Many human medications are toxic to dogs, but Benadryl is an exception. So, if you're asking yourself, "Can I give my dog Benadryl?," the answer is generally yes. But, there's a lot more you need to know before you hand over that pink pill.
Benadryl is the most common brand name for allergy medications that contain the active ingredient diphenhydramine. Not every variety of Benadryl is safe for dogs. Dogs also metabolize medicine differently from humans, so the dosing instructions on the side of the box won't work for your furry friend. Plus, Benadryl can interact with other medications and cause adverse reactions in dogs with certain pre-existing conditions.
Below, we'll give you an in-depth look at how this medication affects your best friend. But, before you give your dog Benadryl, talk to your vet to make sure it's safe for your pet's specific needs. This information is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for veterinary advice.
Benadryl works the same way in dogs as it does in people — by blocking histamine.
When your dog comes into contact with an allergen, their immune system produces histamine, a natural compound that tries to flush allergens out of the body. If your pet has environmental allergies, histamine is responsible for your dog's sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and itchy skin. If they experience food allergies, histamine can cause hives, diarrhea, and vomiting in dogs. And during a severe allergic reaction, histamine is responsible for swelling and anaphylactic shock.
The active ingredient in Benadryl, diphenhydramine, bonds with a specific type of histamine receptor, known as an h1 receptor. When diphenhydramine is bonded to these receptors, histamine can't bond with them and can't cause an allergic reaction.
The most common use for Benadryl is allergy treatment. But, this medicine is also effective against a number of conditions, including:
While Benadryl is good for treating occasional allergic reactions, it shouldn't be your drug of choice if your pet has on-going food, environmental, or seasonal allergies. Because it causes drowsiness and acts as a sedative, regularly giving your pet Benadryl can decrease their quality of life. They won't be able to enjoy their daily activities or time with their family if they're mildly sedated.
Instead, try allergy testing to identify what's causing your dog's symptoms. For environmental and seasonal allergies, support your pet's immune system with an all-natural allergy supplement for dogs, and talk to your vet about alternative antihistamines that won't cause drowsiness.
You should also avoid giving your dog Benadryl if they're having a serious allergic reaction that includes swelling or difficulty breathing. Instead, take your dog to your vet or the nearest 24-hour emergency vet immediately.
Dogs metabolize Benadryl faster than people, so Benadryl dosage for dogs is higher than it is for us dog owners. But, it's still possible to cause a Benadryl overdose if you don't give the correct dosage of Benadryl or the correct formulation of this medicine. Always talk to a qualified doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) before giving your dog Benadryl.
Make sure you check the other ingredients in your Benadryl before you share it with your pet. Some formulas contain decongestants, Tylenol, or alcohol, which can be toxic to dogs. The only active ingredient in Benadryl for dogs should be diphenhydramine. Check the full list of ingredients to ensure the formula doesn't contain alcohol.
Never give dogs time-released Benadryl tablets because they can cause an overdose. And talk to your vet before giving your dog liquid Benadryl because the dosage instructions will be different.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the proper dosage of diphenhydramine for dogs is 1 mg per pound of body weight. A standard Benadryl tablet contains 25 mg of diphenhydramine, so a 25-pound dog should take one tablet.
If you have a small dog, it can be harder to get the dosage right. Children's Benadryl tablets may help because they typically contain half the amount of diphenhydramine — 12.5 mg — as a typical Benadryl tablet.
If you're worried about finding the right dosage for your dog, your vet can help. They can tell you the type and amount of over-the-counter Benadryl to give your dog. And often they can give you a prescription for dog-specific medication, formulated for your pet's size.
Even though Benadryl is considered safe for dogs, it comes with a variety of potential side effects, including:
In addition to these common side effects, your dog can also experience more severe side effects. While it's rare, some dogs can have an allergic reaction to the Benadryl itself. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet or an emergency vet immediately. They can be signs of a Benadryl allergy or overdose:
In addition to the potential side effects of Benadryl, this medication can interact with other drugs, including anti-coagulants and drugs that suppress the nervous system. If your dog is taking any other medication — regardless of whether it's a prescription or over-the-counter medication — talk to your vet to make sure it's compatible with Benadryl.
Dogs with certain pre-existing medical conditions — including glaucoma, low blood pressure, pregnancy, lactation, enlarged prostate, thyroid disease, cardiovascular disease, or lung disease — shouldn't take Benadryl. Again, your vet can help you determine whether Benadryl is safe for your dog.
While Benadryl isn't right for all dogs, it's generally safe for our furry friends. It's most often prescribed to treat dog allergies, but it can also offer relief if your dog has a reaction to insect bites, experiences anxiety during thunderstorms, or gets motion sickness on long car rides.
But, Benadryl isn't a good long-term solution for seasonal and environmental allergies. Because it causes drowsiness, this medication can interfere with your dog's ability to enjoy their daily activities. Instead, look for all-natural remedies, like allergy supplements to support your dog's immune system, or talk to your vet about alternative antihistamines that won't cause drowsiness.
For more information on your pet's health and wellness, visit the Native Pet blog.
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