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Neuropathic Pain in Dogs

Pain from the Nervous System in Dogs

Neuropathic pain in dogs stems from nerve-related injuries or diseases affecting nerve function or the spinal cord. Identifying this type of pain is challenging, particularly in patients incapable of responding to specific stimuli.

Symptoms and Types

Injuries to body tissues and the nerves coursing through them lead to chronic pain triggered by light touch in the affected region and/or an increased sensitivity to pain. Pain originating from the spinal cord disrupts mobility and various bodily functions.

Some symptoms of neuropathic pain may include:

  • Limping or dragging a limb
  • Skin shaking or twitching
  • Chewing on the affected area
  • Muscle wasting (atrophy)
  • Vocalization (crying out)
  • Reduced appetite
  • Inappropriate urination and defecation (incontinence)


Neuropathic pain can stem from injuries to body tissues or the presence of a tumor in the spinal cord. Conditions impacting the spinal cord, like intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), can lead to pain in various body regions, contingent upon the specific area of the cord affected. Additionally, amputation of a limb can also be a potential cause of neuropathic pain. Phantom limb pain manifests as the sensation of pain emanating from a surgically removed leg.


Typically, diagnosing neuropathic pain involves excluding other pain causes and conducting reflex tests to assess the nervous system. Routine blood tests aid in eliminating infectious and disease-related origins. Specialized imaging such as X-rays may be required to detect tumors in bone or the spinal cord. Moreover, thorough discussion of your dog’s medical history and past symptoms is crucial for arriving at an accurate diagnosis.


Initial treatment for neuropathic pain involves administering analgesic medications to alleviate discomfort. Dosages may require adjustment to achieve optimal results, and various pain relievers may be experimented with until the most effective one for your dog is identified. Some veterinarians may opt to combine multiple pain medications initially and then gradually reduce them until only one is administered.

Gabapentin is a medication that has demonstrated success in long-term pain management. This anti-seizure drug possesses analgesic properties that are particularly beneficial in reducing neuropathic pain in dogs. Gabapentin is typically administered once daily for pain control and can be given with or without food. Common side effects of this medication include sedation, weight gain, stumbling (ataxia), and occasionally diarrhea in some animals.

Living and Management

Dogs experiencing chronic pain can experience significant relief through analgesic medications, potentially enhancing their quality of life, provided the underlying cause of the pain is managed effectively. In cases where dogs have kidney issues, it may be necessary to reduce the dosage of gabapentin since the drug is metabolized through the kidneys, which must function properly for effective elimination. Pregnant animals should not receive gabapentin treatment. When discontinuing gabapentin, a gradual tapering off is recommended to prevent seizures that may occur after prolonged use.

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