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Side Effects of Gabapentin in Dogs

Gabapentin started out as a medicine used to treat seizures in humans, and then found to treat nerve pain. It slowly found its way into veterinary treatment for the same reasons, especially in dogs. But as with most medicines, this too has several drawbacks. This DogAppy article gives you details on the side effects of gabapentin in dogs.
DogAppy Staff
Structural Twins, But That's All!
Although gabapentin has a similar structure to the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter, it doesn't bond with GABA receptors or work against it.
When gabapentin was discovered about 40 years ago by the Japanese, their research focused on finding a muscle relaxant and antispasmodic drug. When they sold their findings to Parke-Davis (which is now a part of Pfizer since 2000), the latter discovered its benefits in treating epilepsy. This eventually led to the findings of its benefits in treating neuropathological pain. As with a lot of other medications used to treat humans, this one found its way into animal nursing too.
Gabapetin is also used to treat insomnia, bipolar disorder, migraines, restless legs syndrome, and anxiety disorders. It is considered to stop the formation of new synapses and involves an interaction with voltage-gated calcium channels. But this article focuses on the effects the medicine has when it is used to treat dogs. To do so, we must first understand what it is.
SO WHAT IS GABAPENTIN?
Gabapentin is an active ingredient in Neurontin, and has a similar structure to that of a GABA neurotransmitter, although it neither binds with nor works against GABA receptors. It has a central nervous system-inhibitory mechanism, which is used to treat hyperalgesia and allodynia felt due to chronic nerve pain or in other cases, epilepsy. Although it is not FDA-approved, this drug is commonly prescribed by veterinarians for the treatment of pets in monitored dosages.
HOW IT WORKS
As mentioned earlier, gabapentin doesn't have any action on GABA receptors, and neither does it block GABA uptake or metabolism. It only inhibits the neuropathic pain by mimicking the activity of GABA. In other words, it stabilizes the electric activity in the brain, thereby reducing chances of an occurrence of seizures.
DOSAGE FOR DOGS
The dosage given to dogs varies with both the cause for giving such treatment and the intensity of that particular problem. Generally, it is available in 100 mg and 200 mg pills or capsules. For the treatment of seizures, a dosage between 4.5 mg- 13.5 mg is given per lb of body weight, twice a day, or every 8 - 12 hours. For treatment of nerve pain, the dosage varies between 11 - 22 mg/lb body weight, administered twice daily or as per the vet's instructions. Adjustments are made to the dosage based on how the dog reacts to the treatment, and also depending on whether the pet is on other reactive medication.
SIDE EFFECTS NOTICED IN DOGS
While gabapentin has shown rare cases of side effects in dogs, too much of the drug may cause both long-term and short-term side effects.
  • The most common side effect of gabapentin is somnolence, a state of hypersomnia, or drowsiness, which occurs due to the muscle-relaxing effects of the drug.
  • Ataxia occurs, which is a lack of voluntary muscle coordination, or in simple terms, the loss of muscle coordination.
  • In case of overdose, missed dose, or reaction with other medication, it may lead to swelling of limbs, vomiting, depression, or diarrhea.
  • It reacts with certain antacids and narcotics. They should be avoided for 2 hours after the ingestion of gabapentin. If given before time, they increase the drug levels in blood.
  • It also reacts with narcotics such as morphine and hydrocodone, and should be discussed with the vet if the dog is under medication for the same.
  • If a dosage is not given at the right time, it should be given in the same day at a later time. But if that is missed, avoid double-dosing the dog on the following day as increased levels of this anticonvulsant can affect coordination and mental action.
  • It can cause fetal loss and teratogenic affects in nursing and pregnant dogs and should not be administered in the same.
  • If administered to dogs who are allergic, it may lead to hives, rashes, swelling, or breathing difficulties.
  • The drug is removed from the body through the kidneys, and if the pet suffers from a kidney disorder, the drug may accumulate and cause toxins to be released.
  • In the liquid form, it can cause hepatotoxic reactions in dogs, affecting their blood (caused by Xylitol, a sweetening agent) and should not be administered at all.
  • If medication is stopped abruptly, muscle control is lost and a seizure may occur suddenly.
NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS
  • Consult a veterinarian before administering gabapentin to a dog.
  • Mention other treatment and health issues (like kidney or renal failure) of the pet with the doctor before putting them on medication.
  • In case of an overdose, consult a vet immediately.
  • Don't administer antacids two hours from the intake of gabapentin.
  • Only administer it to pregnant or nursing dogs when absolutely necessary, and when benefits surpass risks.
  • Avoid a liquid solution that contains Xylitol.
  • Avoid abruptly stopping the dosage, as it leads to reoccurrence of seizures. Decrease it gradually over a course of 2 - 4 weeks.
Now that you know how to use gabapentin and how it can affect your pet, take necessary measures, and always consult your veterinarian to ensure the safety and good health of your dog. Take care!
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and should not be substituted for the advice of a professional veterinarian.
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