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For dog owners living with a dog suffering from neurological disorders, pain, or anxiety, daily life can be scary, unpredictable, and heartbreaking. Not only knowing that your dog is in chronic pain, but the uncertainty of when the next seizure or epileptic fit will come is a sad reality that many owners face.
Today we will specifically look at a drug called Gabapentin for dogs; what it does, how safe it is, its possible side effects, as well as take a look at some possible natural alternatives.
WHAT IS GABAPENTIN?
Gabapentin is a type of anticonvulsant drug that is usually given to increase the effectiveness of other seizure medications in dogs, but it can also be used for pain and anxiety. It is a common drug for humans, but can also be effective for dogs, cats, and other animals.
Seizures occur when there is abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Scientists aren’t sure exactly how Gabapentin works, but it has been shown to help calm this electrical activity and change levels of certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin.
Gabapentin has a similar chemical structure to the neurotransmitter GABA. This neurotransmitter helps calm down brain activity.
Gabapentin is a generic drug. Brand names for this drug include Aclonium®, Equipax®, Gabarone®, Gantin®, Gralise®, Neurontin®, Neurostil®, and Progresse®.
Because it does take a while for Gabapentin to have full effect, this drug is likely more commonly prescribed for chronic pain rather than temporary pain.
WHAT IS GABAPENTIN USED FOR IN DOGS?
Gabapentin is often prescribed to treat:
- Anxiety – Gabapentin can be an option for managing stress in dogs if therapies alone are not enough. It can be effective for both sudden (i.e., fireworks, thunderstorms) and predictable (i.e., car rides, vet visits) stressful events.
- Pain - Veterinarians will, in some cases, prescribe Gabapentin to dogs suffering from chronic pain, especially when it is associated with the nervous system.
- Seizures – Gabapentin is sometimes prescribed for dogs with seizures who are not responding well to the main epilepsy medications. Combining these drugs with Gabapentin can sometimes help them work better.
PRICE OF GABAPENTIN
According to one popular online pet pharmacy, the following are prices sold per capsule depending on the dosage.
SAFETY OF GABAPENTIN FOR DOGS
Gabapentin is currently not FDA approved for veterinary use, but it is commonly accepted and prescribed by vets. It is generally speaking a safe drug and appears to have few side effects, even when an overdose happens.
However, one study showed that high doses of Gabapentin caused pancreatic cancer in mice. A larger study in humans found that Gabapentin did not increase risk for this cancer, though, and no studies have been done in dogs. Still, you might want to ask your veterinarian if your dog’s breed is susceptible to this disease (e.g., Airedale Terriers, Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels).
Also, because this drug passes through the kidneys, it may not be suitable for dogs that have kidney disease.
SIDE EFFECTS OF GABAPENTIN IN DOGS
The most common side effects of Gabapentin include the following:
- Sedation or lethargy
- Wobbliness and incoordination
You should gradually increase the medication over time until you reach the recommended dosage to alleviate these side effects.
Other more serious side effects may occur. If you notice the following symptoms, you should contact your vet:
- Difficulty breathing
- Blue tongue or gums
- Swelling of the face/muzzle
- Excessive drooling
As with any prescription drug, your vet will consider how your dog’s other medications might interact before prescribing Gabapentin.
GABAPENTIN DOSAGE FOR DOGS
Your vet will determine the dosage of gabapentin for your dog as its a prescription drug. Before giving it to your dog, it would be best if you were aware of and comfortable with the possible side effects. The following are the generally prescribed dose ranges:
- Seizures: 4.5 to 13.6 mg per pound of your dog’s weight, every 8-12 hours.
- Pain: 1.4 - 5 mg per pound of your dog’s weight, every 8-12 hours.
NATURAL ALTERNATIVES TO GABAPENTIN FOR DOGS
Nowadays, it's not surprising that more and more pet parents are working with their vets to find natural ways to help their dogs.
One plant has been the subject of more research than any other in recent years, and to say it has had a profound impact on my life, my dog Biscuit, and those around me would be an understatement.
When Biscuit turned ten, she started to show visible signs of pain after trips to the dog park. The vet prescribed a drug to help, and almost immediately, it did.
The problem didn't come until a few days later when she did something entirely out of character, something she hadn't done in her ten years of life.
She snapped at Gravy, my other Dog, while eating. This act was presumably due to this new medication; for us, it wasn't a side effect we were willing to put up with.
Having to choose between Biscuit being in discomfort or her personality changing was not easy. I was determined to find a way to help her.
In my search, I was fortunate to find a study by Cornell University in which several dogs with Arthritis were given CBD at a dose of 2mg/kg twice a day. To my astonishment, over 70% of the dogs showed improved mobility and reduced signs of pain after just two weeks of use.
Not only that, but there were thousands of other small studies exploring CBD's potential to help with anxiety, seizures, and much more. I was sold.
But back in 2018, when I went to purchase an appropriate CBD oil for Biscuit, one at a dose similar to the study I mentioned, which could also improve her energy levels, I realized that it did not exist.
I wanted to find a solution for Biscuit.
After months of reading every study I could find on CBD and talking to multiple veterinarians, I decided to contact a pharmacist and attempt to make a new kind of CBD oil for Biscuit.
The result was a product that helped her live more comfortably. The best part was that it did so without the risk of any severe side effects. It was gentle but effective.
I used USDA Organic coconut MCT oil to get the CBD extract to the correct dose for her weight. I did this because it tastes great and has properties that increase the absorption of CBD and a host of other benefits related to neurological health, metabolism, and more.
After human testing was completed, it was Biscuit's turn. It got the lick of approval, and she happily took her CBD oil twice a day from then on. I like to think she knew it helped.
We always recommend going to a veterinarian to diagnose and treat health issues in dogs. As a result, many veterinarians now recommend using our products alone or in combination with conventional medications.
Relievet is now funding research on CBD for dogs in hopes of changing the lives of many more animals responsibly with this wonderful plant.