If you’re new to the Tripawds Nation you might be wondering why Gabapentin (also known as Neurotin) is mentioned so much in our community. Today we’ll tell you how Gabapentin can help Tripawds recover from amputation surgery pain, how it works and what to watch out for.
How Gabapentin Can Help Amputee Animals
Gabapentin is a FDA-approved pharmaceutical drug officially prescribed to control seizures, neuropathic pain, depression and anxiety in humans, not animals. But because no other veterinary medication performs the same function, vets can legally prescribe it for “off-label” use in animals to alleviate chronic and neuropathic pain.
Gabapentin has been commercially available since 1993 but use in animals is relatively new. Gabapentin’s efficacy remains debatable in the veterinary community and many vets still don’t routinely prescribe it to new amputees. Some vets just aren’t convinced gabapentin works, and many Tripawds parents still have to advocate for this pain reliever.
Through the years we’ve talked to many vets and members who have seen real benefits from Gabapentin. We’re not vets ourselves so take that for what it’s worth, but we believe that Gabapentin’s placement in the latest AAHA Pain Management Guidelines confirms our belief: Gabapentin remains one of the best tools to help your Tripawd experience a better recovery.
Some vets believe that a dog or cat about undergo amputation can benefit from gabapentin both before and after surgery. Gabapentin can also help prevent phantom limb pain and the three most common types of pain in Tripawds. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet for this important pain relief medication.
Although it’s not exactly known how Gabapentin works in people or animals, “Its mode of action seems to be its ability to block pain signals as they travel at the point where the nerve crosses over into the spinal cord,” says Dr. Mike Petty in his book, “Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs.” The book shares greater detail about how Gabapentin works, so be sure to pick up a copy.
You can also find more specific details in the The Merck Veterinary Manual: Analgesic Pharmacology.
Gabapentin Dosages and Side Effects
Like any drug, it’s wise to be vigilant about Gabapentin when your dog or cat is using it. For example, Gabapentin can be hard on kidneys because it takes a while to go through the body. As a consequence, pets with kidney disease need careful dosing and monitoring to ensure Gabapentin doesn’t make their condition worse.
To ensure your otherwise healthy pet is receiving the maximum benefit of Gabapentin, always:
- Double-check you are using the veterinary version. The human version of Gabapentin in liquid form contains Xylitol, which is toxic to pets. If you get your pet’s prescriptions from a human pharmacy, always triple-check to ensure it’s not the human version. Xylitol is found in the liquid form only.
- Ask for the pill version, not capsules or liquid. Pills can be cut in half. They are easier to give in the mouth and disguise in treats. Pills also make it easier to cut back and withdraw your Tripawd from the drug.
- Ask your vet to prescribed a “tapered UP” dose. Some animals will experience sleepiness when taking Gabapentin. To reduce the odds of this happening, ask your vet to prescribe a “tapered up” dose. This method will start with just one dose at bedtime. Once your dog or cat has gotten used to Gabapentin you can give another dose in daytime hours.
- Use in conjunction with a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication. Dr. Petty believes that your new Tripawd will benefit far more if Gabapentin is given with a medication like Meloxicam, Rimadyl, Previcox, etc. (names may differ depending on your country). “In my experience, Gabapentin does not seem to work as well alone as it does when used alongside other pain medications, NSAIDs in particular,” says Dr. Petty in his book.
- Follow the prescribed dose and never stop suddenly. In general, new Tripawds will start Gabapentin a day before amputation, then stay on it for two to four weeks after surgery. All pets’ needs are different though so always work with a knowledgeable pain management vet to find the right dose and length of time for using it.
Lately there’s been some controversy in our Forums and elsewhere about how to stop giving Gabapentin. Some veterinarians say it’s OK to stop Gabapentin suddenly if a Tripawd isn’t taking it for pain. However we’ll take Dr. Petty’s position who says Gabapentin should never be stopped suddenly.
“Forgetting to give a few doses can cause something called rebound pain, which can be as bad or worse than the original pain you were trying to treat.” — Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs
As you know, we aren’t veterinarians so please don’t take our word for it about Gabapentin: always talk to your vet and make sure they’re up on the latest Pain Management Guidelines for Cats and Dogs. If they’re not, don’t hesitate to find a veterinary pain management expert: your Tripawd deserves it.
Post Surgery Pain in Tripawd Dogs and Cats
Tripawds Best Pain Relief Tips for Tripawd Dogs and Cats
Post Amputation Side Effects (this article is about dogs but much of it applies to cats too).
13 thoughts on “All About Gabapentin for Tripawd Dogs and Cats”
We are the new family of a puppy living in a dumpster with a broken leg. We took him to the vet and they said he needed an amputation. He’s 4 months old. I am so nervous about an amputation but they said the break was severe through the growth plate and healing wrong. The vet guessed the break to be about 2 months old. Poor fellow. We will do whatever is best for him.
Jemma, thank you for adopting that puppy. What a lucky boy to find his way to you. Please let us know what we can do to support you in your journey. And remember that the Tripawds Foundation can pay for your first rehab visit so please take advantage of the program. It’s especially important to know what to expect raising a Tripawd puppy. Join the Forums and let us know how it’s going. Good luck with surgery!
Vet tech. here currently residing in a small town in Mexico. I frequently rescue injured dogs, and one dog in particular was in terrible condition. He was temporarily paralized and in a lot of pain. I put him on gabapentin and meloxicam, and I can attest to it working wonders. I could tell it helped ease his pain, along with the massages and lots of love. Now, Lando is a happy boy living amongst his 7 brothers and sisters 🙂 Yikes! Haha. He was left with a bit of a limp on one of his legs due to slight dislocation of his right hip, but he can walk just fine otherwise. I’m glad to hear others have had success in managing pain, particularly deep nerve pain with gabapentin. Best wishes to everyone!
– Connie M.
Wow Connie, you are a true saint. Bless you for helping the doggies in Mexico, their lives are a little easier because of your wisdom and compassion. Thanks for sharing Lando’s story. Best wishes back to you, we give a 3-paws salute to you!!
Hi, this is my first day here. I am a foster parent of a try paw. Volunteer for our local Humane Society. I picked Archie, a 30 lbs beagle mix from the vet yesterday. He was hit by a car and left for dead. Concerned citizen rescued him and took him to vet. Had to have his back left leg amputated. Surgery was 5 days ago. He is getting around wonderfully, eating, drinking, taking his medication. He goes up and down my four porch steps rather well. He is about three years old
Never had an amputee before. How much walking is appropriate at this stage? Stitches come out next week.
Also, he is very aggressive toward my docile 8 year old boxer, but doesn’t mind my 8 month old Chihuahua so much. Any tips, advice on care, etc. Is appreciated.
Welcome Ugamom, and best wishes for Archie! Please search or post in the discussion forums for much more helpful feedback than you’ll get in comments on this blog post. Check Jerry’s Reading List for lots of helpful links, or download the Tripawds e-books for fast answers to the most common concerns. If you ever need help making the most of this site, start here.
ok so Im a bit worried and I guess disappointed.. I have been using gabapentin for my dog on and off since she had her knee (TPLO) about 4yrs ago… and increased some over the last 2yrs with her amputation and other procedures.. I think its done wonders without the worry of GI upset and i was told its not hard on kidneys as i always was concerned about hat with NSAIDS so I barely ever used them. … so now… no one ever mentioned xylitol.. and the vet actually Rx me to pick it up at the local human pharmacy… so I wonder have I been slowly poisoning her through out these 4 yrs. In addition the couple times that I did purchase from the vet he gave it to me in the cap form.. which reading this article.. also has xylitol in it?…shouldnt the vets inform patients of this. I just called one of my vets office today about it and the tech didnt know about the difference either. my girl can take up to 300mg 2x day but she does well as needed on 200mg 1-2x depending on her day.
Please don’t worry. If she hasn’t reacted to it now there’s no need to panic, but glad you talked to your vet. I’m sorry nobody told you about the xylitol. Yes, the human versions both pill and liquid have it as far as I know. But my guess is your pharmacy worked with your vet to give Neka the animal version, which is why she didn’t react. Plus she’s just AWESOME so why would she? 😉 FYI here is a great post about Pet Pharmacies Versus Human Ones: https://tripawds.com/forums/tips-and-resources/why-human-and-veterinary-pharmacies-are-not-created-equal/
Also- great post and most informative!
Thanks Karen! Your added info about the liquid form is SUPER helpful as well. Appreciate it!
A note about the liquid verses pills, especially for small pets. We put quad-pug Tani on gaba for her severe arthritis. She was only 15 pounds and the smallest pill was way too big for her. We wanted to start her on a very low dose and work up as needed as this would be a long time med for her. We chose the liquid form because we could easily regulate the dose. You have to be sure and get it compounded at a Veterinary Pharmacy because they are knowledgeable about things that pets can’t have like xylitol. They also add flavor to the liquid so it tastes good- Tani didn’t mind the flavor at all and I could just squirt it in her mouth.
Its used here in Malaysia too and so far the only thing that helps stop Bam Bam from attacking his own leg. Bam Bam was beaten as a pup resulting in 4 broken legs. 3 were saved and one amputated. Traumatized to the very core, he often attacks his own fully healed back leg. This pill has worked wonders with that.
Awww so glad it could help Bam Bam!