side effects phenobarbital for dogs alternatives

Phenobarbital for Dogs Side Effects & Phenobarbital Alternatives

Side Effects Phenobarbital for Dogs & Alternatives
If you’re a dog owner, nothing sounds more heart-wrenching than watch your canine shake uncontrollably. Commonly manifested as seizures and epilepsy, such episodes might catch you off-guard, desperate to find an emergency fix ASAP.
While a quick visit to the vet will end up with a Phenobarbital prescription, is it the best solution out there? Read on to find out:

What Is Phenobarbital?

A commonly prescribed medication, Phenobarbital is used to control symptoms of seizures and epilepsy in dogs. It is under a class of drugs called barbiturates with anticonvulsant properties.

By now, you might be wondering how this works. Phenobarbital is capable of reducing neuron activity in your dog’s brain, resulting in a stabilized nervous system. Aside from that, Phenobarbital can also reduce your dog’s glutamate levels. This results in a lower nerve stimulation – which likewise tones down symptoms of seizures in dogs. (Schamble, 2016)

Canines susceptible to seizures are:

  • Beagle
  • Collie
  • Basset Hound
  • Belgian Tervuren
  • Golden Retriever
  • Keeshond
  • Schnauzer
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Labrador retriever

Phenobarbital Contraindications

This medication should not be given to any pet with any of the conditions listed below:

    • Liver Condition
    • Heart Disease
    • Hypovolemia
    • Addison’s Disease
    • Anemia
    • Kidney Condition
    • Respiratory Issues

Phenobarbital is s barbiturate which can alter the functions of your pets body organs. Which can affect your pets blood. Please consult with a veterinarian before administering any type of medication to your pet.

Phenobarbital Dosage

Unlike other pet medications, Phenobarbital is manufactured based on grain measurements. An old type of measuring system, one grain is equal to about 60 mg of Phenobarbital. This is why they’re sold as 15 mg, 30 mg, 60 mg, and 100 mg tablets. You might also encounter injectable Phenobarbital sold every 65 ml increments.

Regardless of the type of application used, dogs are allowed to have 1 to 2 mg of Phenobarbital per pound of their body weight. These are taken twice a day or as required by your local vet.

Depending on your dog’s bodily response, the dosage can be increased up to 8 mg per pound of its body weight. (Ruben, 2015)


Phenobarbital Side Effects

Albeit being generally safe for dogs, Phenobarbital is considered as an extra-label drug by the Food and Drug Administration. Due to its extreme neurological effects, Phenobarbital can yield nasty side effects on large doses. Here are some side effects of Phenobarbital to watch out for:


  • Anemia or deficiency in red blood cells
  • Ataxia or weakening of a dog’s hind legs
  • Dark and foul urine
  • Depression
  • Extreme hunger and thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Hyperexcitability and restlessness
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin
  • Lethargy or lack of energy
  • Mustard or pale gray stool
  • Weight changes
  • Vomiting (Canna-pet, 2017)


Phenobarbital Cost

Here’s an estimated pricing guide based on’s discount cards:

Oral Tablet

    • 15 mg – $20.38 for 100 tablets
    • 16.2 mg – $24.07 for 100 tablets
    • 30 mg – $16.89 for 50 tablets
    • 32.4 mg – $12.47 for 30 tablets
    • 60 mg – $17.07 for 50 tablets
    • 64.8 mg – $25.98 for 100 tablets
    • 97.2 mg – $70.98 for 100 tablets
    • 100 mg – $30.98 for 100 tablets

Oral Elixir

    • 473 mL – $58.32

Injectable Solution

  • 65 mg/mL – $467.72 for 25 mL
  • 130 mg/mL – $1,198.73 for 25 mL (, n.d.)


Phenobarbital Interaction with Other Drugs

Despite being a fairly common medication, prolonged doses of Phenobarbital can bring more harm than good. For starters, Phenobarbital induces liver scarring by letting the organ eliminate more toxins than it can handle. Certain drugs like the following can also enhance liver toxicosis:


  • Acetaminophen
  • Amitraz
  • Carprofen
  • Rifampin
  • Selegiline


Aside from liver issues, Phenobarbital also reduces the effect of other medications like Rifampin and griseofulvin. Below are more medications that may not work when taken with Phenobarbital:


  • Cardiac beta-blockers
  • Chloramphenicol
  • Corticosteroids
  • Cyclosporine
  • Doxycycline
  • Estrogens
  • Itraconazole
  • Levetiracetam
  • Lysodren
  • Metronidazole
  • Praziquantel
  • Quinidine
  • Theophylline


For dogs undergoing regular vet check-ups for other health reasons, Phenobarbital medications can interfere with the following medical examinations:


  • Adrenal function testing
  • Blood chemistry examinations
  • Diagnosis of Cushing’s disease
  • Thyroid function testing


If any of these scenarios happen, immediately stop your pet from taking any Phenobarbital medication and seek further professional help. (Brooks, 2001)


Phenobarbital Ingredients

By default, Phenobarbital is its most active ingredient. For Phenobarbital tablets in 15 mg, 30 mg, and 60 mg, the following are their added ingredients:

  • Calcium Stearate
  • Colloidal Silicon Dioxide
  • Corn Starch
  • Microcrystalline Cellulose

For Phenobarbital tablets in 100 mg, the following are their less active ingredients:

  • Anhydrous Lactose
  • Colloidal Silicon Dioxide
  • Docusate Sodium
  • Lactose Monohydrate
  • Magnesium Stearate
  • Microcrystalline Cellulose
  • Sodium Starch Glycolate (Pet CBD, 2019)

Phenobarbital Alternatives

Although we’re not discrediting Phenobarbital’s long history as staple pet medicine, why settle when cheaper, safer, and better options are available?

Ready to nurse your dog back to health? Here are five options to choose from:


One of the oldest forms of alternative medicine, acupuncture works by inserting thin, sterile needles to your dog’s body. While this has long been proven to be effective, what if your canine isn’t in the mood for physical touch?

Chinese Herbal Formulas

Like acupuncture, these are also proven to work with minimal side effects. However, take note that your pet might look worse in the first few treatment sessions before seeing results. (Lock, n.d.)

Anticonvulsants (Potassium Bromide or Diazepam)

Like Phenobarbital, anticonvulsants are generic medications for seizures and epilepsy. While these seem to work perfectly, keep in mind that they also possess similar side effects with that of Phenobarbital. (Epilepsy Ontario, n.d.)

Ketogenic Diet

Although this is an effective diet to work with, what if you’re looking for fast yet effective results? If you think that nothing seems to work out with your pet, think again. Did you know that a miracle oil is causing a hype in the homeopathic industry?

Cannabinoid (CBD) Oil

Considered as the “miracle oil” of homeopathic medicine, CBD oil is derived from the hemp plant. However, its non-psychoactive properties won’t get your pet “high.”

By modulating additional receptors into the Endocannabinoid system, CBD oil offers a variety of health benefits – one of which is seizure relief.

You might be wondering, “how does it work for reducing seizures?” Although its scientific claim is still under the works, it is known to mimic the effects of anti-convulsive medicines like Phenobarbital. The only difference is CBD oil has little to no side effects when ingested. It’s organic, effective, and long-lasting; what more could you ask for? (InnoVet, n.d.)

Ready to give your four-legged companion a happier and healthier life? Get your canine a bottle of CBD oil and see the magic unfold before you and your pet’s eyes!


Brooks, W. (2001, January 1). Phenobarbital. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner:

Canna-pet. (2017, October 13). Side Effects of Phenobarbital for Dogs. Retrieved from Canna-pet: (n.d.). Phenobarbital Prices, Coupons and Patient Assistance Programs. Retrieved from

Epilepsy Ontario. (n.d.). Phenobarbital. Retrieved from Epilepsy Ontario:

Lock, C. (n.d.). Natural Remedies for Epilepsy and Seizures in Dogs. Retrieved from Pet MD:

Ruben, D. (2015, August 11). Phenobarbital for Dogs and Cats. Retrieved from Pet Place:

Schamble, M. (2016, August 22). Phenobarbital for Dogs with Seizures. Retrieved from Pet Insurance:

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