Medically Reviewed by Taylor Froiland, PharmD, RPh
Written by Adam McCown, PharmD
In 2004, our dog Gabby was diagnosed with life threatening lymphoma. We were devastated to hear this news and immediately began chemotherapy treatments. Gabby responded well for a while, but she started having mild seizures towards the end of her treatment. Her mood and behavior changed as well. She was given phenobarbital, which controlled the seizures during the rest of her treatments and for a few months afterward.
The first day following Gabby's last treatment, she developed a bout of seizures that lasted several hours long. Phenobarbital failed to control them and Gabby became status epilepticus . The vet recommended we put Gabby down as there was nothing else they could do for her other than provide supportive care (e.g., keeping Gabby comfortable). We decided to take Gabby home and care for her ourselves.
After a few months of Gabby being constantly seize-free, we had Gabby's blood drawn to test how much phenobarbital was in her system. The numbers were extremely high. Gabby's phenobarbitol levels were at the lethal dose range on the low end! It became evident that Gabby would need a different type of medication to prevent future seizures from happening.
In February 2005, I found out about gabapentin while reading an article in USA Today. Gabapentin is a medication typically used to treat epilepsy in humans and dogs (and many other species), and comes in pill form. We began Gabby on the liquid version of gabapentin, which Gabby took immediately there was no need to hide it in her food—and Gabby's seizures stopped completely. We were overjoyed to see Gabby seizure-free, but our joy was short lived.
One day while checking Gabby's neck area for lumps or bumps, we discovered Gabby had developed a lump directly under where her gabapentin liquid was being applied. I went back to my veterinarian and asked him if he could prescribe the human liquid formulation. This way, I could apply it to Gabby just below the skin right at the spot where Gabby had developed a mammary tumor.
He was hesitant, but willing—after all, Gabby's life was in jeopardy every time she had a seizure if we did not have good control. My veterinarian wrote me a prescription for Gabapentin liquid and I began applying it topically directly to Gabby's neck area right on Gabby's tumor site.
After about six months or so of using Gabapentin liquid topically, Gabby developed another lump under her skin very close to the first one. When I took Gabby to my veterinarian for testing, he informed me that Gabby now had two tumors instead of just one! This meant that Gabby's life was even more in jeopardy, especially considering Gabby had already gone through cancer surgery once.
We decided to try chemo again to shrink Gabby's tumors before Gabby would need another surgery, but the vet recommended Gabapentin be used for seizure control during Gabby's chemo treatments. Gabby continued with her gabapentin liquid topically throughout her chemotherapy treatment cycles and surgery recovery period.
We were pleased that Gabby did not develop any seizures while she was on chemotherapy. However, it took several months after Gabby finished her last chemo treatment until we saw the medication work effectively enough to allow Gabby to become seizure-free without having daily seizures while on chemo treatment. The breathing problems, dizziness and drowsiness also decreased.
When Gabby finally did not have seizures for about three months, Gabby's gabapentin liquid was changed to a pill form. Gabby still has two tumors but has not had an episode of seizures since Gabapentin became Gabby's medication of choice. The form of gabapentin matter!
Gabby will be twelve this October and is doing fantastic! She even won "Dog Of The Month" for March 2013 at the dog daycare where she spends most days during the workweek. Gabby loves receiving her Gabapentin orally twice daily without having to have it applied topically anymore.
However, I do miss being able to rub it on Gabby right at the tumor site whenever Gabby needs an extra boost against future cancer growths. I am so grateful that Gabapentin saved my dog's life! Ask your vet for a medication guide whenever you give your pet ANYTHING!