s important you follow your veterinarian’s prescribed directions to prevent overdosing your dog.

Gabapentin should not be used unless recommended and properly dosed by your veterinarian.

“Gabapentin can make dogs very wobbly so there needs to be caution when a dog is already having mobility problems,” O’Leary says.She adds that gabapentin can also be helpful at nighttime for sleep.

Other Medicine Dosage and Uses For Dogs:

Gabapentin Side Effects for Dogs

When given gabapentin, dogs usually experience pain relief, as well as a feeling of sedation.

However, gabapentin can make a dog quite sleepy and uncoordinated—and can become addictive over time.

“Elimination sometimes requires slowly tapering use over several weeks,” Fleck wrote in an email to Forbes Advisor.

Negative side effects include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Incoordination
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Diarrhea

How Long Does It Take for Gabapentin To Start Working?

Gapanetin is a fast-acting drug and dogs usually start to feel the effects within two hours of taking it, Fleck says. He adds that in some dogs, it may take weeks for the full stabilization effects to be achieved.

Keep in mind that not all dogs will have the same reaction to gabapentin; the medication’s effects may differ for each dog.

How Long Does Gabapentin Stay In a Dog’s System?

In a healthy dog with no kidney or liver disease, gabapentin can stay in the system 18 to 24 hours.

Bottom Line

With the proper care and supervision of a veterinarian, gabapentin can be used to safely and effectively manage chronic pain and seizures in dogs.

Since gabapentin is only available through prescription, it’s best to visit your veterinarian who will assess whether the medication is a good fit for your dog.

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