Gabapentin For Dogs Uses
Gabapentin For Dogs: Gabapentin is a medication for the treatment of seizures. It is also used to help with chronic pain. Although Gabapentin is not FDA-approved for use in veterinary medicine, it is a commonly accepted practice for veterinarians to prescribe this medication for dogs. Gabapentin requires a prescription from your veterinarian, and is sold per capsule.
It is a medication that is not FDA-approved for canine use; however veterinarians commonly prescribe it and find it safe for dogs, so long as dog owners obtain veterinary approval and follow instructions.
Gabapentin Dosage For Dogs
The use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals in veterinary behavior medicine has proved invaluable in managing anxiety-based disorders. Without the appropriate and judicious use of these medications, many dogs would be much less likely to respond to treatment with environmental management and behavior modification therapy.
Medications such as fluoxetine and sertraline (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs]) and clomipramine (a tricyclic antidepressant [TCA]) can successfully treat patients affected by conditions such as separation anxiety, noise phobia and fear-based aggression. In some cases, however, use of a single pharmaceutical agent doesn’t provide sufficient anti-anxiety effects to achieve a suitable outcome. When a patient fails to respond to monotherapy with an SSRI or a TCA, veterinarians have three options:1-3
1. Increase the dose of the medication if the typical maximum dose has not been reached and the patient has not shown undesirable side effects.
2. Switch to a different drug.
3. Augment the first drug with a second drug.
If the first two steps prove ineffective in reducing the intensity or frequency of the patient’s fear or anxiety, combination drug therapy is a viable option. Numerous possible combinations of agents can be used to manage particular cases. In this article, we review the use of gabapentin in dogs for treating anxiety-related conditions.
Indication and dosage
Traditionally, gabapentin has been utilized in veterinary medicine for management of neuropathic pain and as an anticonvulsant.4 However, in human medicine it has also been used to treat patients with social anxiety and panic disorder.5 In the last several years veterinary behaviorists have used gabapentin as an adjunctive therapy for anxiety in dogs and cats. In dogs, it is frequently used in the treatment of generalized anxiety, impulsivity, phobias and panic disorders, and compulsive disorders.3
Generally, gabapentin is used as an adjunctive medication when an SSRI or TCA has already been prescribed but has failed to significantly reduce the intensity of the patient’s fear or anxiety. Gabapentin has frequently been given alongside fluoxetine, sertraline, paroxetine and clomipramine in treating these conditions.
Gabapentin For Dogs Dosage
Although gabapentin has been around for many years, its use in dogs and cats is fairly new. Your veterinarian may recommend gabapentin for several conditions: as a mild sedative before coming into the veterinary clinic, as an add-on pain medication, or as part of a seizure management protocol.
It wasn’t that long ago when people assumed pets didn’t feel pain as acutely as humans did. Some even thought that a little pain was good for a pet because it kept them from overdoing it during recovery from a surgery. It was a misguided approach, and modern veterinary medicine no longer works that way. Now, veterinarians are guided by the principle of “assuming pain.” That is, if a pet is experiencing something we know to be painful—an injury, a surgery, certain medical conditions—we should give a pet pain medication even if he or she isn’t outwardly crying or limping.
Medicine is an art as much as it is a science, especially when you are treating a patient who can’t tell you in words how he is feeling, or whether a treatment is helping. Veterinarians used to just give one pill and hope that it worked well enough. But now, the idea of multi-modal pain management has finally become the standard in the field. To understand why the use of gabapentin has become popular in veterinary medicine, it’s important to review our current understanding of pain.
The more we learn about pain, the more we realize that it is a complex phenomenon. For example, take a stubbed toe. This painful stimulus activates local receptors in the toe, called nociceptors. The signal then transmits through the nerves up into the spinal cord, and then on to the brain, which is responsible for reacting to the signals and creating the actual conscious perception of pain.
The important takeaway is that different classes of pain medications work at different levels in this pain pathway. Anti-inflammatory agents like NSAIDs work on the nociceptors, decreasing the inflammatory response that amplifies pain, where opioids bind to receptors in the nervous system to decrease the transmission of the pain signals themselves. Emotional factors such as fear or anticipation can also alter the experience of pain.
Veterinarians have many different gateways they can act upon to affect the pain pathway. What they’ve learned over the years is that it’s better to address multiple areas of this pathway all at once rather than focus on one area with high doses of a single medication. This is known as multimodal pain management, and this is where gabapentin comes in.
Gabapentin Dose For Dogs
Gabapentin is an unusual pain medication in that it is rarely used by itself. On its own, gabapentin is not particularly effective in preventing pain. However, when used in conjunction with other pain medications such as an opioid or an NSAID, it has shown great potential in amplifying the pain reduction effects of those other medications. Although its mechanism of action is not fully understood, gabapentin is thought to decrease the release of excitatory neurotransmitters by affecting the calcium channels in the nervous system. Think of gabapentin as the noise-canceling headphones of the nervous system; while it doesn’t change the levels of noise being generated, it dampens your perception of it.
Because it appears to work specifically in the nervous system, gabapentin has also shown promise in a variety of nervous system issues, such as seizures and anxiety. It also is a particularly helpful drug for managing chronic pain, which is defined as pain that has been present for over six months. It’s a challenge to find medications that specifically target chronic pain, so it’s reassuring that gabapentin has been helpful for these patients.
While gabapentin is generally considered a safe drug, there are a couple of precautions pet parents should take. Because the drug is eliminated through the kidneys, owners should use gabapentin with caution in pets with kidney conditions. In addition, it’s vital to ensure the gabapentin is specifically formulated for pets, as the liquid form for people contains xylitol—an artificial sweetener lethal to dogs.
To get the maximum benefit, use gabapentin as directed and in conjunction with any other prescribed medications. The side effects most commonly noted with gabapentin are sedation and wobbliness, which can be mitigated by starting the dosage low, then gradually increasing to the effective dose. The drug should not be abruptly discontinued, as pets may experience withdrawal symptoms if not gradually weaned off the medication.
Pain is one the of the most challenging conditions in veterinary medicine to appropriately manage, so it’s good news that veterinarians have another tool in their arsenal to help pets live long and pain-free lives. If you think your pet is experiencing any sort of pain, don’t wait to talk to the vet. Veterinarians have a wide variety of tools available to them to bring your pet relief.
Gabapentin For Dogs Side Effects
Gabapentin is often used as a treatment for chronic pain in dogs, though it is usually not used by itself. Veterinarians typically combine it with other medications such as opioids or NSAIDs. It amplifies the effects of these drugs.
Though we don’t fully understand the mechanisms, vets think gabapentin inhibits the neurotransmitter glutamate by affecting calcium channels in the nervous system. In doing so, it reduces a dog’s ability to perceive pain.
Some painful conditions that might be treated with gabapentin include chronic arthritis, pain associated with cancer, hyperalagesia, which is a heightened sensitivity to pain, or allodynia, which is a sensation of pain to normally non-painful stimuli.
Gabapentin can also be used to treat seizures, anxiety, and idiopathic epilepsy in dogs. Because it affects the nervous system, it can prove particularly useful for pain associated with neuropathic disorders.
Some vets may prescribe it to calm anxious behavior before a vet visit.
In the case of seizures, the medication mimics the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps calm excessive electrical activity in the nerves of the brain.
Does gabapentin for dogs need to be taken with food?
Anti-seizure doses are much higher than the doses given for analgesia. Ideally, give the medication at the same time(s) daily. Gabapentin may be given with or without food.
Can dogs get addicted to gabapentin?
While gabapentin is generally considered a safe drug, there are a couple of precautions pet parents should take. The drug should not be abruptly discontinued, as pets may experience withdrawal symptoms if not gradually weaned off the medication.