Gabapentin for dogs and cats


Liquid / tablets / capsule

Active ingredient



Pain relief / anti-anxiety / anti-seizure

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a man-made version of an important neurotransmitter called GABA. It has anti-seizure and anti-anxiety properties in cats and dogs. It’s also prescribed to relieve pain in cats and dogs, especially nerve-related (neuropathic) pain.

What does Gabapentin do?

Gabapentin was manufactured as a substitute for GABA, an important neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are substances that allow the body’s nerve cells (neurons) to communicate with one another. 

However, it’s not exactly known how Gabapentin works. It’s thought that Gabapentin suppresses over-stimulated neurons that cause anxiety, pain and seizures.

What is Gabapentin for?

Gabapentin is licensed for use in humans, not pets, so there are no animal-specific gabapentin products and this medicine is not authorised by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). Vets can prescribe gabapentin under the ‘prescribing cascade’, which means they use their pharmacology knowledge to prescribe a suitable drug from another species if there isn’t one available in the patient’s species. 

Gabapentin is used for the following reasons in pets:

  • Pain relief: Gabapentin is often combined with other pain-relieving drugs to treat both short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) pain in pets. However,  Gabapentin is  more commonly prescribed for chronic pain. 
    In particular, vets often prescribe Gabapentin for nerve-related (neuropathic) pain. Examples of neuropathic pain include spinal problems and arthritis. Gabapentin has also been prescribed for pets with other types of chronic pain, such as cancer-related pain.
  • Managing anxiety: Gabapentin can be prescribed for various anxiety-related disorders. It’s often used as a mild sedative in pets who fear thunderstorms and/or are anxious at the vets. In this case, it’s given as just one or two doses before a stressful situation.
  • Managing seizures: Gabapentin is combined with other anti-seizure medication in some cases. As it isn’t licensed for this use, other drugs should be tried first, but it can be useful in cases when conventional therapy isn’t working any more.

What are the possible side effects with Gabapentin?

As with all medications, side effects are possible – especially at higher doses. These side effects include:

  • Sleepiness (sedation) and wobbliness: These are the most common  side effects of gabapentin. However, they should resolve within a few hours. Monitor your pet to ensure that they do not fall when walking. If the sleepiness and wobbliness are prolonged or severe, or if these signs worsen, contact a vet immediately.
  • Drooling: This should resolve within a few hours.
  • Gut upset: Signs of gut upset include vomiting or diarrhoea. Vomiting should resolve within a few hours and diarrhoea should resolve in 1-2 days. Contact your vet if the vomiting or diarrhoea is prolonged or frequent, or if these signs worsen.
  • Increased anxiety and/or agitation: While this is rare, contact your vet if you notice this.
  • Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions vary and include rashes, itching, facial swelling and breathing difficulty. Breathing difficulty is an emergency that requires emergency vet attention.

Remember, not all pets will experience these side effects, and the benefits of using Gabapentin  often outweigh the risks, especially in pets with serious health conditions. However, if you notice any concerning symptoms or changes in your pet’s behaviour or health while they are taking Gabapentin,  please contact your vet immediately for guidance. If needed, they will alter the treatment plan to ensure your pet’s safety and well-being.

Which pets is Gabapentin not suitable for?

Gabapentin is not suitable for the following pets:

  • Pets that are allergic to Gabapentin or similar medications (e.g. Pregabalin)

Gabapentin should be given with caution in the following pets:

  •  Pregnant or lactating pets
  •  Pets with kidney or liver disease, as gabapentin takes longer to be removed    from their bodies.

Caution: Some Gabapentin liquids contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener. These xylitol-containing liquids are made for humans. However, xylitol is toxic to pets so do not share your medication with your pets! Always obtain your pets’ medication from your vet. This ensures that your pet receives a formulation that’s safe for them.

How to give Gabapentin safely

  1. Follow vet instructions: Always use Gabapentin exactly as your vet has prescribed. This includes the right dose and frequency. Never adjust the dose on your own, even if your dog or cat seems to be feeling better or worse. If you aren’t sure of the dose prescribed, please call your vet to confirm.
    Gabapentin may be given with or without food, but always give Gabapentin as instructed by your vet. If your pet has a stomach upset while eating Gabapentin on an empty stomach, contact your vet.
  2. Check with your vet if giving anything else:  If Gabapentin is given together with some medications (e.g. antacids), Gabapentin’s efficacy will change. Your vet should be aware of other drugs your pet is on, but it’s always worth double-checking with your vet in case there’s been a miscommunication somewhere.
    If your pet is on supplements or non-prescription treatments, you should also tell your vet when they prescribe Gabapentin, as they may not be suitable to be given together.
  1. Storage and Handling: Store Gabapentin according to the instructions on the label, usually in a cool and dry place. Make sure it’s out of reach of children and other pets.
  2. Report any accidental overdose to your vet immediately: If you have mistakenly given too much Gabapentin, report it to your vet as soon as you realise the error. They may recommend  monitoring, diagnostic tests and/or treatment, depending on the severity of the overdose.
  3. Do not stop Gabapentin suddenly: If you stop Gabapentin in your pet abruptly, it can trigger seizures and rebound pain. Your vet will gradually reduce the dose if the decision is made to take your pet off Gabapentin.

Gabapentin FAQs

Is Gabapentin a strong painkiller for dogs?

Although Gabapentin is often used to treat nerve-related (neuropathic) pain, Gabapentin is generally not a strong painkiller for dogs. Gabapentin is usually combined with other pain relief medications for greater effect.

How long can a dog live on Gabapentin?

A dog can live on Gabapentin for the rest of their life if they tolerate it well. Gabapentin can be used long-term. However, the amount of time your dog has left will vary depending on what health conditions they have.

How quickly does Gabapentin work in dogs??

Gabapentin works quickly in dogs – it takes 1-3 hours for Gabapentin to reach peak efficacy in dogs.

Should Gabapentin be taken with food?

Gabapentin can be taken with or without food for dogs. Generally speaking, for most pet parents, Gabapentin is best given right before food. However, depending on your dog’s situation, your vet will tell you when your dog should take Gabapentin.

Does Gabapentin for dogs make them sleepy?

Gabapentin for dogs can make them sleepy, especially at high doses or if the dog is taking Gabapentin for the first time. However, the sleepiness should go away after a few hours. Contact your vet if the sleepiness is prolonged or severe, or if the sleepiness worsens.

Is gabapentin hard on a dog’s stomach?

Occasionally, Gabapentin can be hard on a dog’s stomach. Side effects of Gabapentin include vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Contact your vet if you notice these signs. However, the vomiting and diarrhoea should resolve quickly.

Gabapentin Datasheet

All licensed drugs have a manufacturer’s datasheet, which gives information about the drug’s use and possible side effects. However, Gabapentin is not licensed for pets in the UK, meaning the datasheet in the box is for humans, not pets. We’ve linked you to a useful pet version written by the BVA (British Veterinary Association), but please note this is not the manufacturer’s datasheet.

Courses related to Gabapentin

Please note that the information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only. Although it has been written by a vet, we cannot consider the individual nature of your pet’s problems so it does not constitute veterinary advice. If you have questions about your pet’s medication or their health you should contact a vet, who will be able to help.