Gabapentin for Dogs: How It Can Help

Updated May 31, 2024
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Gabapentin has a variety of uses in veterinary medicine, and prescribing gabapentin for dogs, especially, is becoming more popular amongst veterinarians.

Here’s everything you need to know about gabapentin for dogs.

Key Takeaways

  • Veterinarians commonly prescribe gabapentin to treat pain, seizures, and anxiety in dogs.
  • Gabapentin is a human medication, and its use in veterinary medicine is “off-label,” meaning it is not FDA-approved for pets.
  • Sedation is the main potential side effect of gabapentin, and the level of sleepiness varies from patient to patient.

What Is Gabapentin for Dogs?

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant and analgesic drug that is commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat pain, seizures, and anxiety in dogs.

How gabapentin works is not completely understood; however, it is thought to block stimulation of the nerve cells.

What Is Gabapentin Used for in Dogs?

Gabapentin is a human medication, and its use in veterinary medicine is “off-label,” meaning it is not FDA-approved for pets. But gabapentin can be prescribed to help with pain, seizures, and anxiety in dogs.

Preventing Seizures 

Gabapentin has anticonvulsant properties that make it beneficial for adjunctive therapy for dogs with refractory seizures or those whose current medication regime is no longer effective enough.

Controlling Pain

Gabapentin is also an analgesic, meaning it provides relief for chronic pain and neuropathic pain. It’s most commonly used for the chronic pain associated with degenerative joint disease, such as arthritis.

It has also shown to be beneficial when used in combination with other pain medications—such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories or opioids—to help with pain associated with surgery.

Easing Anxiety

Gabapentin can be used to help with anxiety in general, but specifically for thunderstorm phobia or stress associated with vet visits. It likely decreases the release of excitatory neurotransmitters in the brain, which keeps anxiety from building up and gives the dog a more “chilled-out” feeling. 

If your pup suffers from anxiety related to thunderstorms, vet visits, or other stressors, you can try using a Thundershirt® to help calm them. Your vet will help you determine if medication is necessary to treat your dog's anxiety. 

What Are the Side Effects of Gabapentin in Dogs?

Sedation is the main potential side effect of gabapentin, and the level of sleepiness varies from patient to patient. Veterinarians will prescribe a starting dose, and if this results in the dog becoming a little too sedate, the veterinarian will taper the dose down to the most effective one.

Like all medications, there is a small chance that a dog could be allergic to it, in which case, this medication should be avoided. Gabapentin should also be used with caution in animals with kidney or liver disease, as it will take longer to metabolize.

What's the Gabapentin Dosage for Dogs?

The dosage range for gabapentin varies widely depending on what it’s being used to treat.

Gabapentin is available in several forms that are human-labeled products:

There is also an oral solution made at 250 mg/5 mL; however, sometimes the solution is formulated with xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs. Your veterinarian will help you order this medication in a form that is safe for your dog.

Sometimes a dog is too small to use the human formulations. If this is the case for your pet, a compounding pharmacy can formulate whichever form and dosage your veterinarian requests.

Gabapentin is usually given by mouth two to four times per day, with or without food. Check the directions on the bottle or ask your vet if you are not sure of the correct dosage for your dog.

Gabapentin should start to take effect fairly quickly, and relief should be noticed within one to two hours of administration. It’s a short-acting drug, and the effects will be gone in 24 hours. That said, the medication may last longer in dogs with kidney or liver impairment.

This drug should not be stopped abruptly when used to treat seizures, as it can result in withdrawal seizures. Always consult a veterinarian before discontinuing any medication.

Can You Use Gabapentin and Trazodone Together for Dogs?

Trazodone is a commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication frequently used to reduce stress before vet visits or during post-surgical confinement and rest. Gabapentin is often used for easing anxiety and pain in these situations, so these two medications are often prescribed together. Trazodone is safe to use with gabapentin.

Can Dogs Take CBD and Gabapentin?

If your pet is on gabapentin for pain (such as arthritis) or anxiety, you may also have been researching CBD oil for your dog. It is not recommended to use these two together due to an increased risk of sedation.

Always consult with a veterinarian before starting your dog on any additional medications or supplements that were not originally prescribed to ensure that they are safe with your dog’s current medications.

Is Tramadol or Gabapentin Better for Dogs in Pain?

The pain medication tramadol is starting to fall out of favor with veterinarians. Studies have found that tramadol may not be as effective as originally thought. In fact, it was found to be ineffective at controlling pain associated with osteoarthritis in dogs. However, studies are ongoing, and the debate is still up for discussion on the effectiveness of tramadol.

In the meantime, veterinarians are turning more toward gabapentin for pain relief in their patients. However, your veterinarian may choose to use gabapentin in combination with other pain medications, including tramadol, for more effective pain management. 


Shelby Loos, DVM

WRITTEN BY

Shelby Loos, DVM

Veterinarian

Dr. Shelby Loos is a 2017 graduate from the University of Florida with a certificate in aquatic animal medicine. After completing a year...


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