Can I Give My Cat Benadryl?
Many of us deal with allergies at least briefly in the spring or the fall, and though some severe allergies require prescription strength medications, most of us get by with a box of tissues and a couple doses of Benadryl. Benadryl is one of the most popular over-the-counter medications, which is probably why so many of us feel comfortable using it as frequently as we do. It’s safe for us and it’s safe for our children, so many of us consider it to be a pretty mild medication.
This is the sort of logic that appeals to us as pet owners. After all, if my Kindergartener can have it, it should be safe for my sniffling cat, too, right? But should we really use over-the-counter drugs on our pets? Can my cat have Benadryl?
The answer is yes, you can give your cat Benadryl, but only for a short period of time and only in very small doses. Though the FDA has not approved it for veterinary use, this drug is considered relatively safe for both dogs and cats. In fact, many veterinarians use it for cats who are dealing with allergy symptoms. You should, however, approach this and any over-the-counter drug with caution. Because our cats are so small, it can be very easy to give them too much. Do your research, measure twice, and contact a veterinarian immediately if your cat’s symptoms worsen, or if they develop any new symptoms. It is possible that your cat’s “allergies” are actually the result of an underlying condition.
Any time your cat is ill, the best thing you can do is consult a veterinarian. While Benadryl may take away your cat’s symptoms, it will not cure whatever condition is causing them. If there is any chance that your cat is dealing with something more sinister than allergies, they need professional medical care.
Benadryl’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine hydrochloride, an antihistamine often used to treat allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. It is also commonly used to alleviate the itching and discomfort associated with insect bites, rashes, poison oak, or poison ivy. Many people also find it effective in treating motion sickness and sleeplessness (though it is not recommended for long term use as a sleep aid!).
In felines, Benadryl can be used for many of the same symptoms. It is most commonly used to treat short-term allergy symptoms, such as the itching associated bug bites and stings, allergic skin reactions, and even negative reactions to vaccinations or medications.
What do allergy symptoms look like in cats? Because cats can’t complain about their allergies, it’s important for us to familiarize ourselves with their symptoms. If your cat is struggling with allergies, they may engage in behaviors such as excessive grooming or rubbing. If your cat begins to compulsively lick or gnaw the skin on their belly or legs, you may notice that their fur starts to thin. In severe cases, the skin may become irritated, raw, or even covered in scabs. Itchiness can also cause your cat to rub their head against furniture or other objects, which can result in similar symptoms.
Allergies can also cause your cat to cough, vomit, or scoot their butt along the carpet. These symptoms, however, may also be the result of food allergies, so you may want to take a look at what your cat is eating before you try to cover up the symptoms with antihistamines. Another common allergy symptom is a sudden increase in ear wax production. If your cat’s ears are suddenly full of wax, it’s probably a result of seasonal allergies.
If your cat is struggling with watery eyes and itchy skin, Benadryl may help to alleviate their symptoms. If, however, they appear to be suffering from a severe allergic reaction—or if they have recently received vaccinations or started taking a new medication—consult your veterinarian before you try to treat their symptoms. Benadryl may also be helpful during long car trips as a sedative and a treatment for motion sickness.
Things to Consider
In conclusion, Benadryl is a safe way to treat symptoms of allergies, insect bites, and motion sickness in healthy cats. Antihistamines cannot cure the problem, but they can offer short-term symptom relief to make your cat more comfortable. Watch for symptoms of allergic reaction, double-check the dose every time you administer Benadryl to your cat, and consult a veterinarian if their symptoms do not improve.