To evaluate the effects of a single dose of orally administered gabapentin in alleviating stress at a veterinary visit in privately owned dogs.
22 healthy client-owned dogs (1.5 to 8.5 years old) were enrolled in this study.
Each dog received a 50-mg/kg oral dose of either gabapentin or placebo 2 hours before the beginning of each visit protocol. The dog’s behavioral responses were coded from recorded video clips during a 5-minute-long standardized physical examination and pre– and post–physical examination phases. The veterinary technician separately rated each greeting behavior at each visit. Physiological variables during veterinary visits (ie, eye surface temperature and salivary cortisol concentrations) were also compared between the pre– and post–physical examination phases. The owner was queried 24 hours after a visit to determine the incidence of adverse events.
The greeting test score, eye surface temperature, and cortisol concentrations did not differ substantially between the gabapentin and placebo treatment groups. Lip licking frequency during the physical examination phase was significantly lower in the gabapentin treatment group than in the placebo group (P = 0.001). Lip licking frequency during the pre– and post–physical examination phases was also significantly lower in the gabapentin treatment group than in the placebo treatment group (P = 0.004). No serious adverse events were reported by the owners following gabapentin treatment.
Results showed that the 50-mg/kg dose of gabapentin was well tolerated without serious adverse effects in healthy dogs. Further studies are recommended of dogs with documented stress in response to a veterinary visit.