Gabapentin For Pain Management In Animals
If your pet is showing signs of being in pain, then you should take it to the veterinarian as soon as possible. The pain could be being caused by a wide variety of factors, some of which may be considered more serious than others.
Depending on your pet’s diagnosis, gabapentin may be one of the drugs your veterinarian chooses to prescribe to help treat her pain.
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. The exact mechanism of how it works is currently unknown, but it is believed to affect the calcium channels in the nervous system, which ultimately reduces a dog’s ability to perceive pain.
Why Gabapentin Is Prescribed in Veterinary Medicine
Gabapentin is most commonly prescribed to treat dogs suffering from chronic pain associated with arthritis, cancer, hyperalagesia (a heightened sensitivity to pain), or allodynia (a sensation of pain to normally non-painful stimuli). It is usually prescribed alongside other pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs or opiates, because of its ability to amplify their effect.
Other Uses for Gabapentin in Veterinary Medicine
In addition to being used to treat chronic pain, gabapentin is also a popular drug of choice for idiopathic epilepsy in dogs. In some cases in which a pet suffers from high anxiety, a vet may prescribe a dose of gabapentin prior to the pet’s vet visit to help calm her nerves.
Dosage and Administration of Gabapentin
Gabapentin is given orally and should be administered to the pet exactly as prescribed by your veterinarian. The dosage and frequency depend on several factors, including whether the drug is being prescribed to treat chronic pain or seizures. Gabapentin is usually given every 8 to 12 hours.
The longer a pet is taking gabapentin, the more likely she will start building a tolerance to it. When this happens, the vet may choose to increase the dosage.
If you miss a dose of gabapentin, then give the next dose as soon as you remember, or if it is close to the next scheduled dose, then wait and resume with the next regularly scheduled dose. Do not administer a double dose to catch up on a missed dose.
Special Precautions for Using Gabapentin
Gabapentin is only to be administered to the pet it is prescribed for. The medication should be kept well out of reach of children and pets.
Because gabapentin is removed from the body by the kidneys, it should be avoided in pets with poor kidney function or used only in cases where the benefit outweighs the risks. It should also be used with caution in pets with decreased liver function. Gabapentin should not be used in pets that are pregnant or nursing.
If your pet has been on gabapentin long-term, then you should not abruptly discontinue the drug because it could cause seizures. Instead, your pet should be gradually tapered off this medication over a couple of weeks. Your veterinarian will provide you with a detailed dosing schedule to help reduce the risk of seizures.
Possible Side Effects of Gabapentin
Gabapentin is generally well-tolerated by dogs. The most common side effects associated with the drug include mild sedation and ataxia. If the sedative effects persist or appear to be excessive or you notice signs of an allergic reaction, such as hives, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Known Drug Interactions With Gabapentin
Notify your veterinarian if your pet is taking any other medications, vitamins, herbal therapies, or supplements, as well as the dosages and administration schedules, to help avoid any potential risk of interaction with gabapentin.
Drugs known to have interactions with gabapentin include hydrocodone and morphine. Antacids can also affect gabapentin’s effects, so if your pet is on both gabapentin and antacids, you should separate the administration of the two medicines by at least two hours.