Is gabapentin safe for dogs? It has been found to be effective in dogs for seizures, anxiety, and pain relief. Dogs receiving chemotherapy for cancer tend to have a lot of unwanted side effects. Many pet parents use CBD oil as a way to curb some of them and make their pet more comfortable. Recent research has shown that giving CBD oil to your pet in conjunction with radiation actually may make chemotherapy more effective.
All About Gabapentin for Dogs: Safety, Uses, and Risks
Gabapentin, a common anticonvulsant drug, has numerous uses for both humans and pets and is commonly used in dogs. It is a fast-acting medication with nervous system dampening properties. Particularly in conjunction with other medications, gabapentin is thought to be an effective treatment strategy for many pups suffering from seizures and chronic nerve pain.
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What is Gabapentin?
If your dog has ever been prescribed gabapentin, you may recognize it by common brand names Neurontin®, Aclonium®, Equipax®, Gantin®, Gabarone®, Gralise®, Neurostil®, or Progresse®. Falling under the anticonvulsant class of drugs, gabapentin is a structural analog of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), according to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN). It is considered a calcium channel blocker and is often used to inhibit neurons stimulated by pain.
Gabapentin can be used alongside other medications to treat seizures; but more often it is used to alleviate chronic nerve pain. In some cases, Today’s Veterinary Practice (TVP) notes that veterinarians also prescribe gabapentin to treat anxiety in dogs and cats. These uses are considered ‘off label,’ meaning that while the drug is not approved for certain uses, veterinarians have success treating patients with these conditions. Gabapentin is thought to specifically address neuropathic pain, and is also a nonopioid drug, making it an attractive option for many pets.
What is gabapentin used to treat?
A primary use of gabapentin is in the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain, which we would recognize as the burning and tingling sensations that come from damaged nerves. In dogs, neuropathic pain can stem from issues like extruded discs and nerve injuries. When used together with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids like methadone and tramadol, gabapentin may boost their efficacy. This may allow for lowering NSAID and opioid doses. This is important, considering that long-term use of both NSAIDs and opioids is associated with severe side effects.
Seizures are the most common neurological disorder in dogs. Depending on the underlying cause, they can be hard to manage. Unfortunately, traditional anti-seizure drugs are often linked to adverse reactions. Gabapentin decreases the release of excitatory neurotransmitters, quieting the nervous system and effectively acting as a specific nervous system dampener. With this, gabapentin is sometimes used as an add-on treatment to manage seizures.
Gabapentin can also be used for anxiety relief in pets, according to DVM360. For humans, gabapentin is prescribed for patients with issues like social anxiety and panic disorder. Although less traditional, gabapentin has become increasingly popular for addressing both generalized and situational anxiety in pets. DVM360 notes that veterinarians may recommend dogs take gabapentin for generalized anxiety, impulsivity, phobias and panic disorders, and compulsive disorders.
The various dosing protocols for gabapentin are generally different depending on which issue the drug is intended to address. Anti-seizure doses tend to be higher and more frequent than those for anxiety and pain.
How is gabapentin administered?
Gabapentin must be prescribed by a veterinary professional and should always be used under vet supervision and guidance. The medication can be administered by mouth in the form of a capsule, tablet, or compounded liquid. As previously mentioned, gabapentin is a fast-acting drug, taking effect in as little as one to two hours.
While the best time to give your pet gabapentin is immediately before mealtime, it can be delivered with or without food, according to Veterinarians.org. It’s possible for pets to vomit after receiving gabapentin. If your dog throws up the medication on an empty stomach, try giving future doses with food or a treat.
Gabapentin’s maximum effect becomes apparent after consistent use for between seven and 10 days, notes VIN. Therefore, it is not recommended for owners to ask their vet for a dosage modification before this timeframe.
Potential side effects
Gabapentin is both effective and does not have any serious safety issues, according to VIN. The primary side effect of gabapentin therapy in dogs and cats is sedation and lethargy. Additionally, owners commonly report their dog experiencing ataxia, or loss of coordination, resulting in stumbled walking, swaying, and or head tilting. These side effects are temporary and typically will likely resolve within a few hours, assures TVP. They are also generally dose-related and can be alleviated by reducing your dog’s dose.
It is important to note that gabapentin can also cause false positive readings on urinary protein tests. Veterinary experts from Today’s Veterinary Practice warn that this can impact testing for kidney disease, bladder infections, and other conditions.
It is important for pet parents to be aware of potentially dangerous risks associated with the use of gabapentin for dogs. It is important to closely follow the guidance of a veterinarian when giving your pup this medication. Dog owners should be careful not to give their pups the oral liquid form of gabapentin made for humans. This product often contains xylitol, a sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs and can cause a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar.
Gabapentin should not be used in dogs who are allergic to the active ingredient or those who are receiving other medications with known drug interactions. It should be used with caution in dogs with kidney disease or liver problems, young puppies, and pregnant or lactating female dogs.
Gabapentin should not be stopped abruptly in pets with epilepsy. If gabapentin administration is halted too quickly in these dogs, they can suffer withdrawal seizures. If your dog has been on gabapentin for a long time it is advised to slowly taper off the medication if you need to discontinue use.
Interactions with Gabapentin
When taken at the same time as gabapentin, common antacids such as Pepcid and Prilosec can hinder the absorption of gabapentin, Veterinarians.org warns. If your dog is receiving an antacid, be sure to administer the two medications separately, at least two hours apart from one another.
Dog owners should also keep in mind that gabapentin should not be taken concurrently with hydrocodone and morphine. According to TVP, these two narcotics will increase the effectiveness and side effects of gabapentin, while gabapentin may decrease the effectiveness of hydrocodone and morphine.
What about supplements?
Pet parents concerned about giving their dog this medication or those who prefer a supplement should ask their veterinarian about supplements that can be effective in providing support for these issues.
Any health or medical information in ElleVet blogs is from a variety of public and reputable sources. This information is intended as an educational resource only and is not a substitute for expert professional care.
What Drugs Will Interact with My Pet’s CBD?
While we still do not even know the extent that people’s medications will interact with CBD, even less is known about pet CBD medication interactions. That is simply because the research is lacking for both, especially in the pet field.
My veterinarian will not talk to me about CBD, but I would still like to make an educated decision on whether or not giving them CBD would be for the best.
We understand that this can be a very frustrating issue for a lot of pet parents. While CBD can cause some pet medications to be more or even less effective if consumed with CBD, there are similar precautions that have to be taken when giving your pet herbal supplements or even vitamins. There is always going to be a chance of interactions. The extent of them depends on body chemistry and prescription dose. What will affect one pet, may not affect another.
When CBD is ingested orally at large doses a group of liver enzymes in your pet may be temporarily altered. One of the most common interactions that relate to this is grapefruit for humans. CBD is also metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes preventing it from metabolizing other compounds.
“The extent to which cannabidiol behaves as a competitive inhibitor of cytochrome P450 depends on how tightly CBD binds to the active site of the metabolic enzyme before and after oxidation. This can change greatly, depending on how – and how much – CBD is administered, the unique attributes of the individual taking this medication, and whether isolated CBD or a whole-plant remedy is used.” – Adrain Devitt-Lee, a researcher at Project CBD.
60% of all medications are metabolized in the liver via specific enzymes produced in it. CBD, like grapefruit, temporarily uses up the enzymes and/or inhibiting the action of others.
Drugs that may be used for pain relief in your pet such as NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), Tramadol, Gabapentin or anxiety relief such as Prozac all rely on the P450 enzymes. This does not mean your pet can’t take CBD, it just means you might want to be a little more careful when dosing it at first. And CBD can be a wonderful way to hopefully have your pet use less of the above medications.
NSAIDs can wreak havoc on the stomach and liver over long term use.
Tramadol and Gabapentin usually require an increased dose over time because the body gets used to it.
Prozac and any other anti-anxiety will have withdrawal symptoms if given over a period of time. Please do not ever take your pet off of these medications cold-turkey. It is very very important your pet is titrated down slowly off of them.
Here is how one of our clients uses CBD and Prozac together-
“I give my dog Blooming Culture pet CBD oil on a daily basis to help with her generalized anxiety. When we travel or fly I up her dose of CBD that day and add in her veterinarian prescribed Prozac. I have found in conjunction they work really well together for extreme circumstances.”
One of the biggest known and visible side-effects of dosing your pet CBD with any of these medications is tiredness, which can be easily remedied by adjusting their dose.
If you are thinking about switching your pet off their prescription medication or trying to lower their dose, do it slowly. You can first start with a low dose of CBD and talking to your veterinarian on the best way to ween off the particular medication.
All Drug Interactions are Not Negative
Since CBD can also enhance the effects of certain medications, this means that a lower dose of that medication or therapy can sometimes be used, which is a positive.
Drugs used for dog seizures is one. Since CBD also has its own anti-seizure properties, it has proven to work well in human clinical trials together with anti-seizure medications. The AKC Health Foundation recently announced that it will begin a major clinical trial to study the potential for pet CBD oil for use in drug-resistant epileptic dogs.
The second is chemotherapy. Dogs receiving chemotherapy for cancer tend to have a lot of unwanted side effects. Many pet parents use CBD oil as a way to curb some of them and make their pet more comfortable. The same way people going through radiation may use CBD or cannabis. But recent research has shown that giving CBD oil to your pet in conjunction with radiation actually may make chemotherapy more effective.
Some research states that CBD triggers TRPV2 channels, making the cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy.
A different study showed that rats with pancreatic cancer had 3X the survival rate when given CBD in conjunction with chemotherapy instead of only chemotherapy.
Again, please work with your veterinarian as much as possible to make sure every medication, natural or not is working together safely on your pet.
*This article is for informational purposes only. If you have pet medication interaction concerns, please always consult with your veterinarian first.