Gabapentin Usage, Dosage and Side Effects for Dogs and Cats
If your pet has chronic pain concerns such as arthritis or has recently had a surgical procedure, your veterinarian may prescribe gabapentin to help make them more comfortable. Gabapentin is commonly used in dogs for pain control, but it may also be prescribed as a calming agent or to help with seizure disorders. Gabapentin may also be recommended for your cat, but it’s prescribed more rarely for them compared to dogs.
Gabapentin—also known by the brand names Neurontin, Aclonium and Equipax—is not suitable for every dog and cat. For instance, it’s not usually prescribed for pregnant animals. Read on to learn when your vet may prescribe this drug and what to expect when your pet takes it.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a pharmaceutical drug that may be prescribed to your dog or cat by a veterinarian after a thorough physical exam.
The primary use of gabapentin for dogs and cats is to help reduce pain, specifically chronic or acute nerve pain. Gabapentin is also used as an anticonvulsant to help control seizure disorders in dogs and cats.
Although no one in the veterinary or pharmaceutical industries knows precisely how gabapentin works in pets, the most common theory is that the drug inhibits the release of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain. However it works, it appears to calm specific parts of the brain and helps relieve pain in many different animals.
What is Gabapentin Used for in Pets?
Gabapentin was initially created for use in humans, but it has since been introduced into veterinary medicine. It’s often considered an extra-label drug, which means the instructions required for your pet’s use may differ from those on the manufacturer’s label. Your vet will assess the other drugs your pet is on and give you personalized guidelines for dosage and scheduling.
As mentioned above, an exam is required before prescribing gabapentin, as some cats and dogs may not be good candidates for it. Pets who are pregnant, lactating or experiencing concurrent diseases may need an alternative solution.
Your veterinarian may suggest gabapentin for the following issues:
- Preventing Seizures Because it can help reduce convulsions, gabapentin can be used to help control seizures in dogs and cats. Note that this drug is typically used as adjunctive therapy, meaning that it supports another primary treatment. Your vet may suggest a gabapentin dosage if your pet’s current seizure medication is not effective on its own.
- Pain Control Gabapentin is most commonly used to help relieve pain in dogs and sometimes cats. It can be used for acute, chronic and neuropathic pain—or pain stemming from the nervous system. Your vet may also recommend it for pets suffering from degenerative joint pain, a condition that often results from osteoarthritis. As for its use in reducing seizures, gabapentin is typically used as a supportive medication that complements a primary treatment.
- Relieving Anxiety Gabapentin may also be recommended for anxiety. This medication can be a good option for dogs and cats who experience nervousness but do not need to be completely sedated. It’s often recommended for travel, visits to the vet, moves and other stressful situations. If your pet needs to be sedated entirely, a more potent medication will probably be suggested.
Gabapentin can be used to treat all these conditions in both dogs and cats. However, there are some species-specific prescription patterns. Here are the ways in which gabapentin may be prescribed differently depending on the animal.
- Dogs Dogs are primarily prescribed gabapentin for acute or chronic pain management and seizure disorders. They are more likely than cats to be on the drug long term.
- Cats Cats are usually prescribed gabapentin for anxiety. Your cat may receive a prescription for this drug for specific stressful situations that have caused them anxiety in the past.
Gabapentin Dosage Guidelines
The appropriate dose for your dog or cat depends on a few different factors. If you have a prescription for one pet in your home, it’s usually not recommended to use the same pills for another animal.
When it comes to gabapentin for dogs, dosage may be higher than for cats, who tend to be smaller. Gabapentin dosage for both cats and dogs depends on:
- Weight This is the primary consideration for gabapentin dosage. The dosage range varies widely, so your vet will determine what dose is best for your pet. Your vet will probably start with a conservative dose and increase it later if needed.
- Purpose Your vet will also consider why the dose is being administered. When used for pain management, milligrams per kilogram may be slightly higher than when the drug is used for situational anxiety.
Gabapentin is usually administered every eight to 12 hours. The medication will typically start to take effect within one to two hours, so you should plan your dose appropriately if you want it to take effect before traveling with your pet.
Can My Pets Overdose on Gabapentin?
As with any medication, your pet can take too large a dosage of gabapentin. An overdose may be indicated by pale or dark gums, depression, more staggering than usual, and vomiting or diarrhea. If you suspect an overdose, call your veterinarian immediately for emergency care. You can also talk to them about reducing the dose in the future.
How do I Give my Pet Gabapentin?
Common gabapentin doses include gabapentin 100 mg, gabapentin 300 mg and gabapentin 800 mg. Doses are most often given in capsule or tablet form. You can administer the medication with or without food. If your dog or cat becomes nauseous after taking this pill, you may want to try hiding it inside a tasty pill pocket.
An oral solution is available, but it’s typically recommended for people only since it often includes xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. The sweetener can also be toxic to cats.. Do not give your excess liquid gabapentin to your pet as it may be unsafe.
Potential Side Effects of Gabapentin
Gabapentin side effects in dogs and cats are typically mild. Sleepiness is the primary side effect, but that may be beneficial depending on your pet’s condition. Your pet may also experience some incoordination and staggering. If you don’t want your pet to grow sleepy, your vet may be able to recommend a smaller dose.
Other side effects include vomiting, diarrhea and swelling of the limbs. If your pet experiences any of these side effects, tell your vet immediately. Side effects should go away after 12 hours but may linger if your pet has kidney or liver problems.
How to Store and Handle Gabapentin
Most gabapentin for dogs and cats can be stored at room temperature. As long as you keep the medication away from humidity and moisture, it can be kept in any room. If you are using a liquid solution, your vet may ask you to store it in the refrigerator.
Gabapentin tablets can be handled with your bare hands. If your pet is not able or willing to swallow the medication in pill form, you can utilize pill pockets or pill wraps to ease dosing
What Else Should I Know About Gabapentin for Pets?
Here are some additional tips for giving your cat or dog gabapentin. Knowing how to handle a missed dose and what to do if your pet also takes CBD can help you appropriately administer this medication.
- There is no specific monitoring recommended after the administration of gabapentin, but your vet will discuss anything specific needed for your pet. After the first dose, however, you may want to monitor your pet to ensure they’re not too dizzy to safely move around the house.
- If you miss a dose, the appropriate action depends on when the next dose is scheduled. If you are closer to the missed dose, administer the missed dose. If you are closer to the next scheduled dose, wait and give the next pill at the scheduled time.
- CBD oil is not generally recommended in combination with gabapentin for dogs or cats. Always consult your veterinarian before mixing gabapentin with any other medication or natural treatment.
- If your pet has been taking gabapentin for an extended period, don’t abruptly stop their regimen. Your veterinarian can tell you how to safely taper off your pet’s daily medication.
Giving your pets the proper medication can be crucial in helping keep them well and promoting overall health. Gabapentin can be used to treat pain and seizures, and it may even help your dog or cat enjoy their next car ride. If you’re looking for other ways to help keep your pet happy and healthy, check out our selection of dog vitamins, cat nutrition and dog first aid.