Can I Give My Dog Benadryl?
Everyone has their own favorite cold and flu remedies, and this includes varying tastes in over-the-counter painkillers, decongestants, and sniffle-busting cold medicines. But one of the cold and flu staples is Benadryl, also sometimes sold by the generic name, diphenhydramine. Many people use this drug to keep them on their feet through the worst of cold and flu season, to combat allergies in the spring, or simply to help them sleep in times of stress or discomfort. This is one of the few drugs that we often feel safe giving to young children, too.
Because we are willing to give our kids Benadryl, it would seem like common sense that it is safe for our dogs. But, as we know, ‘common sense’ is not always correct, and some of the things that are perfectly safe (or even beneficial) for us can be extremely dangerous for our dogs. So, what’s the verdict on everyone’s favorite antihistamine? Can my dog have Benadryl?
Before we begin, it is important to acknowledge that this drug is not currently FDA approved for veterinary use.
That said, the answer is yes, most agree that you can give your dog Benadryl. In fact, many veterinarians suggest small amounts of this drug for various mild conditions.
If you are administering Benadryl on your own, you must do so with extreme caution. This drug is usually very well tolerated by the canine body, but it can be very easy to give them too much, or to administer it improperly. If you want to use Benadryl to help soothe your dog during a thunderstorm or a plane ride, double-check to make sure that you are giving them the right dosage—and, when in doubt, always lean towards the conservative side.
If, however, you want to use Benadryl on a regular basis to treat your dog’s springtime allergies, you would be better off asking a veterinarian to prescribe them medication formulated specifically for canines. If your dog has any chronic medical conditions or is taking any other medications, consult a vet before giving them any over-the-counter drugs.
So what exactly is the best way to use Benadryl for your pet? There are several different conditions that may be alleviated by this drug, but two of the best uses are for sedation (during stressful trips, or while the outside sky is full of thunder or fireworks) and for the treatment of motion sickness.
If you have a long car trip ahead of you and your dog is prone to vomiting after spending an hour on a twist-laden road, it may be a good idea to give them a little bit of Benadryl to help combat the motion sickness. It can relax them, help them hold onto their lunch, and keep your car clean for the duration of the trip. Benadryl may also help soothe dogs who panic during thunderstorms, though those whose pets struggle with severe anxiety may want to talk to a veterinarian about prescribing stronger tranquilizers. Benadryl, after all, can only do so much. Over-the-counter drugs are not a substitute for treatment specific to your dog’s physical and psychological needs.
Some pet owners also use Benadryl to treat common allergy symptoms like itching, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, inflammation or swelling, and coughing. This drug (and all other antihistamines) helps to combat allergy symptoms by blocking the histamine receptors in the body. This means that, though the body is still producing histamines, the receptors are ‘plugged up’ and unable to register them properly. This is what alleviates your dog’s symptoms—the histamines are still there, but they are unable to cause the inflammation and general unpleasantness associated with them.
How much Benadryl should you give your dog? Usually, the safe dosage is 1mg per pound of body weight. Since the doses sold at most drug stores are 25mg, this means that you would give your dog one tablet per 25 pounds of body weight. It’s also important to be sure that you consult your veterinarian first if your dog has any conditions that may be exacerbated by Benadryl. For example, if there is any chance that your dog has glaucoma, heart failure, or high blood pressure, they should not take Benadryl.
Things to Consider
Common side effects of Benadryl are lethargy, drooling, dry mouth, rapid heart rate, and panting. If these symptoms persist or worsen, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. In addition, if your dog has dilated pupils, extreme agitation, or seizures, seek emergency care. These can be signs of a serious reaction.
Overall, it’s probably a good idea to consult your dog’s vet before administering any over-the-counter medications. However, Benadryl is one of the few human drugs that is recognized as safe for canines. Use this drug infrequently for anxiety, motion sickness, or mild allergies, and if your dog has any other conditions, make sure to consult your vet.