My dog’s back legs seem to be affected by phenobarbital

Phenobarbital (PB) is an anti-convulsant drug used to control seizures in dogs. The drug has also been shown to reduce pain in humans. PB is often prescribed to treat epilepsy in dogs.

Phenobarb is a barbiturate drug that acts on GABA receptors. This means that it binds to these receptors and inhibits them from functioning normally. When it does bind to these receptors, it causes the neurons to fire at slower rates.

PB is commonly used to treat epileptic seizures in dogs. It is also used to treat chronic pain in humans. There are several side effects associated with PB administration. These include sedation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and even death.

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What is the effectiveness of Phenobarbital as a seizure treatment?

The effectiveness of phenobarbital for treating seizures varies from individual to individual. Some dogs respond well to this medication while others do not. In general, there are two types of responses: those who have no response or partial response and those who have a complete or near-complete response.

How much Phenobarbital is the right dosage?

Each dog responds differently to the medication and absorbs it differently. The dosage depends on several factors, such as your dog’s weight and the frequency and severity of its seizures.

If all these factors are taken into account by your vet, a specified dosage will normally lie between 1 and 2 milligrams per pound body weight of Phenobarbitol. Phenobarbital should generally be administered twice a day or every 12 hours, and by every, we mean not missing a single dose. (1)

Depending on what works best for your pet, you can choose from tablets, capsules, pastes, liquid solutions, or chewable. The product may be given before or after a meal. In the event that your dog vomits after receiving Phenobarbitol before a meal, you should administer the medication after that meal. 

In order to monitor your furry friend’s liver function and avoid unwanted complications, your veterinarian may require regular blood testing every 2 to 6 months. Phenobarbital may have some unfavorable effects on your furry friend’s liver. 

In the event that you accidentally forget to give your dog a dose, do not give it two doses at the same time. Continue taking the regularly scheduled doses and skip the missed dose.  

phenobarbital dog back legs

Does Phenobarbital take a long time to adjust to a dog?

A dog’s seizure frequency and severity will vary depending on various factors, such as body weight. Following your local vet’s prescription instructions is the best way to properly administer Phenobarbital and ensure it functions.

As a result, you should continue to administer the medication for as long as indicated and do NOT abruptly stop it; this should be gradually reduced rather than abruptly stopped. This may take several weeks for the medication to be fully effective. In general, you should see some improvement after a few doses. (2)

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What are the side effects of Phenobarbital?

Side effects of Phenobarbitter range from mild to severe. They include vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, lethargy, lack of coordination, muscle tremors, excessive salivation, increased heart rate, urination difficulties, difficulty breathing, and even death if they occur in large quantities.

These effects usually subside within 24 hours of administration but may last longer. Your veterinarian will prescribe the proper amount of medication based on your dog’s weight and other medical conditions. Do not hesitate to ask questions about any potential side effects. 

How does Phenobarbital affect your Dog legs in the back?

One of the most common side effects of anti-seizure medication is ataxia, where your dog’s body loses balance causing incoordination of voluntary muscle movements, especially the hind legs. You may notice your pet wobbling, falling, lacking coordination, or collapsing when this occurs. 

Ataxia is frequently seen in dogs given Phenobarbital at the beginning or when the dosage is increased as the drug causes increased ataxia. Don’t freak out just yet! The ataxia should gradually diminish over time as your dog’s body adjusts to the medication. 

All of you responsible and caring dog owners need to take extra caution when your dogs are taking medication during the early stages, especially if they are walking on slippery surfaces or climbing stairs. If you have slippery surfaces in your homes, such as hardwood floors or tiled flooring, you may consider adding rugs to provide traction for your pet.  (3)

As your furry companion attempts to regain control, you must remain patient and show the strength to support them. 

Our recommendation is to seek professional medical advice from your local vet if your dog shows no signs of improvement from ataxia. 

Another major reason for weak back legs in dogs is?

If your dog has been diagnosed with an underlying condition that could cause weakness in their back legs, then you may want to discuss alternative treatments with your vet. Some of these conditions include:

Cerebellar hypoplasia – A congenital disorder that affects the cerebellum, which is located near the brain stem. It can cause problems with balance and movement coordination.

Degenerative joint disease (DJD) – DJD is also known as osteoarthritis. This condition is characterized by inflammation and degeneration of cartilage, bones, ligaments, and tendons. In many cases, DJD develops slowly over time and worsens over time.

Neurological disorders – Certain neurological diseases can cause weakness in the muscles used for locomotion. These diseases include myasthenia gravis, polyradiculoneuritis, and spinal cord injury.

Muscular dystrophy – Muscular dystrophy is a genetic disorder that causes progressive muscle wasting and weakness. It can be inherited or acquired.

Spinal cord injuries – Spinal cord injuries result in damage to the nerves that connect the brain to the rest of the body. This leads to loss of sensation and paralysis in the affected area(s). (4)

Other causes – Other possible causes of back leg weakness include infections, tumors, and trauma.

Do I need to call my veterinarian immediately if I notice any signs of side effects?

If you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior or health, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you suspect that your dog has ingested Phenobarbital, contact poison control right away. (5)

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What are the alternatives to Phenobarbital?

Despite its not-so-favorable side effects, phenobarbitol has been the most commonly used and most effective medication to date for treating seizures in dogs. For those who want a second or third option just in case, phenobarbitol is no longer available, we are here to help. Below are some alternatives to Phenobarbitol you might want to consider: 


Some breeds of dogs can benefit from taking diazepam to help manage seizures, a medication used to treat anxiety. In addition to drowsiness and disorientation (like Phenobarbitol), among other side effects are incoordination. (6)

Potassium Bromide 

Some dogs respond well to this medication when taken with or without phenobarbitol. In some cases, it can cause skin breakdown (yikes!). She also causes brittleness, weakness, and incoordination, just like Phenobarbitol. Vomiting is another distinct side effect. 

The medication may not be suitable for dogs with kidney problems, as they may not be able to excrete the drug and may accumulate toxins in their bloodstream. 

How do I store phenobarbital?

Store Phenobarbital tablets in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. Store the liquid form of the medication in the refrigerator and keep the medicine out of reach of children. 

How long will it take to see results?

This varies from person to person and even from one seizure episode to another. Some pets respond quickly while others require more time. It can take anywhere from 1 Week To 5 Weeks before an animal regains full function after being treated with Phenobarbital.

What kind of care should you give to a dog with weak back legs?

It is important to care for dogs with weak back legs to aid in their recovery process, as there are many causes of weak back legs, including illnesses like arthritis. Integrating a healthy meal plan into your pet’s routine is a great way to prevent further hind leg weakness. 

Ideally, dogs with weak hind legs should eat a balanced diet containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamin B1, to support their bone and muscle health. It’s always wise to consult with your veterinarian about which diet to include and which to avoid, especially if your dog is suffering from an underlying condition such as diabetes. 

Regular and proper exercise is another excellent way. A young dog who goes for walks to the park often has a more active lifestyle in their senior years when compared with dogs who do not exercise as much. 

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What should I do in case of emergency?

If your dog is having seizures, call the vet immediately. The best thing to do is to get them to the vet as soon as possible. If you’re unsure how to get to the nearest veterinary clinic, have your cell phone handy and dial the local emergency number. 

If you don’t know where to find the closest hospital, ask someone else to go with you. And if you’re driving, make sure that you have plenty of water on hand, as dehydration can contribute to seizures. 

In addition to calling your vet, you should also look up the symptoms of seizures online.

How long does ataxia last in dogs on phenobarbital?

Ataxia is a symptom of brain damage. As a result, it will likely continue until the brain damage heals itself. It could last for weeks, months, or longer depending on the severity of the injury. This is why it’s so important to seek medical attention right away if your dog starts showing signs of seizures. 

Does phenobarbital cause muscle weakness?

Phenobarbital does not usually cause muscle weakness. However, it’s important to note that this medication is used off label to treat some types of muscle spasms. Therefore, it’s important to check with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is receiving the correct dosage and formulation for his/her specific needs. 

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