Benadryl is an over-the-counter drug used to treat allergies and anxiety. Benadryl is an anti-histamine. Benadryl is also known by its generic name Diphenhydramine. This drug was originally made for humans and is not FDA approved to be used for dogs, yet is widely recommended for use by veterinarians. I can understand if you're questioning whether it is safe to use this drug, and if it is safe, what is an appropriate benadryl dosage for dogs?
How does Benadryl Work?
Benadryl is an anti-histamine. In order for us to understand what an anti-histamine does, we need to know what histamine is! Histamine is produced by the immune system whenever it is under attack by foreign pathogens. Whenever you have an allergic reaction, it is because histamine is being produced!
Histamine helps white blood cells get to the infected tissues faster so they can engage the foreign pathogens. Unfortunately, histamines are inflammatory in nature and cause skin redness, swelling, pain, an increased heart rate, and a low blood pressure as it binds to the many H1 receptors throughout your body. Think of the H1 receptors as the docking bay for histamine.
Inflammation starts occurring once the histamine binds to the H1 receptor. So if we can prevent the histamine from binding, we can get rid of the inflammation! That is exactly what anti-histamines do! They bind to the H1 receptors in your body first so that the histamine can't.
Is Benadryl Safe for Dogs?
Benadryl is generally safe for dogs! Although the drug is not FDA approved for use with dogs, it is widely recommended by veterinarians. However, there are certain medical conditions that would make Benadryl a bad idea. In addition, giving the correct dosage amount is critical in order to prevent an overdose.
What Types of Benadryl Are Safe For Dogs?
There are many different types of Benadryl products that you can purchase, but many of them are unsafe for dogs! It is important that the only active ingredient in the drug is Diphenhydramine. You can verify the active ingredients by reading the front or back of the packaging. If you are unable to find the active ingredients, ask a pharmacist and they'll be able to show you.
With the above in mind, any Benadryl products that attempt to treat additional sicknesses such as the cold, flu, nasal decongestants, itchy skin, or sun burns etc. are NOT allowed to be used with dogs.
Benadryl Allergy UltraTab Tablets would be an example of the proper product to purchase. The only active ingredient is Diphenhydramine.
Children's Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion would be an example of a product that is NOT allowed for dogs because it has the additional active ingredient Phenylephrine.
Only purchase Benadryl in the tablet form. Liquid gels, slow-releasing capsules or topical creams should not be used. Liquid gels contain alcohol, which is poisonous for dogs. Slow-releasing capsules will make it hard to control the dosage if your dog accidentally chews the capsule. Topical creams are ineffective due to the dog's fur or hair. It is best to stick to the basic boring tablet! It works!
Medical Reasons NOT to Give Your Dog Benadryl
Before I get into why you should give your dog benadryl, and what is an appropriate benadryl dosage for dogs, you should be aware of the medical conditions that would make benadryl a bad medication to use:
- Prostatic Disease (Enlarged Prostate)
- High Blood Pressure
- Cardiovascular (Lung) Disease
- Heart Disease
If your dog suffers from any of the above medical conditions, talk to your vet to see if a different drug can be used that would be much safer for your dog.
If your dog is pregnant, it is not recommended to give your dog Benadryl. It is worth it to have a discussion with your vet to determine if giving Benadryl to your pregnant dog is okay or not. Your vet will be able to properly evaluate the benefits and risks specifically to your dog and decide if Benadryl is a good idea.
If your dog is using any other medications, benadryl may stop them from working properly. It is best to talk to your vet to ensure that combining the drugs will not cause them to stop working or cause any bad reactions.
When Should I Give My Dog Benadryl?
Benadryl is used to treat the following symptoms:
- Allergic Reactions
- Insect Bites or Stings
- Environmental Allergies
- Blood Transfusion Reactions
- Pre-Treatment for Vaccine Reactions
- Anxiety for Specific Events (e.g. Fireworks)
- Motion Sickness (e.g. Car Sickness)
Don't give your dog Benadryl when going on airplane without talking to your vet. It is always recommended to fly without any drugs if at all possible because it is hard to predict what the effects of altitude will do to your dog.
Benadryl is only appropriate if your dog is having mild to moderate allergic reactions. If your dog is having a severe reaction, you should skip the Benadryl and take your dog straight to the vet! Examples of a severe allergic reaction would be the swelling of the face or difficulty breathing.
What is the Correct Benadryl Dosage for Dogs?
The standard Benadryl dosage amount for dogs is 1 mg per pound of body weight, given up to 3 times per day. So if you have a 25 pound dog, you can give your dog a 25 mg of Benadryl up to 3 times per day. A 50 pound dog can be given 50 mg of Benadryl up to 3 times per day. See below for a chart to figure out what the maximum dosage your dog can receive is!
Benadryl typically comes in a 25 mg tablet. This means that for any dogs that weigh less than 25 pounds, a full tablet will be too much. You will have to cut the tablet into a smaller piece. If your dog weighs around 10 pounds, you'll need to cut the tablet in half. In order to be sure of the dosage you are giving your dog, double check the package to find out what the dosage is for each tablet.
What Are The Side Effects of Benadryl?
Benadryl takes about 30 minutes to start working. So if you're planning on giving your dog Benadryl to treat motion sickness or to reduce anxiety before a stressful event, such as fireworks, give your dog Benadryl 30 minutes beforehand.
The most common side-effects of Benadryl include:
- Drowsiness - Your dog will be sleepy
- Dry Mouth - Your dog's mouth will feel dry
- Urinary Retention - Your dog will have a reduced urge to pee
- Slow reactions - Your dog may not move or respond normally
Rare side effects of Benadryl include:
- Appetite Loss
- An Allergic Reaction to Benadryl
Examples of an allergic reaction to Benadryl include itching, rashes, hives, sneezing, a rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. If you think your dog is having an allergic reaction to Benadryl, call your vet!
It is also possible for your dog to not get any relief from taking Benadryl. If this is the case, do not increase the dosage. Instead, talk to your vet to see if there is an alternative medicine that could work.
The Signs and Symptoms of Overdosing on Benadryl
If you suspect your dog has overdosed, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible! Do not attempt to induce vomiting unless your vet tells you to.
The following are the signs and symptoms of a Benadryl overdose:
- Muscle Tremors
- Rapid Heartbeats
- Difficulty Breathing
- Extreme Fatigue
- High Temperature
- Delerium (Extremely Confused)
- High Blood Pressure
The good news is that it is very rare for a dog to die from an overdose if they are treated quickly. The best way to be safe is to monitor your dog after giving Benadryl to ensure there are no unusual side effects.
In conclusion, Benadryl is a very safe drug to take so long as your dog does not have any conflicting medical conditions, isn't taking any conflicting drugs, and is given the correct dosage. I highly recommend visiting with your vet to make sure there won't be any issues.
Have you given your dog Benadryl? Did it work well? Leave a comment!