Gabapentin was originally introduced as an antiepileptic drug in humans. Later it was discovered to have analgesic (pain relieving) properties. How it achieves this result is not understood. Used alone, Gabapentin is NOT effective in relieving pain. When used in combination with other pain medications, there is a dual benefit of greater pain relief while using lower doses of each drug. This creates safety as well as cost savings.
The most common uses of Gabapentin are in patients with arthritis, cancer pain or neuropathic pain (as in diabetic neuropathy, spinal cord issues, etc.).
In a conversation I had with a Board-certified Veterinary Pain Specialist, I asked how frequently and in what situations she uses Gabapentin in her practice. Her response was, “In my pain referral practice, Gabapentin is in place in every single maladaptive pain patient – – this means any patient who has suffered partially, poorly, or non-managed pain for any length of time. That means OA, neurologic, post-orthopedic where the acute pain was not well managed, malignant (cancer) pain, etc.” That is quite a strong endorsement of its use in our patients as well.
Dosing Gabapentin can be a bit tricky. We start pets on a low dose for 10-14 days and gradually increase the medicine to the effective dose.
When Rimadyl®, Metacam® or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are not effective, or when the cost or health concerns for your pet mandate that we look for alternatives, Gabapentin can be a great drug to add to the treatment plan.
In an article about Gabapetin on www.wikipedia.org, there is an interesting comment about its use in pets. It states,
Gabapentin is also used for some animal treatments, but formulations (especially liquid forms) for human use may contain the sweetener Xylitol which is toxic to dogs, so care must be taken if the human version is used for veterinary purposes.
I have never seen nor prescribed Gabapetin in a liquid form, but this caution is worth remembering.