For veterinary use, Gabapentin is considered “off-label” or not FDA-approved for animals but is increasingly becoming popular among veterinarians.
This is because Gabapentin is relatively safe for dogs and thus can be prescribed for a number of reasons. It is administered to prevent seizures, reduce pain, and calm an overly-anxious dog.
This medicine is actually an anticonvulsant drug for humans. It is used for the treatment of seizures and also for pain due to diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, and central pain. This medicine is sold under several brand names like Gralise or Neurontin.
Gabapentin being an anticonvulsant drug, helps dogs suffering from an inherited disorder like idiopathic epilepsy. The drug controls and stops seizures from the beginning.
During a seizure, the brain cells or neurons are speeded up, meaning it sends or fires electrical signals at a rapid rate. The drug works by controlling and preventing the brain cells from working too much, thus, stopping a seizure.
Gabapentin’s mechanism is not fully understood yet, but it is thought to cause the brain cells to produce an amino acid called Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA. This eventually attaches itself to a GABA receptor that inhibits voltage-sensitive calcium channels to stop brain cells from firing too much, thereby reducing the levels of pain.
Gabapentin has analgesic properties that help ease chronic pain due to cancer or a degenerative joint disease like arthritis.
It is commonly used in conjunction with pain relief medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opiates, because it heightens the effect of these drugs.
Dogs that have a heightened sensitivity to pain, hyperalgesia, and allodynia, a condition that makes them sensitive to touch, also respond well to Gabapentin.
The drug is also used as a mild sedative to calm anxiety. Veterinarians may prescribe Gabapentin as a second drug to augment therapy.
Drugs such as fluoxetine, sertraline, or clomipramine are used to treat separation anxiety, fear-based aggression, and noise phobia.
Sometimes, however, the use of one-drug therapy is not enough to achieve a suitable outcome, so Gabapentin is prescribed as an adjunct.