Can I Give My Dog Zyrtec?
Though we love the excitement of changing seasons, our noses are not always as overjoyed as we are. For some of us, when flowers bloom and pollen begins to float through the air, our bodies go on strike: our noses run, our eyes water, our skin starts to itch, and we find ourselves overcome by coughing fits. During allergy season, over-the-counter allergy medications like Zyrtec can feel like a godsend. We know that we can help use these helpful drugs to get through the day without our faces leaking all over everyone we love. Yay, science!
But what are we supposed to do when our dogs are just as allergy-prone as we are? Can we use allergy medications to stop our dogs from itching constantly? Can my dog have Zyrtec?
The answer: yes, you can give your dog Zyrtec, but you should do so with caution. This drug has not been well researched in canine patients, but most dogs seem to handle it without any problems. Many veterinarians give this allergy medication to dogs who are suffering from environmental (as opposed to food-related) allergies, but if they are misused or used for too long, there are some health risks. It is also important to note that Zyrtec-D, which has a different active ingredient, is extremely toxic to canines. If you are going to buy Zyrtec for your pet, make sure the active ingredient is cetirizine.
Dogs who are suffering from allergies often exhibit symptoms such as excessive itching (scratching, rubbing their bodies against furniture or other objects, gnawing at their paws or other parts of their skin, etc), red skin, scabs, runny eyes, excessive sneezing, and increased ear infections.
If your dog suddenly develops these symptoms, it is important to rule out food allergies, which make up about 15% of canine allergies. If you have recently changed your dog’s food or added a supplement to their diet, try eliminating this new food and see if their symptoms improve. Supplements that consist only of vitamins and minerals do not cause allergies, but those that contain proteins from beef, chicken, wheat, or other foods may be the culprit. If your dog’s symptoms include digestive problems like vomiting or diarrhea, food allergies are likely to blame. Zyrtec will do little to help with these allergies in the long run.
If your dog has environmental allergies, however, Zyrtec may help relieve their symptoms. Zyrtec is an antihistamine. When allergens such as pollen enter your poor pooch’s system, their body creates chemicals called histamines, which then cause the swelling, sneezing, and general drippy/runny symptoms that we associate with allergies. Antihistamines like Zyrtec work because they prevent histamines from attaching to body cells, which heads off allergy symptoms.
Put simply: your dog’s body still produces antihistamines, but they don’t have the chance to make your canine companion miserable.
Fortunately, antihistamines are safe for dogs even in fairly large doses—this means that it is difficult, though not impossible, to accidentally poison your dog using Zyrtec. The ideal dose will vary based on your dog’s body weight, health, and allergy symptoms.
If your dog has atopic dermatitis, the seemingly endless skin inflammation that is often caused by allergens such as dust mites and pollen, your veterinarian may recommend administering up to 10 mg of Zyrtec every 24 hours. Small dogs may need as little as 5 mg per day.
For allergic dermatitis, which often comes about as a result of flea bites, your veterinarian may recommend dosing your pet with 2.27 mg per pound of body weight every 24 hours. In general, allergic dermatitis should only be treated under the guidance of a veterinarian. If your dog’s symptoms persist, make sure to see a professional.
Things to Consider
Though Zyrtec can provide short-term relief from common allergy symptoms, it is not recommended for all pets. Dogs who are already suffering from kidney or liver damage should not take any over-the-counter medications without a veterinarian’s guidance. If your dog is nursing, pregnant, or currently taking any prescription medications, contact your vet before giving them Zyrtec. Short-term usage is unlikely to cause any harm, but if your dog takes too much of this drug for an extended period of time, it may damage their liver, kidneys, or other organs. This damage is often irreversible and can be life-threatening.
In conclusion, when administered carefully, Zyrtec is generally considered safe for canines. This antihistamine may be useful in easing your dog’s environmental allergy symptoms, such as itching, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, and watery eyes. It should not, however, be used to treat symptoms associated with food allergies—food allergies are best treated under the guidance of a veterinarian. This drug should not be given to dogs who are pregnant, nursing, taking prescription drugs, or who currently have kidney or liver problems. It is also important to avoid the decongestant version Zyrtec-D, which is poisonous to dogs.