Gabapentin For Cats: Usage, Safety, And More

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Gabapentin for Cats Feature

 

Gabapentin is a common medication used in both pets and people to address certain painful conditions and as added control for seizure conditions. In pets, it is also often used for mild sedation for stressful situations and for car travel, especially in cats.

Gabapentin For Cats Overview

Medication Type:
Anticonvulsant
Form:
Liquid, Topical Cream or Gel
Prescription Required?:
Yes
FDA Approved?:
No
Brand Names:
Neurontin®, Aclonium®, Equipax®, Gantin®, Gabarone®
Common Names:
Gabapentin
Available Dosages:
Tablets: 100, 300, 400, 600, & 800 mg, Oral Slution: 50 mg/ml

So can cats take gabapentin? They sure can! In this article, you’ll learn what gabapentin is, how it works, and some safety guidelines regarding dosage for kitties. We’ll also cover some frequently asked questions.

What Is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a medication kind of in a class by itself, classified as an anticonvulsant neuropathic pain analgesic. True to its classification, it has a couple of different indications.

Its most common use in pets is as a pain medication, especially for neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is described by humans who experience it as a shooting or burning pain. Neuropathic pain is most often associated with nerves or the nervous system.

While not a good medication for seizures on its own in pets, it may be added on as adjunctive therapy for difficult to control seizure conditions.

The most common brand name for gabapentin is Neurontin, but it does come in generic forms as well.

What Does Gabapentin Do For Cats?

Gabapentin for Cats at Vet

Gabapentin is used as a pain medication for chronic pain and, sometimes, to help calm down frightened cats.

In cats, gabapentin is most often used as a pain medication for chronic pain, such as from arthritis.

Gabapentin has also been recognized to be beneficial in reducing the fear responses that a kitty may have to the stress of handling and being examined at the vet.

It’s common for vets to prescribe a single dose of it to be given a couple of hours prior to veterinary visits to provide some sedation and help examination and handling to be less stressful for certain patients.

Anecdotally, it also appears to help keep some cats much calmer for car or plane travel and may be recommended to help make longer trips less stressful.

Studies have not shown gabapentin to be as effective for acute pain in cats as some other medications like buprenorphine, and so it is less commonly prescribed for a sudden onset of a painful condition, or after surgery.

Gabapentin Side Effects In Cats

The most common side effects seen in cats with gabapentin are lethargy and abnormal walking/movement, which is called ataxia. It is important to note that some of these effects may be expected or even desired when gabapentin is used intentionally as a sedative. Effects typically start to wear off within 12 hours.

Gabapentin should be used cautiously in cats with liver or kidney disease, as we may see it take longer for the effects to wear off. Its use should typically be avoided in pregnant queens.

Gabapentin Dosage For Cats

The dosage for gabapentin may vary depending on a cat’s size, as well as whether it’s being used as a pain medication, adjunctive anticonvulsant, or as a sedative before vet visits or travel.

From a safety perspective, a gabapentin dosage for cats will typically not exceed 50-100mg per cat to address pain or when being used as a sedative.

As a sedative, it is often given a couple of hours prior to an examination at the vet clinic or before getting in the car or on a plane.

Many vets feel that the sedative effect is better when an additional dose is given 24 hours prior (followed by the second dose closer to the vet visit or travel). As a pain medication, it is most often given every 12 hours to start, but may be increased to every 8 hours if needed.

These are just general guidelines, and it is very important to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations very specifically for the most effective and safe use of this medication.

Dosage Forms Of Gabapentin

There is no specific veterinary form of gabapentin for pets, and it is always the human medication form that is used in an extra-label or off-label manner, which is common in veterinary medicine.

The most common form of gabapentin is a capsule containing powder, with the prescribed amount mixed with canned or soft food.

The 100mg capsule is the most common size prescribed for cats. Gabapentin also comes in a 50mg/ml liquid form that does require refrigeration.

The commercial liquid form may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol. While not toxic to cats, xylitol is toxic to dogs, so be careful with this form if there’s a pup in your home.

To make dosing easier, especially for smaller cats, gabapentin can also be ordered as a compounded medication in different forms by your veterinarian.

How Does Gabapentin Work?

How gabapentin for cats works

It’s not clear exactly how this unique medication works, but it appears to inhibit the release of certain excitatory neurotransmitters.

Gabapentin is a unique medication and its mechanism of action as both a pain medication, sedative, and as an add-on drug for seizures, is not completely understood. It is thought that it binds to a subunit of calcium channels, inhibiting the release of excitatory neurotransmitters like substance P, glutamate, and norepinephrine.

Gabapentin As A Controlled Substance

Within the last couple of years, gabapentin has become a controlled, scheduled substance in the United States and Europe.

Because of restrictions imposed by controlled status, your veterinarian may not be able to prescribe gabapentin for your kitty without an examination, and recheck exams may be needed for refills. An exception may include prescribing it in advance to help with sedation for an exam, but a telemedicine consult may still be required.

You may also find that because of the additional record-keeping and restrictions, that your vet office may not carry gabapentin, and may alternatively provide a prescription to pick it up at a local pharmacy, instead of at the office itself.

In Summary

Gabapentin is a commonly-prescribed medication for cats, used most often for chronic pain conditions, and as a pre-medication to relieve stress or anxiety before veterinary exams or travel.

Also Read: Cat Separation Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

It is typically very safe to use when following dosing instructions by a veterinarian. If your feline friend is on gabapentin and you have questions about dosage or changes, it’s very important to call your vet’s office for the best recommendations catered to your kitty.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Gabapentin Should I Give My Cat?

It’s really important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions for specific dosage depending on your kitty’s weight and the purpose for using it. However, from a safety perspective, most doses for cats will rarely exceed 50-100mg per cat.

Does Gabapentin Sedate Cats?

Gabapentin is often used as a sedative for cats, but the sedative effect largely depends on dose, which is why it’s very important to follow your vet’s advice when using it for this purpose. If your cat is on gabapentin as a pain medication or for adjunctive seizure control and he or she seems really sedate when taking it, make sure to contact your veterinarian for advice on adjusting the dosage.

What Happens if You Forget to Refrigerate Gabapentin for Cats?

The powdered capsules remain stable at room temperature (even up to about 85 degrees, 30 degrees C), and don’t require refrigeration. The commercial 50mg/ml liquid Neurontin does need to be stored in the fridge and is most stable between 36-46 degrees F (2-8 degrees C). There are some reports that it can remain stable out of refrigeration for up to 7 days at up to 85 degrees F (30 degrees C).

Essentially, if you find you left your cat’s liquid gabapentin out for a short period, like an hour or two, it’s likely not a problem. If it was left out overnight or longer, make sure to contact your vet’s office for the best advice on what to do. Liquid gabapentin left out will not become dangerous or toxic for a kitty, but may lose some of its efficacy.

If you have a compounded form of gabapentin that requires refrigeration, it’s best to contact the specific compounding pharmacy for advice if it’s left out, because requirements may differ depending on the compounding methods.

About Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH

Dr. Chris Vanderhoof is a 2013 graduate of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (VMCVM) at Virginia Tech, where he also earned a Masters in Public Health. He completed a rotating internship with Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey and now works as a general practitioner in the Washington D.C. area. Dr. Vanderhoof is also a copywriter specializing in the animal health field and founder of Paramount Animal Health Writing Solutions, which can be found at www.animalhealthcopywriter.com. Dr. Vanderhoof lives in the Northern Virginia area with his family, including 3 cats.

17 thoughts on “Gabapentin For Cats: Usage, Safety, And More

  1. Mary Brunner

    My cat has been on Gabepentin liquid for 10 days,, twice a day for acute ear infection in both ears..He has ear drops, and .
    .7 mg. Of Gabepentin twice a day..His left ear is still bothering him..Our vet said he doesn’t need tapering off. Of Gabepentin .I think he does..
    Also my cat won’t wear a cone..He just ran out of Gabepentin…Im afraid he’ll start scratching his ears like before..I need your opinion..
    Thank you!!

    Reply
    1. Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH Post author

      Hi Mary,

      I’m sorry to hear about your kitty’s ear infections.

      Your vet knows your kitty and his condition far better than I do, and it is important to follow his or her instructions, but here’s some thoughts that I hope are helpful.

      While your vet likely prescribed gabapentin to help with the discomfort and irritation the infection causes, the most important thing is treating the infection itself with, I assume, the antimicrobial ear drops you mentioned. Your veterinarian may have advised a follow-up visit to have the ears rechecked. If you’re still seeing an issue in one ear, rechecking is the best thing to do. Your vet may collect some samples to see if there is still growth present. Some ear infections can take a couple of rounds of treatment to resolve.

      Some of your information about the gabapentin is conflicting. At first you mention you’d like your cat to be tapered off of gabapentin. But on the other hand, you mention that he just ran out and you’re concerned he still needs it. I would say that gabapentin can be continued if it’s helping your cat’s discomfort while he’s being treated for the infection, and he’s not too sedate with it. It’s very well tolerated at properly prescribed dosages.

      But the underlying infection is what is most important to address. I would make sure to follow your vet’s instructions for follow-up.

      Reply
  2. Ruth

    Hello, my cat has been on Gabapentin for almost a month do to a fall from the balcony. The fall caused her chest/stomach area skin to die. Now the dead skin finally fell off and the wound is almost closed up. She is behaving like her normal self after stopping Gabapentin for about 24 hrs. I was giving it to her ever 8 then switched to 12hrs. My question is can I just stop giving her Gabapentin completely? I feel she no longer needs it and no longer looks uncomfortable or in pain. Would she be ok?

    Reply
    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hello Ruth, since the gabapentin was primarily being used as a pain medication and your cat no longer seems to be in pain, I would guess that she may be able to go without it. However, I am not a veterinarian, and this is a question for your vet. I’d advise calling your vet, describing her behavior, and asking if they believe it advisable to go off of the gabapentin at this time.

      Reply
  3. Tara R

    We were recently chosen by a feral cat that wanted to turn in her feral card and become a house cat. During her vet health check visits we mentioned that she seemed to struggle going up steps, hopping up to small heights, and that she excessively licks her front paws. They prescribed her 50mg of liquid Gabapentin. It had made a huge difference in minimizing any pain and she started going upstairs to explore more. She only licks one small spot on one leg now, instead of all legs like before, and her fur has grown back in those areas. For anyone wondering if they should give their cats Gabapentin for arthritis/nerve pain, I say try it out and see if your cat feels better. I have been on Gabapentin for the past 3 years for my arthritis and sciatica pain (yup, me and my kitty take the same meds) and it’s done wonders for me too! Always talk with your vet and follow their instructions for how much and to dose your cat and for how long.

    Reply
  4. Dorrel

    My cat had bloody urine and straining to urinated, the vet diagnosed him with Pandora Syndrome! The Dr. gave him buprenez, cosequin and gabapentin . I’m really confused out these medications , can you help me understand why and what each medications do to treat his urinary problem? Thank you

    Reply
    1. Mallory Crusta

      Hi Dorrel, this is really a question best addressed by your veterinarian. Please don’t hesitate to give them a call and ask for more details on the medications and the rationale behind the prescription.

      Reply
  5. Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH Post author

    Hi Dorrel, sorry to hear your kitty is having a hard time!

    Mallory is correct. If you are uncertain about a particular drug or medication that has been prescribed for a pet, it’s always best to have those questions answered by the doctor who last examined your kitty and prescribed those medications.

    But in case there are some similar questions out there, here’s a brief, general summary. Pandora Syndrome in cats has become a more recently used term to explain how many body systems of a cat may be affected by a centralized stress response. One of the most common ways this appears to present in kitties is through urinary tract inflammation.

    A vet may choose to treat these kitties very individually and based on their experience of the best outcomes. Generally, pain medications like buprenex and gabapentin appear to help episodes because they can help a kitty to both relax and not strain if they’re in less discomfort. Many vets will use glucosamine in these cases too, as it is used naturally by the body for protection of the urinary tract. That’s where your Cosequin comes in.

    The veternary field has been struggling the last year or so to meet the high need and demand that has developed. This does sometimes translate into shorter appointments where we’re not able to explain everything as much as we’d like. A lot can also happen and be discussed during a vet appointment that may be hard to recall later. If you ever feel confused about what your kitty is being treated for, what is being used, and what the future plan is, I encourage folks to reach out to their veterinarian by phone, email, etc., as they will be able to provide the best response catered to your cat’s condition and needs.

    Reply
  6. Corinne Hunter

    Dr. Vanderhoof; my vet and I think my cat may have Hyperesthesia Syndrome, but mostly the neurological aspect. He is a rescue so we don’t know about the first 6 years of his life. We have had him for 4 and recently he is exhibiting a type of seizure behavior. He stops on a dime, and does a little stare into nothing and then runs and hides. We had him into the vet and all his vitals are normal. We haven’t gone as far as an MRI or neurological exams. The vet prescribed gabapentin- initially 50 mg liquid with only gave him a little relief. Finally in capsule form 100mg every 12 hrs, he seems to only have a couple of really mild seizures. I’d curious what you know about Hyperesthesia Syndrome or if you know of this condition as my cat exhibits, without the chewing and skin rolling. Any additional information will be helpful as we have just begun on this new health path. Thank you so much. Corinne Hunter

    Reply
    1. Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH Post author

      Hi Corinne,

      Thank you for sharing about your kitty. Feline hyperesthesia syndrome is certainly an odd one that we don’t fully understand, and there is some disagreement about what these cats are experiencing. The opinion I most ascribe to can be found here at a page for the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine (https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/hyperesthesia-syndrome).

      The neurologist I worked with in my internship hailed from Cornell and studied with Dr. de Lahunta. He felt that many cats with hyperesthesia may have some kind of focal seizure disorder, though pain from arthritis or intervertebral discs putting pressure on the spinal cord could be affecting some cats. I have certainly seen some cats with issues in their back behave very strangely.

      As you can see in the article, gabapentin is a reasonable medication to try. It has some effect as a mild anticonvulsant for seizures, treats pain especially nerve pain, and functions to calm many cats down which may help if there is any stress or anxiety aggravating the condition. Unfortunately in many cases, a specific cause of the signs can’t be determined, and so empirically treating with a medication like gabapentin helps to cover most of the possible causes and seems to help out the kitty. Your vet is on the right track and it sounds like your cat is experiencing some relief so far.

      Reply
  7. Vicki Meyer

    My cat came from a farm where her mother and siblings were killed by a fox. She is a scaredy-cat when someone enters a room or moves fast. She wants to play but she bites. When scolded or put down she goes into attack mode, pulls her ears and head back and lunges with teeth bared. We’ve tried a squirt bottle, rolled up newspaper, etc. but she continues to bite. I tried Feliway with no results. Now my vet has put her on Gabapentin to calm her down. She’s calmer but still wants to bite. If I continue giving that to her, can it be long term?
    My hands are bit up, she even tries to bite my face when I’m sleeping. Please help!

    Reply
    1. Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH Post author

      Hi Vicki,
      Gabapentin’s effect does help to calm and provide mild sedation, but it does not address underlyling causes of stress, fear, anxiety, etc. If your kitty is calmer, this may be the most you can expect from gabapentin. Just like it can be used as a long-term pain medication, it can be used longterm to help with calming if it has a visible benefit. However, if your cat is actively biting you or family members, this is not a good or safe situation. Cat bites can be very serious. I would consider having a further discussion with your vet about behavior-modifying medications options that could be considered and consulting with a board certified veterinary behaviorist if one is present in your area.

      Reply
    1. Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH Post author

      Hi Tammy,
      Generally, there is no documented age limitation for gabapentin and it is a very safe medication in cats. A dose for a kitten that small would need to be appropriately adjusted for a small weight. If this kitten is painful, the pain does need to be addressed and there are limited options we have in cats to do this. As long as it is dosed properly, gabapentin should be a safe option. Of course, if your friend has concerns, it would be important to discuss the dosing with the vet that prescribed it.

      Reply
  8. Tom

    We have always had difficulty getting our 9-year-old rescue cat to the vet. None of the tricks for getting her into the carrier work any longer. She is very mild mannered, but is petrified of being “caught.” Now she actually needs to see a vet, but no vet will prescribe a sedative without examining her – if we could do that, we wouldn’t need it! Is it stupid for us to consider gabapectin as a way to get her sleepy enough to be put into a carrier? Her health is good.She was sedated once before, a few years ago when she had her teeth cleaned.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Chris Vanderhoof, DVM, MPH Post author

      Hi Tom,
      Yours is not an uncommon problem! A dose of gabapentin the day before and a couple hours prior may help with catching her to get her into a carrier by making her less panicked and more mellow. Some vet practices will allow for a single dose or two to be dispensed under “fear-free” practices to help with travel or an exam, which would be worth asking about.

      Reply
    2. Mallory Crusta

      You may be able to get a prescription from a remote vet , which would eliminate the need to bring her in to get that prescription. Other than that, I would think about considering some of the steps in this article on how to get your cat into a carrier. You may find that changing your approach is enough to reduce her anxiety just enough to get her in there.

      Reply

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