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Pharmaceutical vs. Natural: Which is Best For Your Dog?
Relievet is a unique CBD company. Apart from our best-in-class products, we offer free access to information about CBD and its uses to pet parents and vets — for free — including consulting with our in-house pharmacist.
We get a lot of questions! Some of the questions we get most involve one of the following:
- Should I use CBD or Gabapentin for my dog?
- Can I use CBD with Gabapentin in my dog?
This article is to help pet parents or vets find answers on these questions. Read on!
What is CBD?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. It is one of the many active ingredients in cannabis, but it does not have the psychoactive effects of THC, the compound that makes people — and pets! — feel “high.”
CBD is being studied for its potential health benefits in humans and animals. These benefits include:
- Pain relief (especially nerve pain)
- Anxiety relief
- Epilepsy treatment
- Inflammation reduction
- Nausea relief
- Sleep promotion
CBD has generally been found to be safe, with few reported side effects and almost no serious side effects mentioned in studies. However, this only applies to well-formulated CBD products made to high standards. It is important to choose a high-quality CBD product from a reputable source.
There are many CBD products on the market, and not all of them are created equal. Even if labeled as CBD only, some products may contain high levels of THC, which can have psychoactive effects. Others may be contaminated with heavy metals or other harmful substances. We’ll discuss how to find a CBD company that does things right later, but I’ll give you a hint right now: You’ll have a hard time finding a pet CBD company that does things better than Relievet!
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin, or Neurontin®, is a drug that was originally developed as an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure medication). It is still used to treat seizures, but has also been studied and is used for many other “off-label” conditions, such as:
- Nerve pains, including
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Postherpetic neuralgia
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Cocaine withdrawal
- Tremors in Multiple Sclerosis
- Cancer-Related Hot Flashes
Gabapentin is associated with the following side effects in dogs:
- Ataxia (wobbling, loss of coordination), Dizziness
- Weight Gain
- Behavioral changes, including increased anxiety or aggression
- Decreased appetite
- Dry mouth
Many of these side effects sound serious, and any sign of them in your dog should involve an immediate call to the vet that prescribed gabapentin for your dog. That said, they’re often dose-related and you shouldn’t necessarily expect to see any or all of them in your dog, and you should understand that they can often be managed by adjusting the dose.
Do CBD and Gabapentin do the Same Thing?
Like so many things in this wonderful world, the answer is both yes and no! CBD and gabapentin are studied for use and are used in many of the same conditions, including seizures, nerve pain, anxiety, and restfulness. They also have some differences. For example, CBD is also well known to be an anti-inflammatory, and gabapentin is not thought to have this effect — or at least not to the same extent. Another example: Gabapentin has been used successfully to treat many kinds of seizures, and has well-established dosing that is known to work most of the time. CBD is a newer treatment for seizures, and more research is needed to understand its full potential.
In short: CBD and gabapentin are often used for the same things, but they accomplish those things by different mechanisms. They are not perfectly interchangeable.
If your pet is on gabapentin, it is only wise to change to CBD or add CBD under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian. This is incredibly important if the dog is on gabapentin for seizures! We at Relievet want you and your dog to succeed with CBD, and that means you and we and your vet are all part of a care team dedicated to communicating and collaborating so we can succeed in helping your pet.
Is CBD or Gabapentin a Better Choice?
For seizures: Gabapentin is the more studied choice for seizures at this point. So far, we’ve seen CBD be successful when used with gabapentin. There just isn’t firm enough evidence to suggest CBD as a primary choice for seizures if a vet decided gabapentin is best. What we have seen is a dog that had ataxia (wobbling, falling, dizziness) because of the dose of gabapentin and other anti-seizure medications they needed. When they were put on CBD and the dose gradually increased (with the full supervision, guidance, and support of the veterinarian!), they were able to use a lower doses of those anti-seizure medications while still having good seizure control. This is where we see CBD as most useful for dogs with seizures — under the close supervision of a licensed vet, it can help a dog achieve both quality of life and seizure control when their anti-convulsants make life unbearably hard for them.
For pain: Depending on the type of pain, CBD may be a better choice if you and your vet discuss it and agree. From what we’ve seen and read in the literature, CBD is a “lighter touch” — it may not provide the same strong pain relief as gabapentin, but it also won’t have the same risk of side effects. If CBD works for your dog, it may be a better option than gabapentin. Similarly to using it with gabapentin for seizures, CBD may help your dog achieve adequate pain relief without needing as high a dose of gabapentin or other pain meds.
For anxiety and other conditions: Similarly to pain, we think vets and pet parents can look at CBD as a viable “soft touch” choice, especially if the anxiety isn’t severe enough to warrant the use of strong drugs.
Differences between CBD and Gabapentin
Based on our personal experiences, the feedback of our customers, and reading the literature, it’s fairly obvious to those of us at Relievet that gabapentin is generally more likely to cause side effects (including serious side effects) in dogs. We’ve had multiple reports of dogs experiencing wobbling, or what’s called ataxia, even when on relatively low doses of gabapentin.
CBD, when used at the science backed weight-based dosing of 1-2mg/kg, and when started at a low dose and gradually increased, generally causes no unwanted side effects. The reported side effects found in the literature appear to be associated with THC content (our products have none), or giving very large doses of carrier oil because of low-potency formulations (we got around this problem by making formulations specific to your dog’s weight).
We have had reports of dogs being better behaved or sleeping more deeply or a little longer on CBD, but the owners reported these as positives.
Natural vs. Pharmaceutical
We’ve heard many people argue that natural products are better than pharmaceuticals because they’re not synthetic or lab-created.
While we don’t always believe that’s true, there’s certainly an element of truth to the view with CBD.
CBD is being studied for use in different health problems specifically because there’s evidence supporting that it works for those problems without some of the drawbacks associated with pharmaceutical drugs. That said, those pharmaceutical drugs are usually the best choice for what they treat and work very well.
If the goal is to improve and extend your furry friend’s life, then the facts are pretty clear:
There are times CBD and other natural therapies are a good or even better choice, there are times pharmaceuticals are a better choice, and there are times both together are the best choice. When your dearest companion’s life or quality of life are on the line, it’s best to keep your mind open to every good option!
Can I Use CBD and Gabapentin at the Same Time?
Yes, under the guidance of a veterinarian and at the proper doses, CBD and gabapentin are used at the same time in dogs. In fact, because they can help with the same conditions with different mechanisms, they can support each other in maximizing benefits while avoiding negative side effects. We’ve talked about specific examples where they can work well together earlier in the article, and there are others, but these situations are more complex and need professional oversight.
Always ask your vet before adding CBD to prescription drug regimens, and feel free to reach out to us via email if you or your vet have questions!
Is It Too Much For My Dog
Some customers have asked “is it too much for my dog to take both? A lot of the side effects overlap, will it make them too tired?”
It can be! Any time two things with similar effects are combined, we have to start low and go slow.
Professional oversight can help guide dosing — generally, the starting dose of CBD for a dog already taking gabapentin will be lower than usual, and the rate at which the dose gets increased will be slower than usual. This is to ensure the following:
- That your dog has plenty of time to get used to the effects of CBD in combination with gabapentin and any other drugs they’re taking.
- That there’s plenty of time for a watchful, caring owner (you!) to see any negative side effects early when they’re small at low doses and report them.
Remember, no combinations should be attempted without a veterinarian’s oversight!
Are There Dangers?
While no drug, supplement, or therapy is ever perfectly safe, combining a science-formulated CBD product and gabapentin under the authority and permission of a vet in a sensible way has been done many times, and we’re not aware that doing it has ever harmed a dog.
We have not been able to find any evidence of a serious clinical interaction reported for CBD and gabapentin. That said, there have been studies in mice showing that CBD might be able to increase the activity of gabapentin (make it work more). Start low and go slow dose increasing will help ensure this does not lead to negative effects.
CBD and gabapentin exert their effects by different mechanisms (they work in different parts of the body). It is possible to get both added good and bad effects as a result. Your dog might get added pain control, or be too sleepy. Again, the start low and go slow dosing approach helps fine-tune the dosing to get maximum quality of life while avoiding side effects.
Should I Talk To My Vet First?
YES! We know we say this over and over again, and we’re going to keep saying it! A vet knows you, knows your pet, can examine your pet, is an expert in diagnosis and therapy, can order labs and imaging to get right answers and data to make good decisions, and has years and years of training in helping make sure your pet gets the care they need.
A good relationship with a caring vet who listens and takes time for you and your pet is indispensable to the care process. Without them it’s too easy to make mistakes that can lead to serious harm — something none of us want for our pets.
CBD Products to Avoid With Gabapentin
When we originally did the research to design our products, it quickly became apparent to us that dogs do not tolerate THC like humans. They have more receptors that CBD and THC work on, and THC is very tricky to dose. Whereas most drugs keep working more and more at a predictable rate when you increase the dose, THC has pretty wild effects at micro doses, small doses, and large doses in humans and other animals that do not follow the normal rules.
Dogs given THC, even micro doses, can experience panic attacks, ataxia, behavioral changes, and other pretty unpleasant issues. These negative side effects overlap much more with gabapentin’s side effects than CBD by itself.
As a result, we formulate all of our current products with THC-free hemp extract. Our third-party lab analyses (also called Certificates of Analysis) show that it’s not detectable in our products. It is broad spectrum extract that incorporates the other molecules from the plant. These have not been shown to negatively impact humans or pets.
With Relievet CBD products your pet gets all the good of CBD with none of the risk of THC.
We recommend avoiding all CBD products from manufacturers that do not have the characteristics of the very best CBD products to use with gabapentin:
Best CBD Products to Use With Gabapentin
- THC-free, broad-spectrum formulation: This leads to unwanted side effects and increased risk of interactions with drugs like gabapentin. Relievet products are lab-certified to be THC free. Broad spectrum means the other good stuff from the hemp plant is still present. There is some evidence to suggest that these other molecules offer some benefits with no added risks, making broad spectrum a better choice than CBD-isolate, which is CBD completely by itself.
- USDA Certified Organic status: This is one of the highest marks of quality in the CBD industry. Relievet extracts are certified organic, all our CBD oils are certified organic, and our facility has been inspected and approved by the USDA.
- Third-Party Lab Tested: All our products are third party lab tested and have Certificates of Analysis to prove that they have the potency listed on the label and that they are free of toxins, heavy metals, pesticides, and harmful bacterial or fungal growth.
- MCT oil as the carrier oil: It’s better tasting than the alternatives and has evidence showing it does a better job getting CBD into your dog’s bloodstream where it can work. Relievet CBD oils have only two ingredients - CBD extract and MCT oil, both USDA certified organic!
- Science-backed weight based dosing: 1-2mg/kg is the most supported dosing in the literature for most conditions, most of the time. Relievet CBD oils are sold in several different potencies specifically to ensure you can get the right weight-based dose to your dog with the minimal number of drops needed. This cuts down on gastrointestinal side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.
Both pharmaceuticals like gabapentin and natural treatments like CBD have their merits when it comes to managing various health conditions in dogs.
CBD and Gabapentin can be used together under the guidance of a veterinarian to maximize benefits and minimize side effects. However, it is crucial to choose high-quality CBD products that are THC-free, broad-spectrum, and third-party lab tested, like those offered by Relievet. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether CBD or Gabapentin is the better choice for your pet, open communication and collaboration between pet parents, veterinarians, and our CBD experts are essential to finding the best course of action for your dog’s unique needs. Ultimately, the goal is to enhance the quality of life and overall well-being of our beloved furry companions.