A small dog rests in bed, offered a spoonful of pills. Gabapentin for dogs concept.

Just like humans, pets can also struggle with pain. Unlike humans, though, it’s a little trickier to treat pain in non-human animals since we can’t directly communicate with them. So, when it comes to treating pain in pets, veterinarians have tried a variety of methods to help our furry friends find some relief. In recent years, some vets have turned to gabapentin for dogs in managing cases of chronic (long-term) pain and seizures.

What is Gabapentin, anyway?

Gabapentin is in the drug class known as GABA analogues, which means it’s structurally similar to gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is an important neurotransmitter that helps calm down the central nervous system in mammals. This function is why many people use gabapentin to help manage seizures and shingles pain.

Okay, so humans can use this drug… but what about our four-legged friends?

Is Gabapentin for Dogs Safe?

Many pet parents rightfully ask themselves, Will gabapentin hurt my dog?. The answer to that question is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no. In some cases, gabapentin can be safe for dogs to use under the strict supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Other times, though, this medication can hurt dogs—even under a veterinarian’s direction. In fact, it can be lethal in cases of overdose or if the formula you use contains the artificial sweetener xylitol (as the human version often does).

To minimize the risk of side effects of using gabapentin with dogs, it’s crucial to always:

  1. talk to a veterinarian about managing your dog’s health conditions,
  2. tell your vet about any medical conditions your pet has,
  3. disclose to your vet any prescription or over-the-counter medications your pet takes, and
  4. only give your pet a medication specifically formulated for dogs.

Dosage

Dosage will vary based on several factors, including your pet’s weight and what condition you’re trying to treat. Always follow your vet’s directions for how much to give to Fido and at what times.

That being said, according to 1-800-PetMeds, common dosages of gabapentin for dogs are:

  • 1.4 to 5 mg per pound every 24 hours for chronic pain
  • 4.5 to 13.6 mg per pound every 8 to 12 hours for seizures 

Side Effects

Side effects can vary, although common ones include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Incoordination

To minimize the risk of these side effects, some experts recommend starting at a lower dosage before gradually upping how much gabapentin you give your dog. As always, clear any and all changes in medication with a licensed professional first.

How Long Does it Take for Gabapentin to Kick In for Dogs?

According to VCA Animal Hospitals (formerly known as Veterinary Centers of America), gabapentin will kick in soon, in about 1 to 2 hours after administering the dosage to your pet.

Final Thoughts

Chart explaining basics about gabapentin for dogs.

When it comes to treating Fido’s pain, gabapentin may be one option to consider. However, it’s necessary to consult a veterinarian before administering this drug to pets as serious side effects can occur. Never give dogs gabapentin designed for human use.

Disclaimers: This article does not constitute professional veterinary advice, nor can it replace the advice of a licensed veterinarian.