Common Dog Medications – Antibiotics, Pain Medication and More

Picture of a white dog running

From antibiotics, which can combat infections, to medical marijuana for dogs, which can alleviate pain in an arthritic canine companion, there are a lot of dog medications that you will have to give to your friend during his or her lifetime.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most common ones along with their effects, what they are used for, and whether you need a prescription for them.


We thought it might be easier for you to understand the medications if we grouped them based on what they can do. In this case, antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections. They have no effect whatsoever on viruses or fungi, and that’s where many people make a mistake. If your dog is down with the flu and is experiencing mild respiratory symptoms of a viral infection, giving him antibiotics won’t do anything against the pathogen that has produced the disease.

Worse yet, in the past several years, people have been using antibiotics erroneously both on themselves and on their pets, and that’s why there is a myriad of bacteria nowadays that have developed antibiotic resistance.

Perhaps the most common antibiotic used these days is a combination of amoxicillin and clavulanate, a combination drug that’s related to Penicillin. This combo is used to treat a variety of infections from skin, respiratory, and urinary infections to those that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Other common antibiotics are Gentamicin (for ear and eye infections and pneumonia), Doxycycline (for urinary tract or bladder infections, wounds, respiratory infections, and leptospirosis), and Chloramphenicol (a broad-spectrum antibiotic that works best for pneumonia, intestinal infections, skin and bone infections, and infected wounds).

Anti-inflammatories and Pain Medication

Some cases might call for the use of steroidal anti-inflammatories, but in those situations, only the veterinarian is going to be the one administering the medication. Steroids are never given without a prescription as they have numerous side effects, most of which are quite severe. Some steroids are, for example, prednisone, dexamethasone, and prednisolone.

However, your dog might be prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as meloxicam, deracoxib, firocoxib, or carprofen. These are used to reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling, as well as lameness.

Other pain relievers that should never be given without a prescription are generally derived from morphine and they have strong addictive potential. These include oxycodone, fentanyl, butorphanol, and hydromorphone.

Deworming Medication for Dogs

Much of the worm medication for dogs available today is available without a prescription, and that’s because it can be used to prevent and treat diseases that can present a potential threat to humans. It is, therefore, better to allow pet owners to have access to a series of less dangerous antiparasitics than to restrict them all together as that would increase the risks of these zoonotic illnesses being passed on to humans.

Deworming medication can prevent, repel, or kill a variety of internal or external parasites from intestinal worms and protozoans to heartworms, fleas, as well as ticks.

Some of the best-known intestinal dewormers are pyrantel, praziquantel, and fenbendazole, but there are many others being developed. What should be noted here is that you should always make sure that you give your canine friend the correct dosage as these medications can be toxic if you accidentally use a too high dosage.

Calming Medication for Dogs

Here, we have several different types of drugs. There are behavior-modifying ones or those that are sedatives, such as those that are given before surgery or in some cases, to reduce a panic attack or the pet’s movement while delicate procedures are being performed.

These can be acepromazine, xylazine, diazepam, and midazolam. You aren’t going to be able to get these without a prescription or in some cases, without being a registered veterinarian. In some countries, ketamine is used for surgery as an analgesic and it’s considered a highly addictive and dangerous drug, so that’s why only medical professionals are allowed to get it.

On the other hand, there are now a broad array of medications that are available without a prescription and that can be used to treat anxiety. For example, some drugs (such as Benadryl) will calm your dog down, but they will also make him or her quite sleepy. Natural alternatives do exist, such as hemp oil, and a variety of other essential oils, as well. We would recommend using Benadryl only on occasion and if, for example, you’re planning a move with your dog.

Specific Drugs

Naturally, there are other drugs that need to be given to dogs depending on the illness that has to be treated. There are also medications that have to be administered on a daily basis, such as insulin for dogs that have Type I Diabetes. Other dogs have to be given digoxin or atenolol (heart medications) whereas others suffer from thyroid dysfunctions and need to be given medications such as methimazole or levothyroxine — probably the most common type of thyroid medication for dogs.

Cancer Drugs

When a dog is diagnosed with cancer, the veterinarian, along with the pet parent, has to choose what treatment option is the most feasible and least painful one. It goes without saying that the treatment largely depends on the type of tumor that was diagnosed, what organ it affects, and whether or not it has metastasized.

In general, however, there is a very high likelihood that, out of the three possible treatment options available nowadays – surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy -, two are selected. Either they are performed for the same duration, or they accompany each other. For example, your dog might receive chemotherapeutics before surgery or after it was performed. In some cases, the pet might receive chemotherapeutics for the entire duration of the treatment.

In any case, some of the most common cancer drugs currently being used are vincristine, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, and doxorubicin.

Drug Interactions

Whether we’re talking about tick medication for dogs or dog diarrhea medication, it is to be expected that not all chemical or pharmaceutical substances get along well. Two can have an additive effect that might be beneficial or could also be harmful. One of them could speed up or slow down the dog’s metabolism, or the other might prevent the other from being effective.

If your dog has been taking medication for some time and you’re planning on going to a new vet, it is paramount for you to keep a record of what drugs you are giving him or her, so that you can let the new vet know. Make sure to always follow the label instructions and do avoid keeping the medication where pets and children can reach it.

General Dog Medical Supplies

In some cases, you can’t take your dog to the vet right away, and your Fido might need your assistance right away. We’re not referring to accidents that involve severe trauma, for example, but it is a good idea to have a medical kit with some easy-to-use and effective medication that can be a lifesaver in some situations.

You should have deworming medication and products intended for the removal of external parasites always available. Jot down the dates when you’ve used these substances and try to keep track of the schedule so that you don’t apply them either too often or rarely.

Also, keep an ointment in your kit — it would be ideal if it contained an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory drug — just in case your dog has a scratch or ends up with a superficial wound, and you have to clean it and make sure that it doesn’t get infected.

Iodine tincture can stop a light bleeding event if, for example, you trim your dog’s nails at home and you’ve accidentally cut too much. To stop the bleeding, just dip a cotton ball into iodine tincture, place it on the wound, and count to 100. If it hasn’t stopped, repeat the process. However, as a general rule, try to cut as little as possible until the vein shows up in the center of the nail.

You should also keep some non-steroidal anti-inflammatories in your kit, especially if your dog has been experiencing pain in his or her joints because of old age or arthritis. For more information on what types of medications you should try to have in your home just in case something happens to your dog, talk to your veterinarian.

Remember that not all of the medication that we, humans, can take can be given to our pets and while it’s true that dogs can receive many human drugs, not all of them are safe to use. Most human drugs cannot be used on cats. Once again, talk to your vet before giving your dog any type of human medication.



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