Image of owner administering prescription to dog

Key takeaway

Gabapentin is a medicine given to dogs to control and treat seizures, help with pain, and assist with treating anxiety. Different doses of gabapentin can be administered according to the pet’s needs. Some adverse effects of gabapentin include lethargy, diarrhea, and anxiety.

What To Know About Gabapentin For Dogs

Gabapentin is a medicine that’s given to dogs to control and treat seizures, help with pain, and assist with treating anxiety in dogs. Like any drug, gabapentin comes with associated side effects that should be discussed with your vet before giving it to your furry friend.1

In this post, we’ll discuss what you should know about gabapentin for dogs, including its applications, side effects, and more. 

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant and pain relief drug, initially used to treat seizures and pain. However, gabapentin has also been found to be effective in anxiety management. The medication works by modifying the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, which are responsible for communicating messages between nerve cells.2

Gabapentin is considered an “off-label” prescription, meaning it is designed for humans and is not FDA-approved for use in dogs. However, gabapentin is commonly prescribed and generally well-tolerated in pets when appropriately prescribed by a veterinarian. 

Gabapentin is commonly used to treat nerve pain, which is not easily managed by standard painkillers. However, gabapentin can be used in combination with other painkillers. Additionally, gabapentin is used to address chronic pain related to arthritis, cancer, or high pain sensitivity. Vets may also provide gabapentin for dog anxiety and epilepsy.

Gabapentin comes under the following brand names:

  • Neurontin
  • Aclonium
  • Equipax
  • Gantin
  • Gabarone
  • Gralise
  • Nuerostil
  • Progresse

Keep in mind that your vet will decide which gabapentin they will prescribe for your dog according to your pet's condition.

Graphic listing gabapentin uses

Gabapentin For Dogs: Uses 

While initially used to treat seizures and nerve pain, gabapentin has also been found to be effective in managing anxiety. Below, we’ll take a look at how gabapentin works to treat pain, seizures, and anxiety.

Pain Management

Pain management is a primary way gabapentin is used for dogs. The drug acts as a calcium channel blocker, which blocks neurons that are stimulated by pain.This makes gabapentin a helpful drug for treating chronic joint pain and other persistent pain types.

Additionally, gabapentin is used to address neuropathic pain in humans, however, more research is needed to certify its effectiveness in dogs.4

Seizure Prevention

As mentioned before, gabapentin belongs to a class of medicines called anticonvulsants. They are used as a prevention method for seizures. However, it is not precisely known how gabapentin for dogs works when it comes to detailed biological functioning.5

Anxiety Management

While the most common uses of gabapentin medicines include using them as an anticonvulsant to treat seizures and for pain management, many vets also prescribe gabapentin as anxiety medications to help ease anxiety in dogs.6

The current theory is that it functions by slowing down anxiety-related neurotransmitters by augmenting GABA (an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain).

Graphic listing side effects of gabapentin

Side Effects Of Gabapentin

Gabapentin is generally well-tolerated and side effects that do occur are typically transient and resolve with discontinuation of the medication. Sedation is the most common type of side effect of gabapentin for dogs. However, the level of drowsiness depends on exactly how your pet's body reacts to the drug. To counter this, vets will taper the dose until an effective balance is reached.

Other common side effects of gabapentin in dogs include1:

  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Lightheadedness and shakiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Excitability
  • Increased appetite
  • Loss of coordination
  • Oversleeping

If you have concerns about the medication, make sure to talk to your vet before discontinuing or changing anything. Note: Gabapentin stops working after 24 hours. However, pets with kidney or liver disease can have effects for a more extended period. Like all medicines, there is a slight chance that your dog could be allergic; in this case, avoid this medicine.

Graphic listing gabapentin dosage for dogs

Gabapentin Dosage For Dogs

Gabapentin may be prescribed by your vet in the following doses:

  • 100 mg (capsules and tablets)
  • 300 mg (capsules and tablets)
  • 400 mg (capsules and tablets)
  • 800 mg (capsules and tablets)

Usually, gabapentin is prescribed once every 8 hours by mouth. You can give medicine with or without food. Closely and carefully follow the directions provided by your vet when administering the gabapentin medication to your dog.

Your vet will determine the dosage and administration of gabapentin for your dog. Your vet will also let you know how frequently your dog needs the medication. The dose's quantity, frequency, and administration will depend on your dog's weight and what your dog is being treated for. Just ensure that you take your dog to the vet and follow the guidelines closely that have been prescribed.

Wondering how to give your dog medication orally?

The easiest way to give your dog a pill or capsule medicine is to wrap it in something delicious. However, be very cautious about whether or not you can give that particular medicine with food or wrapped in food. Discuss the possibilities and the best way to give a specific medicine with your vet.

Vet explaining gabapentin prescription guidelines to pet owner

Gabapentin For Dogs: Frequently Asked Questions

What does gabapentin do for dogs?

As mentioned in this guide, gabapentin belongs to a class of drugs called anticonvulsants, which treats seizures in dogs. The dosage can vary depending on your dog’s size, age, and the condition that needs to be treated. Only rely on your vet to determine the gabapentin dosage for your dog. In addition to treating seizures, gabapentin is also sometimes prescribed to help with reducing pain and to control anxiety in dogs.

How does gabapentin make a dog feel?

Gabapentin can make your dog feel the following side effects:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbliness
  • Shakiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of coordination
  • Oversleeping

Let your vet know of any side effects your dog feels, even if they seem minor. Doing so allows your vet to adjust the medicine accordingly if the need arises.

Also, as mentioned above, do not stop giving your dog gabapentin on your own and make sure to talk to your vet before changing medication amount or frequency. Giving or stopping the medication without consulting your vet may cause side effects.

How often can you give a dog gabapentin?

The vet will best answer how often gabapentin can be administered. Giving gabapentin to your dog will depend on several factors, including what type of dog you have (big or small), what problem your dog is suffering from (seizures, anxiety, pain or any other), the weight of your dog, and other factors.

Dog owners cuddling with dog

Final Notes

Gabapentin is an off-label medication given to dogs to prevent and or treat seizures, help with pain, and address issues with dog anxiety. The dosage depends on various factors, including the type of dog you have, how much it currently weighs, age, and what health-related issue needs to be resolved.

Of course, there are some side effects with gabapentin when administered in dogs as well, the most common being lethargy. You should let the vet know if your dog experiences any severe side effects while taking their medication.

If you’re interested in providing your dog with reliable pet care, you can use Dutch to ensure your dog’s getting the care they deserve. As an effective online platform, Dutch works by connecting you with a licensed vet who can answer your pet care questions from the comfort of your home. 

References

  1. Gabapentin v3 Final - MSPCA. https://www.mspca.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Plumbs-Gabapentin.pdf.

  2. “Gabapentin: Uses, Side Effects, and Safety.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323681.

  3. Harari, Joseph. “Pain Management in Small Animals with Lameness - Musculoskeletal System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 28 Feb. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/musculoskeletal-system/lameness-in-small-animals/pain-management-in-small-animals-with-lameness?query=gabapentin.
  4. Moore, Sarah A. “Managing Neuropathic Pain in Dogs.” Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Frontiers Media S.A., 22 Feb. 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4762016/.

  5. Treatment with gabapentin of 11 dogs with refractory idiopathic epilepsy." Veterinary Record 159.26 (2006): 881-884
  6. Bain, Melissa J., and Christina M. Fan. "Animal behavior case of the month." Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 240.6 (2012): 673-675.