dog sticking head out the window

Benadryl for Dogs: Use, Dosage, and Alternatives


If your dog suffers from allergies or has an allergic reaction to something around them, the solution can often be found in your own medicine cabinet or your neighborhood drugstore. Benadryl, also known as diphenhydramine, the active ingredient, is an antihistamine that not only alleviates your human allergy symptoms but is beneficial for your pup as well.

Benadryl has a variety of uses when it comes to your dog's health, though some pet parents have concerns when it comes to administering human drugs on their four-legged loved ones. We've laid out why it's safe to give your dog Benadryl, why it’s used on dogs, what the proper dosage is according to body weight, its potential side effects, and even suggestions for natural alternatives to Benadryl for Rover.

Yes, You Can Give Your Dog Benadryl

All new dog parents wonder at some point, "Can I really give my dog Benadryl? I thought it was for humans!" The answer is yes, you can. Veterinarians give the green light for you to routinely use over-the-counter medicines like Benadryl on dogs for a variety of reasons.

All it takes to alleviate motion sickness or acute inflammatory and allergic conditions from insect bites to seasonal allergies is a basic over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl. Benadryl tablets work by blocking H1 receptors to keep histamines at bay, reducing symptoms of allergies. PetMD's Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Jessica Vogelsang assures dog parents that the drug is "well tolerated and has a wide safety margin" for use on dogs.

Uses for Benadryl

benedryl package

Veterinarians recommend Benadryl for dogs for a range of symptoms. Benadryl (or its generic form diphenhydramine) is used on dogs to treat ailments like basic environmental allergies, food allergies, anxiety, mast cell tumors, hives, and motion sickness.

Because Benadryl can cause drowsiness, it is sometimes used for dogs with mild to moderate anxiety issues. Many dog parents give their dogs Benadryl during high-stress situations like thunderstorms or fireworks. Veterinarians will recommend its use in conjunction with heartworm treatment as it prevents allergic reactions associated with it.

Benadryl Dosage for Dogs

As with any drug, the correct dosage of Benadryl for dogs depends on the dog's weight. Most drugstore diphenhydramine tablets, whether generic or brand name Benadryl, are 25 milligrams. The standard dosage for a dog is 1 milligram per pound of body weight, so one tablet is perfect for a 25-pound dog. Veterinarians suggest giving a dose every 8-12 hours (about 2-3 times a day).

Small dogs under 25 pounds can take the children's formula of liquid Benadryl. Liquid children's formula is easier for measuring the proper dosage for smaller dogs than the tablets. Stick to the children's formula of liquid Benadryl as the adult version contains alcohol, which is toxic to dogs.

Never give a dog too much Benadryl — an overdose is possible. Abuse of the drug can result in fatal diphenhydramine poisoning, so always consult your veterinarian if you are unsure of proper dosage. Signs of overdose include constipation, agitation, dilated pupils, seizures, and rapid heart rate.

If your dog is suffering from an onset of a severe allergic reaction, use your best judgment to determine if it would be best to opt for an emergency trip to your veterinarian. There are cases where a veterinarian may need to inject an antihistamine under your dog’s skin in order for the medicine to act more quickly.

Potential Side Effects of Benadryl

Just like any medication, Benadryl comes with potential side effects. Common side effects of Benadryl include drowsiness, dry mouth, urinary retention, hypersalivation, increased heart rate, and loss of appetite.

In order to avoid some of these side effects it is important to remember to administer the proper dosage for your dog as recommended by your veterinarian.

When to Avoid Using Benadryl

Benadryl may negatively interact with other medications. Do not use Benadryl with any central nervous system depressants, or on a pet with high blood pressure, seizures, bladder issues, lung disease, or glaucoma. If your dog is having difficulty breathing or swelling in the facial area, take them to the vet ASAP.

Benadryl Alternatives

Thankfully Benadryl is not the only solution for treating your beloved pet's condition. If you are the type of dog parent who would rather not use conventional over-the-counter drugs on your dog, there are multiple natural alternatives out there for controlling their allergy symptoms, environmental allergies, and motion sickness. The following natural remedies are great options for providing the same kind of relief you can get from Benadryl.

Quercetin

Three strawberries on blue background

When it comes to allergy symptoms like itchy red eyes, inflammation, sneezing, and runny noses in dogs, turn to nature's Benadryl: quercetin. Quercetin is a flavonoid found in the peels of fruits and vegetables that contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-histamine properties.

To determine how much quercetin to give your dog, we’ll look at the recommended dosage for humans weighing 150 pounds: 1,000 milligrams. To convert this into the right dose for your dog, take your pet's weight, multiply it by 1,000, then divide it by 150 to get the milligram dosage your pet needs. Viola! Quercetin occurs naturally in foods your dog can eat, too, like blueberries, strawberries, and spinach.

Fun fact for dog parents: Quercetin occurs naturally in red wine as well. Drink up and cheers to your health, bipeds!

CBD

CBD (cannabidol) is another natural alternative to Benadryl that is particularly great for dogs with adverse skin conditions. Yes, the word, "canna" is in "cannabidol," but CBD has absolutely no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in it, or any psychoactive properties that get marijuana users high.

CBD for medicinal use is not derived from marijuana, but from agricultural hemp that possesses health benefits for humans and pets alike. Studies have shown that CBD can help relieve itchy and dry skin due to daily allergies or allergic reactions. It also works wonders for dogs that suffer from motion sickness and is worth giving a try before your next car ride with Fido. CBD comes in tablet form as well as oils, lotions, and balms that can be applied topically to the affected area.

All in all, CBD is a reliable natural solution for a variety of medical conditions in addition to symptoms of allergies. CBD is incredibly versatile and can also be used in dogs and people for medical conditions like anxiety, pain, nausea, and cancer.

Baking Soda

Need an easy and immediate solution for calming your dog's red, itchy, and inflamed skin? Look no further than your kitchen. You can use it by making a paste or a spray solution. Make a paste by mixing baking soda with a little bit of water, then place it on the affected area for a few hours before washing off. To make a spray, use more water to baking soda, pour into a spray bottle, and shake before each use. If your dog is a licker, try covering the spot with a sock if it's on their foot, or have them wear a cone while the paste treats the area.

Ease Your Pup’s Symptoms With Benadryl

Benadryl is safe for your pet and will help with their allergies or other symptoms. If you are considering Benadryl for your dog, it is vital that you make sure to give them the right dose.

If you are wary of giving your dog Benadryl, you have options. Natural alternatives to Benadryl for alleviating your dog’s allergy symptoms include quercetin, CBD, and baking soda.

If you are still unsure about which method is best for you and your pet, consult your veterinarian.

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