What is Gabapentin for Cats and is it Safe?


It is a fact that most cats don’t like to go to the vet. In fact, this trait is ubiquitous to almost all pets and animals. That being said, sometimes, a visit to the vet or the animal health center is required. So how exactly do you go about palliating the anxiety that your cat feels when he or she knows for a fact that you are taking them to the vet? There is a plethora of medications in the market that act as anti-anxiety drugs. However, only a select few are as good as they claim to be. When it comes to your pet, you do not want to go out and start experimenting with medication, so you should find the best one right away. One of the said medications that help with anxiety is Gabapentin. Even though it does work well with anxiety, it is a panacea of sorts and can palliate several types of pain. However, its raison d’etre is to help with seizures. Like most modern medications, there is a need for public scrutiny into how the medication operates. This article aims to look at Gabapentin, in general, at first, and then delve a bit into the nuances of the drug and eventually try and determine if it is good to use with your cat. In the end, we hope that you will be able to make an informed decision the next time you go to the pharmacy.

What exactly is Gabapentin for cats?

Gabapentin, essentially, is an analgesic, anticonvulsant, and is sometimes used, as mentioned earlier, as an anxiolytic, for all types of pets, but more specifically horses, dogs, and most cats. Over the years, and after extensive research by both the company that makes the drug and the owners of pets that use the drug, it has proven to be especially effective when dealing with neuropathic pain in cats. When combined with other drugs, such as NSAID and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, its efficiency and effectiveness proliferate. It, as an analgesic, is mostly prescribed for pain associated with chronic arthritis and malignancy, still with cats.

Originally, Gabapentin was used to palliate and control the seizures that affect humans, but as more and more trials took place, it was found that it could be used on animals. To this effect, treating seizures in animals is combined with other anti-seizure drugs. In other cases, it has been used on cats that have refractory idiopathic epilepsy as adjunctive therapy. Even though it is not labeled as an anxiolytic, over the last couple of years especially, more and more vets are prescribing it as a treatment for fears, phobias, and anxiety in general for cats. This is especially the case when it comes to vet visits. Even though the number of studies done regarding gabapentin’s efficiency in treating cat ailments, one major one, done in 2017 then released by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, ascertained this, according to Pawlicy. The study showed that giving your cat the meditation not less than one and a half hours before the visit to the vet reduces the amount of stress and anxiety that the cat feels and also reduces the development of stress-related signs and symptoms that develop on the way to the vet, and even during the examination.

Is it safe?

As mentioned earlier, compared to other medications used on cats to treat anxiety, not many studies have been done on the anxiolytic properties of Gabapentin. However, it is important to note that the studies that have been done have shown that it is especially effective. Even the referrals and testimonials for cat owners concur with this statement. On the other hand, when it comes to analgesic and anti-convulsion medication, you will not find as good a drug in the market as Gabapentin.

The dosage that you will need

The dosage, the frequency of intake, and the form you will use to administer the drug will all be determined by the vet, based on the severity of the condition, amongst other factors such as body weight and metabolism, according to A Cat Clinic. Most of the time, though, it is present in the form of a capsule, tablet, or liquid form. This means that you will have to ensure that your cat ingests it orally. It can be administered both before and after the cat has eaten. However, if the cat starts vomiting or shows signs of nausea after ingesting the drug, make sure that you administer future doses either right before the cat has eaten or during. You can mix the dosage with food since it does not have a strong taste. When using it in its liquid form, it is essential to ensure that you measure the quantity accurately and carefully. Note that some Gabapentin medications also have xylitol. This substance is toxic with some pets, so make sure that your cat is not allergic before using the drug.

Time taken

Typically, Gabapentin takes effect very quickly. Within the first or the second hour after ingestion, according to VCA Hospitals, your feline friend will be able to feel the effects, and an improvement will be seen. However, the medication does tend to have a short half-life and last for only between one to two hours.

Extra label

When you purchase the medication and intend to use it to treat seizures and pain, you will find that it has an ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’ instruction. This means that the instructions that the vet will give you may sometimes tend to be a bit different from those that come with the medication. It is essential and paramount to ensure that you follow the instructions issued by the vet to the latter.

Longevity of use

When using Gabapentin to treat cats, especially those with epilepsy, the medication should not be discontinued at once, especially if there has been long-term use. Thus, it is more ideal if you wean off the medication and prolong it for about three or four weeks. This reduces the risk of the cat developing withdrawal seizures. Additionally, it is paramount to consult with your vet on this issue.

Missed doses

Missing a dose is not an anomaly, far from it. It will happen that you will miss a couple of doses. It is paramount that you give the missed dose as soon as you remember you missed it. However, if by the time you remember that you missed the dose, the time for the next one has reached, skip the missed dose. Do not, under any circumstances, combine two doses. As mentioned earlier, Gabapentin does not last that long in the system. After 24 hours, the effects tend to wear off. However, if the cat has liver or kidney disease, it is more likely that it will last a lot longer.

Side effects

All medication has side effects. When it comes to Gabapentin, there are common side effects and ones that are not so common. When it comes to the former, the common side effects, your cat may experience occasional diarrhea, sleepiness, and incoordination. The latter side effects are few and far between; vets have stated that if a cat is put on higher doses of the drug, it may develop chronic kidney disease.To avoid this, the medication should be administered in smaller doses and gradually increased over time. It should also be noted that the drug may cause a positive reading when urinary protein analysis and tests are conducted. When the cat has overdosed on the medication, the severity of the side effects increases. The side effects include lethargy, drowsiness, depression, and ataxia. If you suspect that your cat has had an overdose, do not hesitate a second; make sure that they are rushed to the nearest vet or animal healthcare center. There, they will be able to deal with the emergency by using gastric-emptying procedures and protocols such as cathartics, emesis, and activated charcoal.

Precautions if you decide to use Gabapentin

Before you give your cat any Gabapentin, the first thing you should do is make sure that they are not allergic or even hypersensitive to it. Additionally, if the cat has decreased renal and liver function, you should administer the medication cautiously. Moreover, the said medication should be used with extreme caution for cats with kidney problems. This is because the drug will be eliminated from the body via the kidney. It should also be noted that when used on lab animals, the medication was associated with fetal loss and birth defects. Since the medication is also present in the milk of lactating mothers, it is best to avoid using it on cats that are expectant or have just delivered.

Using with other drugs

It should be noted that Gabapentin was found to accentuate in effectiveness and efficiency with regards to pain relief when used at the beginning of the treatment process and when it was combined with a myriad of other analgesics such as hydrocodone and morphine. However, after some time, the second booster pain killer can be dropped, and Gabapentin remains the only analgesic in the process of therapy. If the cat also takes antacids, then Gabapentin should not be administered less than two hours after the antacids have been administered. The reason for this is that the antacids hinder the absorption of the medication, thus rendering it less effective and efficient.

Monitoring is to be done when using the drug

At the initial stages of using the medication, it is important to make sure that you monitor your cat. This is to ensure that the said medication is working, and also to ascertain that the cat does not have any of the side effects mentioned earlier. If the cat does develop the common side effects, it is best to monitor them to make sure that the said side effects are palliated and reduced effectively. If the cat does not develop any side effects, then monitoring is not needed all that much in the later stages of the therapy.

How do you store the drug?

Like most medications in the market, you must make sure that you store Gabapentin in a cool and dry place. The temperature should be around 25 degrees Celsius, and the medication should be kept, in whatever form it is in, as far away from moisture as possible. All in all, make sure that you follow all the instructions that have been placed on the label, or issued by the vet, with the latter taking precedent over the former.

Conclusion and summary

Essentially, Gabapentin is an analgesic and anticonvulsant that is also effective as an anxiolytic. It is used to treat chronic and acute pain, anxiety, and seizures in cats. It has proven to be very effective on all these fronts. The main side effect that comes with using this particular medication is mild sedation and occasional diarrhea. The cat may also experience lack of coordination, and thus you have to be around to make sure that it does not suffer any injuries.The dosage of Gabapentin that you will use is dependent on a lot of factors, the main one being the condition that is being addressed. Moreover, issues such as body weight and the rate of metabolism also have to be taken into account. When dealing with cats with kidney or liver disease, you should use the medication cautiously. If the cat is pregnant and is nursing kittens, then it is best if you look for alternate mediation, as studies have shown that it leads to fetal loss and development of birth defects and is also present in breast milk. Above everything else, always make sure that you consult with your vet before using the medication on your feline friend.

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