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Gabapentin for Dogs...A Safe Choice for Pain Relief?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant drug, meaning that it prevents the over-active firing of electrical signaling of nerves (1). 

Originally developed to treat seizures, the pharmaceutical is now also used to treat pain and anxiety in both humans and canines. However, research is limited regarding the efficacy and safety of the use of Gabapentin for dogs. 

Is Gabapentin safe for dogs?

Gabapentin is not FDA approved for canines, and therefore considered an “off-label” use in a dog (2). When a medication is used off-label, it is not considered illegal, however, it means that the company cannot guarantee the safety or efficacy of the drug the way it is being used. Usually, this is due to lack of testing and research, which is true in this case too.

Though used widely, there is no evidence-based research to support this drug’s ability to control pain in dogs (3). Given this fact, it is extremely important to follow the exact dosing instructions given by your vet in order to ensure your dog’s safety. Dosing may vary widely from dog to dog dependent upon their response to the drug (3). 

Gabapentin side effects in dogs

For dogs, this medication’s potential side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and incoordination (3, 4). 

The most common side effect is mild sedation. This side effect is what lends its use as a canine anti-anxiety medication. However, if Gabapentin is used for anxiety in dogs it will usually be used in conjunction with other anti-anxiety drugs (5).

What does Gabapentin do for dogs?

Gabapentin may not be particularly effective alone and may instead be utilized to amplify the effects of other pain medications prescribed by your vet such as NSAIDs or opioids (6).

Additionally, it is common for a dog to develop a tolerance to the medication, meaning the dose will need to be increased over time to remain effective (7). 

The bottom line

Currently, there are mixed reviews from veterinarians and owners about using Gabapentin to treat chronic pain and anxiety in our furry friends. 

While the drug is generally safe for pets, its use in dogs is “off-label” so it is important to follow all of the recommendations and instructions from your vet if you do choose to go this route. 

Until further research about this pharmaceutical is published, natural pain management alternatives such as joint supplements and anti-anxiety supporting CBD oil may provide more effective results without all the negative side effects.

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