Gabapentin is a medication that veterinarians can prescribe for dogs who suffer from anxiety, pain, or seizures. While it was first developed as an anti-seizure medication for humans, it's now becoming more prominent in veterinary medicine.
The practice of applying human-based treatments to help our four-legged friends is a common one throughout the veterinary realm. The time and costs associated with developing new, FDA-approved medications for every species and health concern can be exorbitant.
Are you wondering if this medication could help your pup? Today, we're taking a closer look at Gabapentin for dogs, and sharing all of the details you need to know. We'll also dive into how CBD can be a natural fit in their new regimen!
What Is Gabapentin?
Before we dive into the role of Gabapentin in pet care, let's take a step back and answer a few questions, including:
- What is the history of this medication?
- What is it used to treat?
- How does it work?
History of Gabapentin
Gabapentin was discovered as far back as the 1970s but it was first researched as an antiepileptic drug in 1987. In 1993, it was officially launched and approved in the United Kingdom. The same year, the FDA approved it in the U.S. as a supplemental therapy for adults who suffered from intractable partial seizures.
When it first debuted, Gabapentin was primarily used as a muscle relaxer and anti-spasmodic treatment. Years later, researchers discovered the medication could also be used to help treat convulsions and certain types of neural pain. In the human world, it's now commonly prescribed to treat the following conditions:
- Nerve pain
- Partial seizures
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
More recently, veterinarians have started prescribing Gabapentin to help treat a range of related conditions in dogs, including:
How It Works
In technical terms, Gabapentin is a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) analog. Put simply, GABA reduces the excitability of nerve cells in your brain, which are called neurons. For humans and dogs who suffer from seizures, it's critical to maintain adequate GABA stores to counteract heightened neurological activity.
As a GABA analog, Gabapentin does not act exactly like GABA, but it does work in a similar way.
Researchers explain that once someone takes this medication, the analog binds to the calcium channels within their nerve cells. Once there, they can help suppress the overly stimulated neurons that can lead to anxiety, pain, and convulsions. At the same time, they also improve how well those brain cells respond to GABA, as well as facilitate the release of new GABA.
Gabapentin for Dogs: Safety Profile
It's important to note that Gabapentin is a medication designed to treat human conditions. However, that doesn't mean it can't be helpful for our furry companions. Today, it's used in veterinary medicine as an "off-label" medication.
In short, this simply means that the FDA hasn't approved it for pets quite yet. However, the research that has been performed so far has not revealed any major safety concerns in regard to this application.
That said, there are certain protocols and precautions you can follow to make sure your pup is as safe as possible when taking Gabapentin. Let's take a look at a few of the most important ones.
Choose the Correct Form
When humans take Gabapentin, it's normally in a liquid form, though capsules are available. For dogs, it's primarily prescribed in capsule form. These capsules are usually available in the following dosages:
- 100 mg
- 300 mg
- 400 mg
If your dog is very small or absolutely cannot take pills for any reason, your vet might recommend a compounding pharmacy that can make the capsules in a smaller form. Or, they could formulate a liquid that they deem safe for your pet.
Why can't you give the liquid human medicine to your dog? The risk doesn't lie specifically with the medication itself. Rather, it has to do with what it's mixed with.
In many liquid medicines, there's an ingredient called xylitol added to make the taste more palatable. This is an artificial sweetener that's safe for humans but can be toxic or even fatal for dogs to consume.
Follow Your Veterinarian's Advice
If you think your dog might be suffering from pain, anxiety, or seizures, do not try to diagnose these conditions on your own. Instead, always visit your veterinarian for a professional, accurate diagnosis.
Then, follow their advice on recommended treatment options. While Gabapentin could be the most effective drug for their condition, this isn't always the case. Your veterinarian will know if Gabapentin could interact or interfere with any other pet medications your dog is currently taking.
They can also inform you of all of the risks associated with Gabapentin, as well as how to administer it safely and correctly.
Avoid Mixing Certain Medications
As mentioned, your vet will know if your dog is taking any prescription medications that could negatively interact with Gabapentin. However, you should also be up-front about any other substances you are administering that they might not know about.
This specifically includes any form of antacids or opioids, including morphine and hydrocodone. Antacids might help soothe your pup's stomach, but they interfere with Gabapentin's absorption rates. Similarly, opioid medications can alter the way Gabapentin is metabolized throughout your pup's body.
While these are the two most commonly avoided classes of medications, it's wise to think about any substance your dog might be consuming that could interfere with Gabapentin, such as anesthesia. If your dog is scheduled to undergo any surgery that will require the use of anesthesia, your vet may recommend that you temporarily reduce their dosage.
Understand Potential Side Effects
When you know some of the side effects that might occur when your dog is taking Gabapentin, it's easier to react and respond if you notice that behavior.
In dogs, the most commonly reported short-term side effects of this medication include:
- Loss of coordination
Note that while your dog might experience these effects any time they take Gabapentin, they're most likely to occur the very first time you give them a dose.
If you do notice these symptoms, it's a good idea to let your veterinarian know so they can monitor their progress. In most dogs, any initial side effects are gone within 24 hours. Other, rarer side effects include vomiting and diarrhea.
While those are the most frequent issues you may notice, it's also important to understand the long-term effects that Gabapentin could have on your pet. If your pooch takes this medication for an extended amount of time, it could compromise the performance of its kidney or liver.
When humans take this drug, it's only metabolized through their kidneys. However, early research reveals that dogs metabolize Gabapentin in both their kidney and their liver. Especially if your dog already suffers from any type of condition that affects these organs, you may notice more prolonged and pronounced effects.
Your veterinarian should already be well-versed on your dog's health history before prescribing Gabapentin. They can monitor the blood values of their kidney and liver while they're on the medication to check for any adverse changes.
Common Brand Names
Are you wondering if your doctor has added Gabapentin to your dog's list of pet prescriptions? A few of the common brand names this drug is sold under include:
In addition, Gabapentin can also be prescribed as a generic medication.
Your veterinarian will work closely with you to prescribe the exact amount of Gabapentin that your dog needs. Recommended doses can vary greatly depending on your dog's health and the condition you're treating.
Doses can be as small as five milligrams every 12 hours or as substantial as 10 to 30 milligrams every eight hours. In most cases, veterinarians will start by prescribing a small dose. Then, they'll monitor your pup to see if their symptoms change.
From there, they may adjust the dosage up or down depending on the results.
How to Administer Gabapentin
If your vet prescribes Gabapentin for your dog, you'll need to know how to safely administer it at home. Make sure to follow all of their advice and recommendations, especially concerning timing and dosage.
You can give Gabapentin to your pup with or without food, and most vets recommend giving it two to three times per day.
It should reach peak effectiveness around one to three hours after you administer it. In most cases, the effects will dissipate within 24 hours. If your dog has any type of kidney or liver issues, the effects could last longer.
Combining Gabapentin and CBD
In addition to prescription medications, there are also holistic and natural approaches that may help curb pain and anxiety in dogs. One of those is cannabidiol or CBD.
At Bailey's, we offer a range of veterinarian crafted CBD products designed to help optimize your pup's overall wellness. This includes CBD dog treats, pet CBD oil, and topicals, as well as extra-strength CBD and CBG oil products. All of our CBD pet products contain our subcritical C02 full-spectrum, medicinal-grade hemp extract, which we single-source from our USDA-organic small family farm partner, Moon Mother Hemp Co. in Boulder, CO.
In addition to neuropathic pain management, CBD can help quell feelings of anxiety and nervousness in dogs, as well as control seizures. If your dog is already taking Gabapentin for any of these conditions, you may wonder if you can combine this medication with CBD.
Let's take a look at some of the potential benefits and risks you could experience.
While more extensive research is required before we can make a definite link, early reports show that these two substances can have beneficial, synergistic effects when taken together.
In this report, researchers note that the use of Gabapentin and CBD together could help more efficiently reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress, as well as inflammation. It may also help reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. They've also discovered that when you add CBD to a Gabapentin regimen, the following interactions could occur:
- Gabapentin activity may increase
- Serum and brain levels of Gabapentin may increase
If your pup suffers from any type of anxiety, seizure, or neuropathic pain, then taking these substances together could improve the beneficial effects of each. In fact, the combined effect could be more powerful and beneficial than taking either medication on its own.
In time, you may even find that you can gradually increase their CBD dosage as you taper off the Gabapentin dosage, which could help reduce any adverse side effects your dog is experiencing on the medication.
Taking Gabapentin and CBD concurrently could elevate the potency of your medication. On one hand, this can be a beneficial outcome. However, you don't want to over-expose your pet to the effects of the drug.
Doing so could increase your dog's risk of experiencing adverse side effects. Specifically, there's a greater likelihood of the following occurring:
- Motor impairment
- Cognitive impairment
All of these risks are inherently present in both CBD and Gabapentin. In this case, they could become compounded when combined. It's best to speak to your dog's veterinarian before adding CBD into your Gabapentin routine, or vice versa.
To ensure the best experience possible, always source your CBD products from a reliable and trusted source. The products should be third-party lab tested for quality and purity, and the brand should be transparent about its sourcing, extracting, and manufacturing processes.
Help Your Pup Feel Better From the Inside Out
As a responsible pet owner, you never want to see your beloved dog suffering from any type of pain, whether it's physical, mental, or emotional.
If your pup has seizures, anxiety, or neuropathic pain that affects their quality of life, there are medications and treatments that can help. In addition to Gabapentin for dogs, you may also want to consider integrating CBD products into your pet's daily lifestyle.