Witnessing your pet in pain is a difficult experience for all pet owners. When the origin of that pain is unknown, however, treatment can be challenging. One of the most difficult types of pain to understand is neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain can profoundly alter an animal’s quality of life. This type of pain can result from damage to nervous tissues, amputation of a limb, spinal cord tumors, or intervertebral disc disease. No matter the cause, this type of pain makes normal activities exceptionally painful for afflicted animals. Some of the symptoms of neuropathic pain are:
- Muscle atrophy
- Skin twitching
- Vocalizing pain
- Chewing on painful area
Unlike other types of pain, the origin of neuropathic pain can be hard to pinpoint and generally tricky to diagnose. Veterinarians will often rule out other causes of pain in order to diagnose neuropathic pain. Typically, veterinarians will perform blood tests to ensure that there is not a disease causing this pain. Additionally, x-rays can be used to determine if there is an obvious tumor which the neuropathic pain may be stemming from. Many pets that experience chronic neuropathic pain are best treated by analgesics (pain medication). One of the most common medications used to treat this sort of pain is gabapentin.
What is Gabapentin?
Gabapentin is a prescription medicine that was initially used to treat epilepsy and neuropathic pain in humans, but later was approved for use on cats, dogs and horses to treat the same conditions. That being said, it is important to note that dogs should not be administered gabapentin intended for humans because it contains xylitol, a substance that is toxic to dogs. While gabapentin was mainly developed as an anticonvulsant, it most effectively treats chronic neuropathic pain. Though the specific chemical interaction of gabapentin is unknown, scientists suspect that gabapentin blocks the same neurotransmitters that cause both neuropathic pain and seizures.
Gabapentin & Seizures
As stated previously, gabapentin was originally developed to treat seizures in humans and pets. Gabapentin can be a good first choice medication to treat refractory seizures, though many veterinary neurologists find that gabapentin is most effect at treating chronic neuropathic pain. A more common medication that veterinarians choose for treating epilepsy is phenobarbital, a barbiturate that is effective in both humans and animals. Gabapentin can be a great option for many pets who experience seizures, but is most commonly used for pain management.
Gabapentin and Your Pet
When administering gabapentin to your pet, it is important to note that animals commonly build up a tolerance to this medication. To counteract this, veterinarians will occasionally increase the dosage over time. Gabapentin is initially administered in conjunction with other analgesics such as hydrocodone or morphine, but gabapentin can become the sole pain medication for many animals facing neuropathic pain. There are very few observed adverse reactions to this medication, making it an ideal option for many pets. For more information about side effects of this medication, check out the link below for an article detailing the potential adverse reactions associated with gabapentin.