Can I Give My Dog Benadryl?

Spring may be a season of rebirth, but it’s also the season for some pretty gnarly allergies. Sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, and the constant need to blow your nose can drive you crazy. If your dog is joining you in this allergy-induced misery, don’t automatically give them a dose of your trusty Benadryl unless you know the ins and outs of the drug.

If your vet has approved its use, you can give your dog Benadryl. Benadryl’s active ingredient is diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, that’s both effective and safe for canines. It treats a few things in dogs, including nausea, minor anxiety, and allergies.

Is Benadryl Safe for My Dog?

Benadryl is incredibly safe for dogs that are free from pre-existing health conditions. You should still consult with your vet before dosing your dog because there are some associated safety recommendations. First, some medications do interact negatively with diphenhydramine. The list can vary, and your vet will know if your dog’s current medications fall into this category. Dogs with cardiovascular disease, glaucoma, hyperthyroidism, or prostate disease shouldn’t have Benadryl and will need an alternate medication.

There are a few Benadryl formulations that aren’t safe for dogs. The first is the liquid form. It might be easier to administer, but it’s quite high in its alcohol content, making it quite bad for them. You should also keep an eye on the label’s active ingredient. If there’s anything besides diphenhydramine listed as the active ingredient, then your dog should definitely not have it.

How Much Benadryl Can I Give My Dog?

Benadryl is always dosed by weight. The typical dog dosage is 1 mg/lb every eight hours and no more than three times per 24 hours. In some cases–at the discretion of your vet–the dosage can be as high as 2 mg/lb. The dosage can vary depending on your dog’s medical history and what breed they are, as well as their age and the severity of their symptoms. If you’re treating an “off label” ailment, like anxiety, then the dosage will again be different. While safe, Benadryl is not something you should dose without a vet’s input.

What Happens If My Dog Has Too Much Benadryl?

No matter how safe Benadryl is, if it’s given in too high of a dose, your dog will suffer from it. An overdose can be mild or it can be severe; it all depends on how much you’ve given and your dog’s current health.

Some dogs become agitated with panting, pacing, and the inability to rest quietly. Others will have the opposite effect and experience extreme drowsiness, which can lead to difficulty breathing. An abnormal heart rate, muscle tremors, and increased blood pressure are also expected. A large overdose will lead to seizures and coma. At this point, your dog is bordering on the brink of death and emergency care is necessary. If you think your dog is suffering an overdose, you need to get them to your veterinarian immediately for treatment.

To prevent an overdose, always double-check with the other people in your household to ensure they haven’t already given your dog their dose. Keep the medication out of reach of your dog; while you think it wouldn’t be appetizing to a dog, sometimes they’ll eat things out of boredom.

What Can I Give My Dog for Allergies?

When Benadryl isn’t a suitable medication for your dog, there are plenty of other options. Depending on the severity or nature of their allergies, there may be other things you can do instead of giving medication, or you can even use them in conjunction with their allergy medication.

Changing their food is often overlooked in allergy treatment. Since dogs are natural carnivores, commercial dog foods laden with grains can create an allergy-like reaction in your dog, creating itchy skin, watery eyes, and hair loss. If your dog is prone to allergies, sticking to a limited ingredient food is best. Fish is very low in allergens, and some say lamb is, too. You can find plenty of high-quality foods that have less than 10 ingredients total. Grain-free foods are low in allergens and unlikely to trigger a reaction. Chicken is actually a very probable allergen in many dogs, so avoid foods that use chicken-products as a main ingredient. Eliminating an allergen from the body can take a while, so don’t expect an improvement for at least a month.

Flea control is important, too. Flea bites commonly create an allergic reaction in most dogs, so make sure fleas aren’t the root of their allergies. Use a monthly flea preventative (Frontline, K9 Advantage, Revolution) instead of flea collars or sprays, which are almost always toxic to both dogs and humans. If your dog has had an active flea problem, then you’ll need to treat your house as well.

For environmental allergies, bathing your dog once a week with specially formulated shampoos can make a huge difference. Some dogs do well with an oatmeal bath, while others will need a medicated shampoo. Wiping their feet off when they come in from outside can help minimize their exposure to environmental allergens, too.

Studies have shown that essential fatty acids can make a marked difference in the severity of allergies. You can use specially formulated supplements that are made just for dogs, or you can introduce fatty acids in the form of fish oil. This brings us back to their diet, where a fish-based food can make a huge difference in their symptoms

Studies have shown that probiotics are important in allergy control. These bacteria are found in the gut, mixed in with the “bad” bacteria. Probiotics play a role in the immune system, and a daily dose of them can help minimize an overactive immune system. You can buy canine probiotics or talk to your vet about the proper dosing if you’re purchasing human-formulated probiotics.

Research is also leaning towards colostrum as a viable treatment option. A certain ingredient found in bovine colostrum has been shown to reduce the body’s allergic response. You can purchase colostrum from a variety of veterinary sources, but you should talk to your vet about this being a good option before you drop the cash on it.

Don’t let allergies ruin your dog’s quality of life. Obsessive chewing and licking of their feet, puffy eyes, and sneezing are enough to drive both you and your dog crazy. When your dog is suffering, talking to your vet will surely give your pup the relief both of you want.

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