Gabapentin in Dogs: What You Need to Know - Animal Health Foundation (2023)

Veterinarians are prescribing the drug in record numbers for dog pain and anxiety. Can Gabapentin Help Your Dog?

run throughErin Facerik, DVMwhole dog magazine

published:March 25, 2021

Gabapentin in Dogs: What You Need to Know - Animal Health Foundation (1)

Gabapentin is a drug that veterinarians are increasingly prescribing, sometimes only in combination with other drugs, to treat pain in dogs. It is also increasingly being used in combination with other canine anxiety medications. Why has it become so popular? I'll get to that, but first we need to talk about pain.

Treating pain is a top priority in medicine

pain managementHas become an integral part of human and veterinary health care. If you've ever been in the hospital or had surgery, you're familiar with the common question, "How's your pain? Rate it on a scale of 0 to 10." to dial a number again and again.

It turns out there's a very compelling reason for that. Pain is not our friend. it hurts. But it's much more than that. Left unchecked, pain can cause not only physical damage, but also emotional and psychological damage. It slows healing and negatively affects the immune system. In both humans and non-human animals, it often results in harmful, unwanted behaviors such as self-harm, aggression, or giving up the pleasures of life.

You've heard medical professionals say it's important to deal with pain early. And for good reason too. Untreated pain can make your pain receptors increasingly sensitive, which can lead to worsening pain. This is called "ending" the pain and it becomes more difficult to control.

We veterinarians work hard to prevent pain. If that's not possible, we work harder to reduce it. This has become easier over the years as scientific medical knowledge has evolved and extrapolation of human medical discoveries has taken place. Veterinarians can now use a range of drugs and other therapies to manage pain.

Chronic pain, that's itNeeis expected to disappear, which is especially challenging for us. It must be managed, usually for the rest of the dog's life. For this type of pain, "polypharmacy" (multiple drugs) and multimodal (more than one type of treatment) approaches are usually most effective.

To manage chronic pain, we often use prescription drugs, as well as safe and potentially effective "nutraceuticals" - nutritional supplements that have a positive effect on a medical condition. More and more veterinarians are using Chinese herbal remedies as complementary treatments for pain management. Treatments such as acupuncture, laser therapy, ultrasound therapy, physical therapy, and rehabilitation are readily available to dog owners in most areas. More and more dog owners are now using different forms of cannabidiol (CBD) to treat pain in their dogs.

Pain is a very personal experience. One patient's pain perception can be completely different from another. Some are more tolerated than others. A drug or therapy can work wonders for one patient, but not for another. This makes it imperative for the owner to remain attentive, closely monitor the dog's response to treatment, report accurately to the vet and be open to suggested changes to the prescribed pain regimen.

unexpected benefits

Gabapentin in Dogs: What You Need to Know - Animal Health Foundation (2)

Gabapentin is rapidly gaining popularity for its potential contribution to veterinary pain management (hey! This is what we want: jumping and jumping dogs!). But it was not originally designed for that.

Pharmaceutically, gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant or anticonvulsant. It works by blocking the transmission of certain signals in the central nervous systemepileptic seizure. Then researchers discovered that some of the same transmitters were involved in a biochemical cascade related to pain perception, and doctors began investigating their use in pain management.

Today, gabapentin is known and respected for its ability to treat a specific form of pain called neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain results from damage to nerves deep in the brain and spinal cord or to peripheral nerves (nerves that extend outward from the brain and spinal cord). It is different from pain that travels from damaged tissue along healthy nerves. Examples of neuropathic pain include neck and back pain from herniated discs, pinched nerves, nerve tumors, or tumors that compress nerves; some cancers; and toothache.

A perfect example of neuropathic pain in humans is fibromyalgia. You may have seen an ad for Lyrica, a drug for this chronic, debilitating, painful neurological disease. Lyrica is pregabalin, an analog of gabapentin. (Incidentally, pregabalin is also used in dogs, so if your dog's current pain relief regimen, including gabapentin, isn't working well enough, ask your vet about pregabalin.)

How Gabapentin is Used in Dogs

Although gabapentin is primarily considered best for the treatment of neuropathic pain, it is most commonly used as an adjunct or "add-on" drug in a polypharmacy approach to chronic pain. It is rarely used alone, as the sole medicine for pain, even in neurological conditions such as neck and back pain.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are and will likely always be the first-line option for veterinary pain management. But when nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) alone aren't enough, gabapentin is more often added. Gabapentin is very safe and can be added to almost any medication currently used to treat pain in dogs. A recent study showed that gabapentin is synergistic, meaning that when it is combined with another drug, such as the opioid painkiller tramadol, the effects of both drugs are enhanced.

When you add gabapentin to your current pain regimen, you may see some effects within 24 hours, but you will not see the maximum effect for 7 to 10 days. Therefore, dose adjustments are usually made every few weeks. be patient. Gabapentin has the potential to add a lot of value to your dog's current pain management program.

Also, adding gabapentin, which has minimal side effects, can sometimes lower the dose of other medications, such as NSAIDs, which have potentially dangerous side effects, especially with long-term use. This is a huge benefit to both your dog and your vet as they swear by "do no harm".

What are the side effects? Nothing. Mild sedation and muscle weakness may occur, which worsen with dose. At doses commonly used for pain relief, this side effect is usually minimal. Veterinarians are even capitalizing on this side effect by combining higher doses of gabapentin with other sedative medications, such as trazadone, to enhance the calming effects of anxious or aggressive patients in the veterinary clinic.

Gabapentin Precautions and Side Effects for Dogs

Gabapentin has a large margin of safety in dogs. It won't harm your dog's kidneys or liver, and it's even safe to use with itCBD products, although the mild sedative effects of both products can be enhanced.

However, gabapentin has some important precautions for dogs:

  • First of all, do not use commercially available liquid gabapentin for humans.This formulation contains xylitol, a sweetener commonly used to sweeten sugar-free gum. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, even deadly.
  • Wait after antacids before administering gabapentin.If you regularly give your dog antacids such as Pepcid or Prilosec, you should wait at least two hours after taking the antacid before giving gabapentin, because antacids can reduce the absorption of gabapentin in the stomach.
  • If your dog has been on gabapentin for a while, it is very important not to suddenly stop taking gabapentin.This can cause rebound pain, similar to ending pain, because the pain is worse than ever. That's why it's important to wean your dog off gabapentin gradually.

veterinary fan

Gabapentin in Dogs: What You Need to Know - Animal Health Foundation (3)

As you probably know, I am a huge fan of gabapentin for dogs. It helps many of my patients with pain relief, it's safe, and it's inexpensive. I usually prescribe this medication as part of my multidrug regimen for chronic pain conditions such as osteoarthritis and cancer. I prescribed this medicine for a toothache. It works wonders for neck and back pain.

Although gabapentin is currently not widely used for the treatment of post-operative pain, as its effectiveness in this area has been questioned, I am now pleased that a study is underway to examine the effect preoperatively (before pain) on undergoing surgery to evaluate. dogs. Many vets have started using it pre-operatively on their surgical patients because they feel confident in it.

Gabapentin is very safe for dogs and has the potential to reduce pain and improve their quality of life and enjoyment in dogs. If you've ever wondered why so many vets are increasingly prescribing this drug, here's your answer. We saw the results, plain and simple.

gabapentin for anxiety

Gabapentin has no direct anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects, limiting its usefulness as a standalone drug for chronically stressed, anxious dogs. However, because of its synergistic use with pain relievers, it is sometimes combined with Prozac (fluoxetine, a selective serotonin inhibitor [SSRI]) or clomipramine (clomipramine, a triple cyclic antidepressant [TCAs]) in combination for the treatment of persistent generalized anxiety. disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and true separation anxiety.

The purpose of adding gabapentin in these situations is to help the dog relax when faced with a stressor, while you try to help him cope with the problem through proper desensitization and behavior modification exercises. This is especially useful when the dog has already received the maximum dose of an anti-anxiety drug and the effects are not as expected.

It's important to note that medication alone is unlikely to relieve your dog's anxiety unless combined with the desensitization and behavior modification exercises described above. These exercises may be prescribed by your vet or a veterinary behaviorist.

The calming effects of gabapentin in higher doses can be used as needed to help dogs relax and get through specific situations that cause them excessive stress. Examples of this type of situational anxiety include vet visits, grooming appointments, long drives, thunderstorms, and fireworks.


What are the precautions for gabapentin for dogs? ›

Pets that are allergic to gabapentin should not take this medication. Use cautiously in pets with kidney disease, or pets that are pregnant and/or lactating. Do not stop this medication abruptly in pets with epilepsy, as this can cause withdrawal seizures.

Is there a difference between veterinary gabapentin and human gabapentin? ›

While for humans gabapentin is used to treat partial seizures, nerve pain, and restless leg syndrome, for dogs it is used to treat seizures, anxiety, and nerve pain. It works by blocking calcium channels in the brain to suppress overly stimulated neurons that cause anxiety, nerve pain, and seizures.

How do I know if gabapentin is working for my dog? ›

Gabapentin should start to take effect fairly quickly, and relief should be noticed within 1-2 hours of administration. It's a short-acting drug, and the effects will be gone in 24 hours.

What drugs should not be taken with gabapentin for dogs? ›

Be careful if your dog is taking it along with hydrocodone and morphine. Each drug can change the way the others work in the body. Antacids may decrease the efficacy of gabapentin, so dosing of gabapentin should be given at least two hours apart from antacid doses.

Is gabapentin safe for older dogs? ›

As you can see, gabapentin can be beneficial in a variety of situations, especially for arthritic senior dogs. It is safe, effective, and has fewer side effects than many other pain medications.

Is gabapentin hard on dogs kidneys? ›

Gabapentin has a huge safety margin in dogs. It won't hurt your dog's kidneys or liver and is even safe to use with CBD products, although the mild sedative effect of both products may be enhanced.

What is better than gabapentin for dogs? ›

Lyrica. Lyrica is similar to gabapentin in that it blocks the release of neurotransmitters. Two potential benefits of Lyrica are improved bioavailability (the amount of the drug that enters the bloodstream) and a longer half-life. That means your dog can take it twice a day if recommended by your veterinarian.

How long can a dog stay on gabapentin? ›

How long can a dog stay on gabapentin? There is no maximum time for a dog to remain on gabapentin. Some older dogs will stay on it for the rest of their life as part of a management plan for arthritis.

Can gabapentin cause hind leg weakness in dogs? ›

As pets age, their efficiency at metabolizing gabapentin can wane and side effects may reappear again, especially hind leg weakness. If this happens, we reduce the dosage.

Should I give gabapentin to my dog in the morning or at night? ›

Typically dogs take gabapentin every 8 to 12 hours for best efficacy. But sometimes your vet may start out with once-a-day dosing at bedtime until your dog gets used to the medication. The dose of gabapentin that your dog will take depends on his or her size and the severity of the pain, anxiety, or seizures.

When should I stop giving my dog gabapentin? ›

Gabapentin should not be stopped abruptly because withdrawal can precipitate seizures or rebound pain. The dosage should be decreased over the course of two to three weeks. In laboratory animals, Gabapentin was associated with fetal loss and teratogenic effects.

What is the most common side effect of gabapentin? ›

Dizziness and drowsiness are common side effects of gabapentin. Some other possible side effects include weight gain and trouble with movement.

Why is gabapentin bad for dogs? ›

Gabapentin can cause deficiencies in calcium as it works on the calcium channels … not on the neurotransmitter GABA (it was designed to mimic the chemical structure of gamma-aminobutyric acid). It can also cause deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B1, and folate.

Why can't my dog walk after taking gabapentin? ›

Your dog might not be able to walk after being given Gabapentin. This may be due to the sedative effects of the medication, which can cause drowsiness and impaired coordination in some animals. Other possible side effects of gabapentin include diarrhea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite.

What is bad to mix with gabapentin? ›

Gabapentin can interact with losartan, ethacrynic acid, caffeine, phenytoin, mefloquine, magnesium oxide, cimetidine, naproxen, sevelamer and morphine. Gabapentin use is contraindicated in patients with myasthenia gravis or myoclonus.

Is gabapentin safe for dogs everyday? ›

How often should I give gabapentin for my dog's anxiety? 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.

Does gabapentin heal nerves or just mask pain? ›

Medications like Gabapentin, Lyrica & Neurontin (if they work at all) cover-up pain but do not stop or reverse nerve damage.

Is gabapentin hard on the liver or kidneys? ›

No cases of acute liver failure or chronic liver injury due to gabapentin have been described. There is no information about cross reactivity with other compounds having similar structure (pregabalin). In general, gabapentin is well tolerated in patients with hypersensitivity reactions to other anticonvulsants.

Is CBD better than gabapentin for dogs? ›

If CBD works for your dog, it may be a better option than gabapentin. Similarly to using it with gabapentin for seizures, CBD may help your dog achieve adequate pain relief without needing as high a dose of gabapentin or other pain meds.

How much gabapentin will calm a dog? ›


An effective dose for gabapentin for anxious dogs as given in one study is 25-30 milligrams per kilogram, or around 11-13 milligrams per pound. It's used directly before a trigger that causes anxiety (going to the vet, fireworks, etc).

How do I wean my dog off gabapentin? ›

How to Wean Off Gabapentin. Weaning off Gabapentin requires you to do so slowly. Ideally, you need to remove small traces of it each day until eventually your dog is completely free from it. Tapering off Gabapentin though requires patience so you need to be careful to not immediately take your dog off large doses of it ...

What is the over-the-counter equivalent to gabapentin? ›

Is there an over-the-counter equivalent to gabapentin? No. Gabapentin is a controlled substance and there are no over-the-counter equivalents. All gabapentin alternatives are prescription medications.

Is gabapentin an anti-inflammatory for dogs? ›

What Is Gabapentin Used For In Dogs? Gabapentin is an anti-seizure and pain medication that veterinarians typically use in combination with other medications, such as NSAIDs (Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) and opioids, to treat seizures and chronic pain, primarily nerve pain.

What is the best medication for dog arthritis? ›

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) play a major role in controlling dog joint pain and inflammation. Prescription medications such Galliprant, Carprofen, and Meloxicam are the safest options for controlling pain and inflammation compared to over-the-counter, non-veterinary products.

Can you start and stop gabapentin in dogs? ›

No, you should never stop giving your dog Gabapentin abruptly. This is because doing this could cause a dog to have withdrawal symptoms or an increase in severity of the symptoms that Gabapentin was treating.

What does gabapentin do to legs? ›

Gabapentin extended-release tablets (Horizant) are used to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS; a condition that causes discomfort in the legs and a strong urge to move the legs, especially at night and when sitting or lying down). Gabapentin is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants.

How much gabapentin can I give my 70 pound dog? ›

Pain: 1.4 - 5 mg per pound of your dog's weight, every 8-12 hours.

What vitamins does gabapentin deplete in dogs? ›

Neurontin (gabapentin) depletes B6, B12, A, D, and K vitamins, as well as folic acid, biotin, carnitine, calcium, and magnesium. Unless the carnitine level is replaced, fatigue will result. Gabapentin is also used in dogs to treat pain.

Does gabapentin work right away or does it take time? ›

How long will gabapentin take to work? You should notice that your pain starts to improve over one to two weeks after starting gabapentin, but it may take longer in some people. However, some feel benefit straight away. Your treatment will be reviewed when you next see the doctor or nurse.

Does gabapentin work the first night? ›

It usually takes about 1 week for gabapentin (Neurontin) to kick in. But it might take up to a month to experience the medication's full effects. The most common gabapentin side effects include sleepiness and dizziness. These side effects may improve once your body gets used to the medication.

Why take gabapentin at bedtime? ›

Conclusions: Gabapentin enhances slow-wave sleep in patients with primary insomnia. It also improves sleep quality by elevating sleep efficiency and decreasing spontaneous arousal.

How many hours between gabapentin doses for dogs? ›

Gabapentin is usually given every 8 to 12 hours. The longer a pet is taking gabapentin, the more likely she will start building a tolerance to it. When this happens, the vet may choose to increase the dosage.

Does gabapentin cause heavy breathing in dogs? ›

Rarely, gabapentin can cause more serious adverse effects, such as an allergic reaction. Call the vet or take your dog to the emergency room if there is an adverse reaction with hives, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing.

What organ does gabapentin affect? ›

Gabapentin works in the brain to prevent seizures and relieve pain for certain conditions in the nervous system.

Should I avoid certain foods while taking gabapentin? ›

You can take gabapentin with or without food, but it's best to do the same each day. Try to space your doses evenly through the day. For example, you could take it first thing in the morning, early afternoon and at bedtime.

Can I stop gabapentin after 1 week? ›

Gabapentin use can be phased out over a period of one week, but the exact schedule will depend on the person's particular situation. Slower tapers may allow for a safer discontinuation of the drug. Experts recommend reducing the daily dose at a maximum rate of 300mg every 4 days.

Is gabapentin good for arthritis? ›

While gabapentin is generally not prescribed to treat arthritis, research has found it to help manage the effects of severe knee osteoarthritis (OA). There is no evidence showing it improves pain caused by autoimmune arthritis conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis , though.

Will gabapentin help a dogs hurt leg? ›

Gabapentin is used as part of many multimodal pain relief treatments because of its action on nerves. For example, a dog with an injured paw may benefit from having an NSAID like Carprofen and Gabapentin to work on different aspects of the pain.

What are the symptoms of too much gabapentin in dogs? ›

Overdoses of gabapentin can cause a lack of coordination, decreased energy level (lethargy), vomiting, and diarrhea. Most commercially available forms of gabapentin oral liquid contain xylitol that can cause severe toxicity in dogs.

Can gabapentin cause behavior changes in dogs? ›

Beyond physical reactions, gabapentin may also provoke changes in a dog's behavior. This can manifest as increased aggression or anxiety in your furry friend. While these instances are relatively rare, they are nonetheless important to be mindful of.

What kind of pain does gabapentin treat? ›

Gabapentin is commonly used to treat neuropathic pain (pain due to nerve damage).

Is gabapentin a very strong painkiller? ›

Gabapentin is commonly used to treat some types of nerve pain but is classified as an anticonvulsant medicine, not as an opioid or painkiller.

Is gabapentin an anti inflammatory medicine? ›

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug that is also used for post-herpetic neuralgia and neuropathic pain. Recently, gabapentin showed anti-inflammatory effect.

What are the side effects of too much gabapentin in dogs? ›

Overdoses of gabapentin can cause a lack of coordination, decreased energy level (lethargy), vomiting, and diarrhea. Most commercially available forms of gabapentin oral liquid contain xylitol that can cause severe toxicity in dogs.

How long should a dog be on gabapentin? ›

There is no maximum time for a dog to remain on gabapentin. Some older dogs will stay on it for the rest of their life as part of a management plan for arthritis.

What damage can gabapentin cause? ›

Gabapentin may cause vision changes, clumsiness, unsteadiness, dizziness, drowsiness, sleepiness, or trouble with thinking. Make sure you know how you react to this medicine before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not alert, well-coordinated, or able to think or see well.

Does gabapentin make dogs walk funny? ›

Gabapentin can potentially cause your dog to have difficulty walking or become uncoordinated, especially if the dosage is too high. This is because gabapentin can have sedative effects on the nervous system, which can cause drowsiness, lethargy, and impaired motor function in some animals.

Can gabapentin damage liver in dogs? ›

Cautions With Gabapentin For Dogs

The kidneys and liver are needed for the metabolism of gabapentin so it should be avoided by dogs with liver or kidney disease. Pregnant or nursing dogs, or dogs taking antacids, hydrocodone or morphine should not take it to avoid drug interactions.

What are the negative long-term effects of gabapentin? ›

Gabapentin is known to cause respiratory depression, particularly when combined with other central nervous system depressants. Long-term use can cause physiologic dependence and withdrawal syndrome on cessation, characterized by diaphoresis, anxiety, confusion and, rarely, seizures.

Why is there a lawsuit against gabapentin? ›

Potential for Gabapentin and Pregabalin Lawsuits

The new warnings may lead people to file drug lawsuits over breathing-related injuries blamed on gabapentin's and pregabalin's respiratory risks. Poison control centers have reported increased calls about the gabapentinoids.

Is gabapentin hard on organs? ›

Long-term effects

According to the authors of a 2010 study paper , people with preexisting kidney disease may experience potentially fatal toxicity when taking gabapentin. Gabapentin may cause other long-term effects, including memory loss, weakened muscles, and respiratory failure.

What organ metabolizes gabapentin in dogs? ›

In dogs, oral Gabapentin is well absorbed in the duodenum, with peak levels occurring approximately one to two hours after administration. It is partially metabolized by the liver and excreted by the kidneys.

Is gabapentin good for arthritis in dogs? ›

Gabapentin is commonly recommended for chronic, neuropathic pain, which often develops in dogs with arthritis. Gabapentin should ideally be given three times a day to maintain steady blood levels.


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