Gabapentin is a prescription medication that also goes by the brand name Neurontin. Initially used for people, it is also used in veterinary medicine to treat seizures and chronic pain in cats and dogs. If your pet has been prescribed gabapentin, it's important that you understand how it's used and any potential side effects.
Use in Dogs and Cats
Gabapentin is used in both dogs and cats. There are two primary reasons why your vet may prescribe it. Gabapentin is used as an analgesic to relieve pain and is often prescribed for animals prior to surgery. It also has an anticonvulsant effect and is used as an antiepileptic medication to control seizures.
Gabapentin is most effective for treating neuropathic pain (pain that results from damage or dysfunction in the nervous system). It is also frequently used to treat pain originating from various types of cancer.
Gabapentin may be used to treat refractory seizures in dogs and cats that have not responded favorably to other types of medications. It may be used in conjunction with other antiepileptic medications or may be used as a sole form of treatment.
Gabapentin is increasingly being used as a first-line form of treatment for seizures and epilepsy in place of more traditional medications such as phenobarbital.
The most common side effect seen with gabapentin is sedation. Your pet should be monitored for signs such as incoordination or drowsiness.
Gabapentin is eliminated from the body almost entirely by the kidneys and urinary tract. Therefore, gabapentin should be used cautiously in animals suffering from kidney disease.
You should not stop giving gabapentin to your pet suddenly. Doing so can result in life-threatening seizure activity. If you notice anything abnormal, be sure to bring your concerns up with your veterinarian.
Gabapentin and Xylitol
Oral solutions of gabapentin may contain xylitol. Xylitol is known to be toxic to dogs. It is a common sugar substitute found in sugar-free products for humans and in liquid forms of gabapentin, it may be used as the sweetener.
The problem is when people attempt to use medications intended for people to treat their pets. While that's never a good idea, it's especially important with liquid versions of gabapentin.
For these reasons, gabapentin solutions containing xylitol should be avoided when treating pets. Your veterinarian should be aware of this.
Other Potential Drug Interactions
The potential for adverse drug interactions exists when gabapentin is used with several other medications. Antacids, hydrocodone, and morphine used in conjunction with gabapentin may alter the metabolism of gabapentin. Adjusted dosages of gabapentin may be warranted if it must be used with these medications.