OTC Drugs to Relieve My Dog’s Allergy Symptoms: What Can I Use, and What Is Best Left On The Drugstore Shelf?

by Cate Burnette

All that itching and scratching from allergies can drive both you and your dog crazy during warm weather months. You know that over-the-counter Benadryl works for you – will it work for your dog as well? And what about ibuprofen? Can either of these drugs relieve the itching and swelling associated with canine skin allergies?

One of them is commonly used in veterinary medicine and one is definitely NOT recommended. Read on to find the one that can work for your dog, but remember to ALWAYS see your veterinarian before giving your pet any human medications.

How does Benadryl work in my dog’s body?

Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, blocks the action of histamines in your dog’s body. Histamines are organic proteins produced by white blood cells in a response to certain allergens. They trigger the inflammation that allows your dog’s immune system to combat the irritants that are causing the problems.

When your dog ingests the Benadryl, the cells that cause the puffiness, redness, irritation, and pain of inflammation don’t respond to the stimulant – and the swelling and itching goes away.

What dosage can I safely give my dog?

Over-the-counter Benadryl comes in two forms – a tablet and capsule. For your at-home pets, it’s probably best to purchase the 25mg. tablet because it’s easier to break into portions when you need it.

Typically, veterinarians recommend that you give your dog 1mg. per 1-lb. of body weight twice a day for one week. A dog 10 pounds or under can safely ingest half of a 25mg. tablet at a time with no ill effects, while a dog 10- to 25-lb. should be fine on the full 25mg. per dose. If your pooch weighs more than 25 pounds, you’ll need to go up in dosage to adjust…so a 50-lb. pooch would get 2 full tablets twice a day, and a 60-lb. dog would receive 2 ½ tablets two times daily.

Are there side effects of Benadryl?

There are no known major side effects for occasional, normal dosing of Benadryl. Your dog may appear drowsy or sedated after taking the drug…you may also notice dilated pupils and increased bowel movements.

However, over-dosing or giving the drug for extended periods of time longer than one week has been shown to cause bradycardia (a slowing of the heartbeat) in some dogs, so it is not recommended for use in dogs with heart problems.

Are there any natural alternatives to Benadryl?

You can try bathing your dog in an all-natural, oatmeal-based shampoo. The colloidal oatmeal found in some canine shampoos is FDA-approved to help relieve the itching and inflammation associated with allergies. Unlike the ingredients in other doggy shampoos, the oatmeal also naturally moisturizes and rejuvenates skin tissues.

If your pooch is itching in particular areas, consider using an organic, anti-itch spray that goes directly to the parts most affected. The ingredients in these all-natural sprays, including oat extract, aloe vera, and litchi, work to soothe irritated skin, while other components, including boswellia serrata and calendula, can reduce redness and swelling.

Can I use ibuprofen to help with the inflammation from all that scratching?

Veterinarians DO NOT suggest using over-the-counter drugs containing ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin) to your dog for any reason. Ibuprofen has been shown to lead to gastrointestinal upsets, bleeding stomach ulcers, and, if given over an extended period of time, kidney failure. The signs of ibuprofen toxicity include:

  • Vomiting
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Vomiting blood
  • Lack of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration

If you suspect your dog has eaten any ibuprofen, we recommend seeking immediate veterinary care.

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