Gabapentin for dogs is commonly prescribed for pain relief, anxiety, or seizures. Originally developed as an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) medication for humans, like many human medications gabapentin is often used “off-label” (that is, without FDA approval) for dogs, which is a common practice in veterinary medicine because of 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.
While for people, gabapentin is used to treat partial seizures, nerve pain, and restless leg syndrome, gabapentin for dogs 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.
Is Gabapentin Safe for Dogs?
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. Don’t give gabapentin to your dog without your veterinarian’s advice. It is not the most effective drug for many conditions, it can interact with other drugs, and it does have side effects.
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 5 milligrams every 12 hours to 10 to 30 milligrams every 8 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 of 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, although it is generally safe, they 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 is sometimes formulated with xylitol and thus not safe 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. It can be given with or without food and reaches maximal effectiveness from one to three hours after it’s given, and its effects will be gone in 24 hours (possibly longer if your dog has liver or kidney problems). It is usually given two to three times a day.
Can You Use Gabapentin and Trazodone Together for Dogs?
Gabapentin is often used together with other drugs. One such popular combination is trazodone and gabapentin to treat anxiety. The combination is so popular that it even comes pre-blended in a single pill.
The Chill Protocol, a management solution for aggressive and fearful dogs, combines gabapentin with both melatonin and acepromazine to reduce a dog’s fearful or aggressive behavior at veterinary visits. But don’t combine gabapentin with other drugs or supplements without first consulting your veterinarian.
Gabapentin is commonly used with a cocktail of other anti-seizure drugs to control seizures. It is also commonly combined with tramadol or NSAIDs such as carprofen or gapriprant for pain relief. As these drugs target different pain mechanisms they mesh together to more effectively control pain than either one alone.
Alternatives to Gabapentin for Dogs
If your veterinarian has prescribed gabapentin for your dog, either by itself or in combination with another drug, it is probably because it is the best drug for your dog’s situation. But while gabapentin is relatively safe, and does seem to help some dogs with anxiety, nerve pain, and seizures, be aware that it doesn’t help all dogs in all situations. If you see no improvement, especially after a week, do not hesitate to report your concerns to your veterinarian. There may be other dosages or drugs they may recommend.