It can be tough seeing your dog fall sick and suffer in pain but in most cases, a trip to the vet can get your dog the medication it needs to feel itself again.
However, a lot of us hardly pay attention to what kind of medications our vets prescribe our dogs.
If your dog has recently been prescribed gabapentin and you are concerned about what it is and what risks come with it, then this is the right place for you.
We are going to be taking a look at gabapentin to see what it does to your dog.
Check out the guide below for all the information you need!
What Is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is an FDA-approved medication drug for humans. It is a type of treatment for a range of conditions including epileptic seizures, anxiety, and other types of neuropathic (nervous system) pain.
It does this by binding to the important calcium channels that support brain functions in your body. By blocking these calcium channels, it prevents your neurons from becoming overstimulated and causing the conditions mentioned above.
More and more vets are prescribing gabapentin to their canine patients as well. In dogs, it is also a type of treatment for similar neuron-related conditions like nerve pain and seizures.
It is sometimes also used to treat extreme anxiety. However, unlike humans, gabapentin is not FDA-approved for use on dogs.
The Risks Of Gabapentin
As a dog owner, you want to give your dog the very best medication possible and avoid anything that is more likely to harm your pet than help them.
This has led many to question whether or not they should give their pets gabapentin. Here are some of the risks you need to be aware of before deciding to give your dog their gabapentin medication.
Gabapentin Is Not FDA-Approved For Dogs
One main controversy with gabapentin is that it is not FDA-approved for veterinary use.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will approve drugs they themselves have reviewed.
Once they have determined that the benefits of the drug vastly outweigh any potential downsides or risks, they will ‘approve’ a drug so doctors, vets, and patients feel more at ease with prescribing and taking it as medication.
When a drug is not FDA-approved, patients and professionals regard it more cautiously.
This is why there is so much concern about giving their dog gabapentin. Because it is not FDA-approved, there is a lack of reliable research into gabapentin.
This means that there is a lot of concern over whether or not the drug is safe to give to their pet – or if it is not worth the risk.
It is worth noting that just because a drug is not FDA-approved, it is not illegal to use or prescribe it. Doctors (and vets) can prescribe non-approved drugs as medication but warn their patients of any potential risks or side effects.
This means that gabapentin is an ‘off-label’ type of medication vets will prescribe to your dogs- but it’s not illegal. Your vet is not breaking any rules or laws by prescribing your pet pooch gabapentin.
Liquid Gabapentin Contains Toxic Ingredients
You should only ever give your dog medication prescribed by a veterinarian and never go out and give your dog medication designed for humans. This is especially true when it comes to gabapentin.
It’s not uncommon for dog owners to go out and purchase human medication for their dogs.
Because they have heard that a certain drug works well with dogs, they try to get around to getting a prescription by purchasing the commercially available human version of the drug – but this is very risky.
Liquid gabapentin made for humans contains xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener that is fine for humans but toxic in dogs.
So, giving your dog liquid gabapentin for humans will make your dog extremely ill and may even prove to be deadly. However, this is not due to the gabapentin itself as gabapentin is not toxic – it’s the sweetener!
There Are Concerns About Its Effects On Dog’s Kidneys And Livers
Dogs rely on their liver and kidneys to maintain their metabolism but gabapentin can put these important organs under stress.
This is because gabapentin is very quickly absorbed and later eliminated. The effects of it are short-lived so most dogs have to take a dose of gabapentin each and every day.
This means that the liver and kidneys are constantly working due to the gabapentin in the dog’s system. This puts extra stress on the dog’s metabolism.
Unfortunately, there has not been enough research into this side effect specifically so our knowledge of the effects of gabapentin on the dog’s metabolism is limited.
Most studies into gabapentin research the effects on either human or mouse metabolism – both of which have very different metabolisms to dogs, so the effects can be totally different!
Despite this, most vets will avoid prescribing gabapentin to dogs with pre-existing liver and kidney problems to try and avoid any additional stress and effects.
Gabapentin Has Serious Withdrawal Issues
Like with most drugs, gabapentin can cause some serious withdrawal issues if you cut off your dog’s gabapentin supply and make them go ‘cold turkey’.
In dogs suffering from epilepsy, they may experience withdrawal seizures. It can also cause rebound pain – pain that is more extreme than usual that can really cause your dog to suffer.
To avoid these side effects, it’s important that you wean your dog off gabapentin slowly. Talk to your vet to come up with a plan if you want to explore other types of medication with your dog.
Gabapentin Can Cause Sedation And Ataxia
The most widely reported side effects on both human and canine patients under Gabapentin are sedation and ataxia.
Ataxia is a condition that causes the loss of motor control – which means your limbs feel weaker and are not as functional as they should be.
Symptoms include a lack of coordination, stumbling or a struggle to walk, drowsiness, unresponsiveness, and difficulty keeping your head straight. This is obviously a very scary side effect that is a major cause for concern among dog owners.
As for sedation, some dogs have been prescribed gabapentin specifically because of this side effect. This is especially true with dogs with anxiety as the sedation helps calm them.
However, you should also keep in mind that no drug comes without side effects. This means that although it’s possible that your dog may experience these side effects, it’s also not definite either.
It May Also Cause Nutrient Deficiencies
Gabapentin works by blocking calcium channels in the body to prevent your neurons from becoming overstimulated.
However, blocking these channels also can lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially when it comes to calcium.
Calcium deficiency in dogs can lead to issues with the bones and teeth as well as muscle twitching, weakness, loss of appetite, and more.
So, it’s worth keeping this side effect in mind in case your dog begins to suffer similar symptoms.
Should You Give Your Dog Gabapentin?
The biggest concern dog owners have about gabapentin is the lack of research into this drug.
Gabapentin is often prescribed and used in conjunction with other medications and drugs, making it difficult to know what effects are the result of the gabapentin.
There are too few studies on gabapentin and its use in dogs and some studies are unreliable and biased – so there are a lot of risks associated with this drug.
This also means that there is a lot of uncertainty about gabapentin – there’s even a lot of debate over how much gabapentin there should be in one dosage!
As a result, it’s fine for you to question whether or not your dog should take this drug.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving your dog gabapentin, then you can request that your vet prescribes something else and cite the lack of regulation and research into the drug as your main point of concern.
Talk to your vet and discuss other options you can explore if you don’t feel comfortable using gabapentin on your dog.
We hope this guide has helped you decide if gabapentin is the right medication for your dog.
Remember to only give your dog gabapentin prescribed by a vet and nothing that is commercially sold for human use! Carefully consider the information above, come to a final decision, and good luck!
If you enjoyed this post, you might like our article about ‘NexGard For Dogs: Should You Be Giving This Treatment To Your Dog?‘.
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