Can I give my Dog Benadryl

Picture of dog on the floor

One of the most common over-the-counter anti-allergy medications that the veterinarian might recommend for your dog is Benadryl. In this article, we will look at what it is, what it does, and whether or not it has side effects, as well as what these can be.

Dogs do not experience allergies as we, humans, do. While we tend to sneeze, our canine companions can have persistent itchy skin, which is why they will scratch until they develop sores. And from then on, various skin infections.

What Is Benadryl and What Is It Used For?

Benadryl is considered an antihistamine, so it can successfully block the H-1 receptors on blood vessels and smooth muscle. It is generally well-tolerated, but it does have a number of adverse reactions, so that is why the medical condition and health state of your pet should be assessed before starting the treatment.

The active ingredient in Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) targets a wide array of clinical manifestations and conditions, mostly related to allergies and common colds. Symptoms like itching, hives, redness, as well as sneezing, swelling and inflammation, can be eliminated thanks to this type of treatment. The common indications of insect bites and anxiety can also be alleviated if you give Benadryl to your dog.

Are There Any Side Effects?

As is the case with most drugs that have ever been invented, it’s practically impossible to take medication and experience no adverse reactions whatsoever. With Benadryl, the common ones are dry mouth, sedation, urinary retention, rapid breathing, an increased heart rate, as well as hypersalivation.

The rare side effects that your dog might experience are appetite changes (increase or decrease), vomiting, and diarrhea. Something of utmost importance, especially if you’ve never given your dog Benadryl before, is to monitor him or her closely over the first one to five hours after administering the medication. Most of the side effects will become noticeable during this time span.

Drug Interactions

If your dog is undergoing treatment with any central nervous system depressants, furazolidone, epinephrine, or warfarin sodium, you should never give him Benadryl. Other substances that this drug can interact with are Selegiline and heparin sodium or calcium.

The Right Dosage

While for humans, most drugs are prescribed depending on the age of the patient because, in theory, there aren’t many weight variations from one person to the next, with dogs, pet parents have to be a little more careful. Since the weight of the animal differs largely from one breed to the next, the typical dosage is 1 mg of Benadryl for each pound of body weight.

Dogs smaller than 30 lbs should get 10mg per dose, those within the weight range of 30 to 50 pounds should receive 25mg per dose, and a 50mg one should be administered to pets weighing more than 50 lbs. The dosage might be adjusted depending on the severity of the symptoms, so it is our advice to you to stick to the recommendations of the veterinarian. Also, the animal should take the medication two to three times a day.

In many situations, the age of the canine patient also matters when it comes to establishing the correct dosage. For example, if you’ve given your dog Benadryl on occasion for several years now, it’s very likely that your pet might not have to receive the same amount as in the past. 10-year-old dogs can commonly experience heart issues which might not be the case with 4-year-old dogs, for example.

A study published in The Canadian Veterinary Journal in 2014 has shown that Benadryl can have fatal effects if the dog is older and is administered a too high dosage. The cause of death for that specific animal was dilated cardiomyopathy, and one of the well-known and fairly common side effects of the substance is an increased heart rate. Therefore, this medication can be lethal if the dosage is incorrect.

Canine Atopic Dermatitis and Benadryl

CAD is one of the most common pruritic skin diseases of dogs. Unfortunately, it is also very difficult to diagnose and manage. It can be seasonal or nonseasonal, and it can affect a wide range of body areas from the face to the feet. It is often mistaken for Canine psychogenic dermatopathy, and since the symptoms of the medical condition vary largely from one individual to the next, it’s even harder to treat.

Diphenhydramine, the substance in Benadryl, can help alleviate many of the symptoms of dogs suffering from canine atopic dermatitis. According to a retrospective study performed from 1992 to 1998 at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital of the University of California, this drug is one of the most effective antihistamines used in the treatment of CAD and other pruritic diseases, especially when compared to Chlorpheniramine and Clemastine. 35% of the dogs in the study had a moderate response to Diphenhydramine while 30% had a good response. By comparison, 68% of the patients had no response to Chlorpheniramine, and 63.6% had no response to Clemastine.

Since many of the allergic manifestations shown by patients who suffer from canine atopic dermatitis are similar to the symptoms of other allergies and dermatitis, it’s safe to say that this medication does work. Nevertheless, approximately 35% of the animals in the study had no response to the substance whatsoever, so it depends on the pet, too.

Safety Precautions

Never give your dog Benadryl without seeking the advice of a vet. If you have a puppy or a senior dog, a visit to the vet’s office is even more important for some of the reasons we’ve highlighted above.

Avoid using diphenhydramine for humans instead of that recommended by the veterinarian. In many cases, cold medications designed for human patients contain alcohol, as does liquid Benadryl, and so you never know whether the alcohol concentration wouldn’t be dangerous for your dog.

Never exceed the recommended dosage. Even better, test the drug first and wait for a few hours after administering only a small amount. Because two of the side effects of this substance are lack of appetite and nausea, it is recommended that you first feed your canine companion and only then give him the medication.

Wrapping it up

Benadryl is generally safe to give to your dog, but it should be recommended by a vet and the dosage always needs to be correct. Also, if your dog suffers from heart disease, hyperthyroidism, or glaucoma, you should look for alternative medication or pass this information to your veterinarian before starting treatment.



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