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Originally developed as an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) medication for humans, gabapentin is commonly prescribed to dogs for pain relief, anxiety, or seizures.

Like many human medications, it’s often used “off-label” (without FDA approval) for dogs. This is a common practice in veterinary medicine due to the huge costs to gain FDA approval for each species and treatment. However, it appears that gabapentin is safe and effective in dogs despite not having much dog-specific research.

Gabapentin is sold under the brand names Neurontin, Aclonium, Equipax, Gantin, Gabarone, Gralise, Neurostil, Progresse, or as a generic.

In humans, gabapentin is used to treat partial seizures, nerve pain, and restless leg syndrome. For dogs, it’s 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.

Basenji puppy hiding under furniture.
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Is Gabapentin Safe for Dogs?

Don’t give gabapentin to your dog without first seeking a veterinarian’s advice. It’s not the most effective drug for many conditions, can interact with other drugs, and does have side effects.

Overall, gabapentin is safe for dogs, but it’s important to follow certain precautions. Never give your dog liquid gabapentin made for humans. The reason isn’t the gabapentin, but the xylitol it’s usually mixed with. This artificial sweetener is safe for humans, but is toxic and even fatal to dogs.

The most often reported side effects of gabapentin in dogs are sedation and loss of coordination, both of which can be worse the first time the dog takes the medicine. Both side effects generally go away within 24 hours. More rarely, vomiting and diarrhea have been reported.

Although gabapentin is only metabolized through the kidneys in humans, research shows that in dogs it’s metabolized through both the kidneys and liver. So dogs with kidney or liver problems may have more prolonged side effects. Your veterinarian may want to monitor kidney and liver blood values when using gabapentin long-term.

Recommended doses vary from five milligrams every 12 hours up to 10 to 30 milligrams every eight hours. Your vet will likely start with a low dose and work up to higher doses. Let your vet know if your dog is also taking any form of antacids or opioids, such as hydrocodone or morphine.

Antacids can interfere with gabapentin’s absorption, and opioids can alter gabapentin’s metabolism. If your dog is taking gabapentin before any procedure requiring anesthesia, it’s generally safe, but your vet may wish to reduce the dosage temporarily.

How to Give Your Dog Gabapentin

Gabapentin is an oral medication that comes in either 100-milligram, 300-milligram, or 400-milligram pills labeled for humans. A liquid form is also available, but it’s sometimes formulated with xylitol and thus unsafe for dogs. If your dog is extremely small, or won’t take pills, a compounding pharmacy can make gabapentin in smaller pills or in a dog-safe liquid.

Follow your veterinarian’s advice concerning dosage and timing. Your dog can take the drug with or without food. It reaches maximal effectiveness from one to three hours after it’s given. Its effects will be gone in 24 hours (possibly longer if your dog has liver or kidney problems). It’s usually given two to three times a day.

Weimaraner laying down on command for a treat at home.
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Can You Use Gabapentin and Trazodone Together for Dogs?

Gabapentin is often used together with other drugs. However, don’t combine gabapentin with other drugs or supplements without first consulting your veterinarian.

One common combination is trazodone and gabapentin to treat anxiety, which is also available as a pre-blended option in a single pill. The “Chill Protocol,” a management solution for reactive and fearful dogs, combines gabapentin with both melatonin and acepromazine to reduce a dog’s fearful or aggressive behavior at veterinary visits.

To control seizures, veterinarians commonly prescribe gabapentin with a cocktail of other anti-seizure drugs. It also can be combined with tramadol or NSAIDs, such as carprofen or grapiprant, for pain relief. As these drugs target different pain mechanisms, they mesh together to more effectively control pain than a single drug can.

Alternatives to Gabapentin for Dogs

If your veterinarian has prescribed gabapentin for your dog, it’s because they believe it’s best option for your dog’s specific condition. While gabapentin is relatively safe, be aware that it doesn’t help all dogs in all situations. If your dog’s condition doesn’t improve after a week, don’t hesitate to report your concerns to your veterinarian. There may be other dosages or drugs they may recommend.

Related article: Expert Tips to Help Soothe Your Dogs Anxiety
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