Let’s be honest, most people have never heard of gabapentin until it is prescribed.
So it’s natural for any dog owner to rush to the internet and look up the drug they are told will help to ease their dog’s condition.
Gabapentin is becoming increasingly popular as an anticonvulsant pain management medication when prescribed alongside a main non-steroidal drug.
The tablet becomes a secondary means of treatment to be administered in varying doses from dog to dog.
The first thing to understand is if your dog has consumed 300mg of gabapentin, urgently seek medical supervision.
Even if you have a larger dog who may have been prescribed a similar-sized dosage, it is always best to safeguard against possible toxicity.
Small dogs and those with pre-existing medical conditions are particularly at risk.
For example, as gabapentin is excreted by the kidneys it is more likely to affect those with kidney disease. Even if your dog does not have a pre-existing medical condition, they may still run the risk of an overdose.
Therefore, any unauthorised gabapentin consumption should be considered an overdose.
Side effects can include vomiting and diarrhoea, ataxia, lethargy, bulging eyes and seizures.
A veterinarian will immediately understand the urgency of the situation and administer stomach pumping or activated charcoal for the toxication.
As with many medical emergencies, the earlier the signs are spotted, the better.
What are the signs of a Gabapentin overdose in dogs?
In order for you to spot the early signs of a gabapentin overdose, you’ll need to know exactly what to look out for.
Weakness, dizziness or any kind of incoordination are early warning signs. Other clear signs of toxicity include seizures, vomiting and diarrhoea.
As the symptoms can progress rapidly, it is important you act as soon as possible.
It is not common for a fatality to occur from an overdose of gabapentin tablets. However, it will make your dog extremely sick and can have long-term consequences, such as kidney damage.
Gabapentin is only prescribed to dogs in tablet form. This is because the liquid format contains xylitol, which is extremely poisonous to dogs.
What should I do if I discover that my dog has eaten Gabapentin?
If you’ve spotted any of the above symptoms, immediately phone a veterinarian. They will ask you how much you suspect the dog has ingested, so locate the packet of capsules if you can.
The veterinarian may ask you to then induce vomiting in your pooch. The easiest way of doing so is by giving your dog hydrogen peroxide, which most homes should have in a cupboard. The chemical acts as an irritant for the dog’s intestinal tract, causing vomiting within around ten minutes.
However, this should only be done if approved by a veterinarian. Administering hydrogen peroxide should be avoided if the dog is suffering seizures, already vomiting or has entered a comatose state.
Any instructions and dosage should be dictated by the veterinarian. Afterwards, move your dog to a comfortable place, being sure to stay with them during the vomiting process.
It is likely you will have to bring your dog in to see the veterinarian in an emergency.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin (also marketed under the brand name Neurontin®) is a pain relief medication primarily prescribed for the relief of nerve pain. The drug is also an anticonvulsant, meaning it is also prescribed for dogs suffering from seizures. It is also occasionally prescribed for anxiety.
Gabapentin is used as a supplementary medication as it has a synergistic effect, enhancing the effect of both medications. Normally prescribed for pain management, the dosage is usually taken with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
The drug is similar in structure to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a ’calming’ neurotransmitter known for anxiety regulation that blocks impulses between nerve cells in the brain.
Gabapentin was first developed in 1975 as an anti-seizure medication. In 1993, the drug received approval from the FDA to treat epilepsy in humans and then shingles in 2002.
There is no record of the drug being used to treat dogs until 2008. However, it is becoming ever more popular on veterinarians’ prescription pads nowadays.
How do I give my dog Gabapentin?
Your veterinarian will prescribe your dog the tablet form of the drug, so follow guidelines and dosage advice very closely. Each prescribed capsule of gabapentin contains 100mg, 300mg or 400mg of gabapentin, as well as 600mg and 800mg.
Normally, roughly 5mg of gabapentin is administered per one pound of the dog’s weight. It is generally true that the larger the dog, the heavier the dose. However, your veterinarian will make an assessment based on your dog’s current condition, as well as their medical history.
Place the prescribed tablet(s) in your dog’s food, being very careful to be discreet. Then pop the packet of tablets out of reach in a place your dog cannot access.
Gabapentin also comes in liquid form, although this is only prescribed for humans. Liquid gabapentin contains xylitol, which is extremely poisonous to dogs. Swallowing a very small amount can cause hypoglycemia, while larger ingestion can lead to acute liver failure and ultimately, death.
We will go into more detail on this later in the article.
Why is Gabapentin prescribed for dogs?
Gabapentin is only usually prescribed for humans. Despite the drug not being FDA-approved for dogs, veterinarians are increasingly prescribing it as a supplementary medicine to enhance the effects of the main prescription drug. This is usually an NSAID, normally prescribed to treat anxiety, pain and seizures in dogs. As gabapentin is an analgesic, it works incredibly well with an NSAID to provide pain relief for chronic and neuropathic pain.
For chronic pain, gabapentin will help to ease pain sensitivity. The use of gabapentin also allows veterinarians to reduce the dosage of the main NSAID, which reduces some potentially-serious side effects.
For neuropathic or nervous system pain, gabapentin is best employed for conditions such as osteoarthritis or arthritis. However, it is not effective with acute pain.
Gabapentin is also a crucial option for dogs suffering from seizures for whom their current medication is no longer as effective. Veterinarians may also prescribe it for dogs suffering from anxiety.
Is Gabapentin safe for dogs?
It’s easy to wonder whether gabapentin is safe for dogs, especially when an overdose can cause a serious illness.
Given in the correct dosage, the drug is very safe for dogs. Not only that, it can greatly improve the life of your dog, especially if they are suffering from seizures or in a lot of pain.
As always, it is best to follow your veterinarian’s advice. A veterinarian would only prescribe gabapentin if your dog is able to avoid any of the risks involved.
Dogs are only prescribed gabapentin in tablet form. Dogs must not, under any circumstances, swallow the liquid form of gabapentin. This contains xylitol and can be lethal for dogs.
What is xylitol and why is it bad for dogs?
Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol derived from plants.
Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs and must be avoided, no matter how small the dose. A tiny >0.1 g/kg amount can cause hypoglycemia, while >0.5 g/kg can lead to acute liver failure and ultimately, death.
When dogs consume xylitol, their bodies release insulin which causes their blood sugar to dramatically plunge. The effects can take around 30-60 minutes to begin to show.
Signs that your dog has consumed xylitol are vomiting, staggering, incoordination and seizures. If you suspect your dog has consumed xylitol, you must act quickly.
What dose of Gabapentin should I give to my dog?
It’s completely understandable if you’re now worried. So, how much of this safe drug can your dog actually consume?
Approximately 5mg of gabapentin is administered per one pound of the dog’s weight. In context, a small breed dog would be placed on a dosage of up to 100mg. A medium-sized breed would then receive a dosage anywhere between 100mg and 275mg, with a larger breed anywhere above that.
However, this scale should be used only as a rough guide. As always, a veterinarian is the best reference point.
So, what should you do if your dog has eaten 300mg of gabapentin? Providing they have consumed a capsule, if you manage to spot the signs early and telephone a veterinarian, your dog should be fine. There is a chance nothing may happen, however taking a risk is not recommended.
Gabapentin is a great drug which provides many dogs with much-needed pain relief and comfort. As always, only decide to give your dog gabapentin if prescribed by a veterinarian and make sure to stick closely to the dosage guide.