I’m horribly allergic to cats, so, of course, almost all my friends have them. Often they – my friends, that is, not their cats – offer me an antihistamine, like Benadryl, from their medicine cabinet to relieve my suffering. Our dogs experience allergies differently from ours. Instead of sneezing, they tend to express allergic reactions through a persistent itch on the skin. Excessive risk can cause dogs to develop wounds, exposing them to unnecessary infection. Is Benadryl safe for dogs? Can it help with other minor canine health problems?
What is Benadryl?
Giving dogs to Benadryl, like any human medication, can be a risky proposition. Although it is among the prescription drugs most commonly prescribed by veterinarians for dogs, it is not risk-free. The active ingredient of Benadryl regular strength is diphenhydramine. Note the modifier, “regularity,” since, as we know, there are always a number of additional ingredients in common remedies that help in a host of other human diseases. Even normal Benadryl can have unexpected benefits for dogs and is used to treat various problems. These include:
- Environmental allergies
- Insect bites and parasite bites
- Motion sickness
According to Jessica Vogelsang, DVM of PetMD, diphenhydramine has a “wide margin of safety” where dogs are concerned. Let’s look at the dog’s health conditions that Benadryl can help with and ways to administer it after consulting your veterinarian.
Benadryl for dog allergies
When you hear “environmental allergies,” you may think of pollen, dust, or mold, things normally found in indoor and outdoor environments that cause allergic reactions. We express them through sneezing, watery eyes and other responses that we associate with our respiratory system. Dogs can react to the same stimuli but in radically different ways. Atopic dermatitis is the most common allergic reaction and involves scratching that begins in the head before it covers the whole body. Depending on the severity of a dog’s allergies, cortisone is much more effective than Benadryl. Benadryl is not the only form of diphenhydramine, however, and your veterinarian may recommend the best for these types of allergic reactions
Dog allergies also include adverse reactions to bites and stings. An annoying bee or wasp or a particularly cruel flea bite on your dog’s body can cause similar scratches. Treating these types of canine allergies with Benadryl is a much more reliable use of the drug. The dog’s skin may reveal more in these cases than its responses to environmental allergies. You may notice a particular swelling along with rising skin temperature.
Benadryl for anxious dogs
Dogs experience and express anxiety in any number of settings, from separation anxiety to negatively reacting to meeting new people and dogs. Whether it be prolonged construction noises, storms or fireworks, or the restriction of movement that comes when being placed in a box or kennel when guests arrive, some dogs have extreme reactions to anxiety.
One of Benadryl’s most interesting as well as risky, off-label uses is as a very mild sedative in dogs. Certain drugs that are able to move quickly from the blood to the brain, such as Benadryl’s active diphenhydramine, have calming, even mildly sedative properties. As it can move into the brain so quickly, generally taking effect 30 minutes after ingestion, Benadryl’s fast acting nature may be useful in treating occasional and anticipated anxiety episodes. Benadryl for motion sickness
As a sedative, another great off-label use for Benadryl is for dogs that may feel nauseous, whether by land, sea or air, during infrequent trips. When a long trip is planned and the dog is together for the ride, motion sickness can cause great stress to some dogs. Dog reactions can range from restlessness to barking and vomiting to defecation.
If the sweatshirts, music or restriction of a dog’s line of sight have proved to be ineffective in the past, ask your veterinarian if the Benadryl can leave your dog sufficiently sleepy to endure a long trip. Keep in mind that as with other sedative medications, there may be persistent effects when the journey is completed. There may be disorientation and continuous dizziness which is one of the reasons why any human medication you employ with your dog should be under veterinary supervision and used very rarely. Is Benadryl suitable for hyperactive dogs?
Diphenhydramine may have a wide margin of safety, but it is worth repeating the scientific name to remind us that it is still a powerful, fast-acting drug that should not be used casually. By this, we mean that it is not recommended if your dog is barking late at night or bothering you and you just want him to calm down. Yes, Benadryl can make your dog sleepy and drowsy, but it is not intended to be used regularly as a tranquilizer for dogs. Regular and consistent exercise is a much more effective and drug-free method to calm a hyperactive dog.
Benadryl dosage for dogs
In addition to the multiple formulas – regular strength, extra strength or any other variation that may include additional, less secure active ingredients – Benadryl is available in several formats. From ingestible, including pills, tablets, gel capsules and liquid varieties, there are also infant and child versions, and topical creams that have diphenhydramine as their active ingredient. The type, strength and formula can make a difference and have a distinct impact on a dog. Always consult your dog’s vet before giving a dog any kind of human medication
Each piece written by dog health experts and veterinarians on the internet agrees with a very basic dosage pattern for dogs. The most complete Benadryl dosage treatment by the format we consult addresses each format and provides warnings and care for each. The general rule for Benadryl’s regular strength, where diphenhydramine is the only active ingredient is 1mg per 1lb of body weight. This is just a general rule, not an unfailing nor universal directive. Of course, a chihuahua, pug or yorkie will need less of a bulldog or a Great Dane
Side Effects of Benadryl for Dogs
Can you give Benadryl dogs? Yes. Is it safe? In general, yes. It is important to remember that this family of over-the-counter medicines, although often recommended by veterinarians, is not approved by the FDA as a drug for dogs alone. Drowsiness is a side effect you know; You may be surprised to know that another is excitability and an increase in heart rate.
Other side effects for dogs include increased salivation, panting and depression. They are rare, but there are also reported and documented cases of dogs that have had a fatal overdose of diphenhydramine, especially when ingested with other chemicals. Take care of your dogs and always seek veterinary advice before administering any OTC product!