Skip to main content

Study identifies new drug for epileptic dogs

DogA two-year, multi-institutional study funded by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and the Collie Health Foundation has identified a new drug-pregabalin-as an effective anti-seizure option for dogs with poorly controlled epilepsy. Epilepsy is a common and often life-shortening condition in dogs, with as many as 30 percent of those afflicted resistant to standard anticonvulsant drugs. The study assessed pregabalin’s ability to control seizures as an adjunct to phenobarbital, potassium bromide, or a combination of these two. A preliminary study, also performed at Cornell, showed that pregabalin lasts in the dog’s system about twice as long as its predecessor, gabapentin. Pregabalin is the “next generation” version of gabapentin, having a more potent action at the drug target site than gabapentin. Distributed by Pfizer, pregabalin (trade name Lyrica®) is a pill that is given orally, typically twice a day and has been proven safe for use with humans.

“Gabapentin works in some dogs”, said Dr. Curtis Dewey, principal investigator and section chief for Neurology/Neurosurgery at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, who added that there are relatively few drug options for dogs with seizures. “Prior studies showed that between 41 and 55 percent of dogs respond to gabapentin. In our research, pregabalin had a responder rate of 78 percent.”
Dewey’s prior research identified the correct dose of pregabalin for dogs to achieve therapeutic drug levels. The clinical study, which was published in the December 15th issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, found a 57 percent mean reduction in seizures for the participants who finished the study; all had been diagnosed with difficult-to-control seizures.
Anecdotally, the Neurology/Neurosurgery service has also had success using pregabalin for painful neurologic conditions such as disk protrusions and syringomyelia.

“We believe there may be other applications for pregabalin”, said Dewey, who plans to continue work with this drug. Pregabalin holds promise as a safe and effective adjunct anticonvulsant drug for dogs whose epilepsy is poorly controlled with the standard options. Future studies will investigate the drug’s role in treating painful neurologic conditions in dogs as well as a potential anti-seizure and pain relieving drug in cats.