Cats are one of the most beloved pets you can have. People that have felines understand what a treat it is to have them around. At Innovet, we know better than most just how special pets are. Seeing your cat's health in decline is scary, and it can be upsetting when it does happen.
Something that can come out of the blue is an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can occur with foods, medicines, and environmental allergens or toxins.
In this article, we'll help cat parents learn whether Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is safe for cats. We'll also cover what side effects to look out for. This way, you will be a truly informed cat owner that has the best interests of your feline friend.
What Exactly Is Benadryl for Cats?
So, what exactly is Benadryl for cats? Benadryl is the brand name for the drug diphenhydramine hydrochloride. The medication is available in tablets and as an injection. Serious reactions require the liquid injection of Benadryl for felines. Other uses for this medication are to treat insomnia and motion sickness.
People may recognize Benadryl as a medication for humans. Benadryl is also a popular medicine to treat our allergies. However, it has key differences when given to cats that need to be mentioned. Your cat's biology is unique and requires specialized veterinary instructions and dosages.
How Does Benadryl Work As A Medication?
Benadryl is the brand of a class of drugs known as antihistamines. Antihistamine works against histamines, which cause reactions after they attach to cells in the body. The function of Benadryl as an antihistaminic agent is to block the attachment of histamines to the cells.
When histamines attach to the cells, they typically cause an allergic reaction. Benadryl is a common antihistamine that works to prevent histamines from attaching to the body's cells. Ideally, antihistamine drugs prevent the allergic reaction from occurring in the first place.
What is Diphenhydramine In Benadryl?
Diphenhydramine is precisely what you find in Benadryl as the active ingredient. Benadryl is merely the brand name. You can also find diphenhydramine in its generic form under its actual name or another brand with diphenhydramine as the active ingredient.
Can You Give Cats Benadryl?
The question "can you give Benadryl to your cat?" is a common one. In short, giving Benadryl to your cat can be beneficial. However, some things should be explored before deciding whether to give your cat Benadryl:
Why Do Felines Take Benadryl?
Felines can take a dosage of Benadryl for the same reasons that humans do. It can benefit them in dealing with food allergies, motion sickness, and other common ailments.
Feline Skin Allergies
Felines can experience skin allergies at any age. Skin allergies often cause the cat to itch and increase anxiety. You will often see bumps with redness and inflammation on their skin if it is an acute allergic reaction. Benadryl can help a feline that is dealing with skin allergies and irritations.
General Cat Allergies
Cat allergies can appear out of nowhere. They can also develop a reaction to foods or medications that they have taken for an extended period. Naturally, that can seem shocking to cat parents. However, this happens to people too! Benadryl may be able to help. However, drastic allergies often come on quickly and require immediate emergency attention from a veterinary clinic.
Allergic Reactions To Medicines and Vaccinations
A pet can have an adverse reaction to a drug or vaccine. There is no way to know whether or not your cat will react to a particular drug or vaccination if they have never been given it before. So if you're giving your cat a new drug or vaccination, it is essential to watch out for signs of an allergic reaction. As mentioned previously, there are times when allergies to a drug that they have taken before can suddenly occur. This can also happen with vaccinations. Cat parents should monitor their cats for signs of adverse effects every time they are given a drug or vaccinations.
Feline Allergies Regarding Bug Bites
Cat parents who live in areas where mosquitos are prevalent know just how miserable they can be to have around. They love to bite and irritate everyone and everything. Unfortunately, they love to bite cats just as much as they love to bite humans. Insect bites, including flea bites, can cause an allergic reaction in our pet friends just like they can in us.
Many feline allergies to bug bites will result in itching excessively and big, red bumps on the skin. If they are scratching the insect bites, they may develop an infection. Keep a close eye on the areas that they are itching to look for signs of infection of the skin. An infected area will require treatment.
What About Bee Stings?
Bee stings are also worrisome for pets. Cats that have been stung by a bee need to be monitored for an allergic reaction. If you can remove the stinger yourself, then do it. If not, contact your vet for advice. They may recommend that you bring your furry friend in for veterinary care. In cases of a reaction, they may want you to come in immediately for emergency treatment.
Are There Natural Alternatives To Benadryl For Felines?
The reason that the answer to giving felines Benadryl for colds is both yes and no is that it can treat the common cat cold, but it cannot cure it. The medicine can help cats struggling with a cold. However, it cannot cure a feline cold. The common cold in cats is a lot like it is in human beings. Most times, it will go away on its own after a week or so.
If it goes on longer than a couple of weeks, it may be wise to take your cat to your trusted vet just to make sure that it really is just a cold. Many people wonder if they can give their cats Benadryl for colds. The answer is both yes and no. This all sounds confusing, but the reasons can be explained in further detail.
Is Benadryl For Sedation Purposes?
The mild sedative used in Benadryl is sometimes recommended by veterinarians for anxiety. An example would be traveling by car or airplane. Some cats get quite anxious or upset when traveling and giving Benadryl can be an excellent sedative for traveling. That can make it easier on both the feline and the worried cat parent that is bringing them along.
What Are Allergy Symptoms In Cats?
Symptoms from allergies and allergic reactions are completely different. Knowing the difference can be very helpful in identifying when, or if, to give your feline Benadryl.
Symptoms of allergies are:
Your cat can begin to have allergies at any age. The most common sign of allergies that a cat parent will see is itching and sneezing. Diarrhea and stomach pain are often a sign of a food-borne illness. Food allergies can happen to felines similarly to humans. Felines can also be allergic to allergens, toxins, and bug bites. It is important to get them checked out with a veterinarian if you suspect something serious.
Symptoms Of Allergic Reactions In Cats
Allergic reactions in cats can manifest in many ways. Allergic reactions can be mild, or they can be serious and require an immediate trip to the veterinary hospital or office of your trusted vet.
A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylactic shock symptoms are:
- Spontaneous bowel movement
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry mouth
- Itchy skin
If your cat displays a symptom of anaphylactic shock or has difficulty breathing, you must get them to contact your vet as soon as possible. The treatment for severe allergic reactions will often include steroid treatment and/or epinephrine.
Benadryl Side Effects for Cats
While Benadryl can be successful in treating allergies, there are side effects and safety concerns to be aware of.
Most Common Side Effects
- Appetite loss
- Dry mouth
- Urination changes
- Difficulty breathing
If you notice your feline having side effects from the medication, it will be essential to consult your veterinarian. They will take note of this in your cat's medical records, and it's vital you listen to your veterinarian's advice.
Additionally, cats can take Benadryl only in the recommended dose that is provided by a veterinarian.
Can My Cat Take Benadryl If They Take Other Medications?
The question of if your cat can take Benadryl while on other medications is a good one. This is because giving Benadryl may be incompatible with certain medicines and cat health conditions. It is important to discuss whether or not Benadryl is safe for your cat with your trusted vet that knows your cat's health and medication history. So, your cat can take Benadryl if the veterinarian determines that there are no interfering medications or health problems.
How Do I Administer Benadryl For My Cat?
Administering Benadryl can be done by a cat parent with the right information and dose instructions. Cats can take it, but only following the vet's Benadryl dosage recommendations. You serve by mouth via tablet (served with food) or liquid Benadryl. Liquid Benadryl is sometimes more convenient to administer than a tablet.
Dosages are usually measured per pound of body weight. An average 10-pound cat needs 2 to 4 mg. A higher body weight (12.5 to a 15-pound cat) may need more. Felines over 15 pounds may need specialized dosage instructions. Kittens or cats that weigh less than 8 pounds may not be suitable for Benadryl.
For average body weight, the dosage is typically 2-4 mg. The dosage is recommended to be given every eight or twelve hours, as needed. If it comes back after twelve, then it is safe to give them another dose. However, do not give them another dose before eight hours to ensure that you are not accidentally giving them too much.
One of the biggest issues that cat parents have is giving their cat 2-4 mg in tablet form. These are usually sold in 12.5-25 mg tablets. A 25 mg tablet can easily be divided into about 5 doses (about 0.4 mg per pound). However, it can be a bit confusing, and it is possible to give your feline too much if you don't cut it just right. So, liquid Benadryl may be most beneficial if there is any doubt.
Some grocery stores sell syringes to make it easier to give your cat liquid Benadryl. Make sure to get the correct dosage in liquid or tablet form before administering it to your feline. As always, if you have any doubts or suspect an overdose, please consult your veterinarian for clarification and instructions (especially for liquid medication). It's also important to always give the medication with food for better stomach health.
Are There Natural Alternatives To Benadryl For Cats?
Cat parents may not want to give Benadryl to their cat, or they cannot give it to them. For example, some cats cannot take it if they are taking medications or have a health condition. In this case, finding a natural alternative to Benadryl that improves cat's allergic reactions is ideal.
CBD Oil for Cats
One all-natural, organic alternative is CBD. CBD Oil for cats is a safe and natural alternative to help cats with allergies and several other conditions.
CBD studies have been shown to treat pain and can help with nausea and vomiting. Felines that have nausea and vomiting associated with their allergies can really benefit from CBD.
It is important to mention that it contains no THC and is perfectly safe to give your pet and there is no worry of any high with this alternative.
Benadryl For Cats: Final Thoughts
Here at Innovet, we want you to be as knowledgeable as you can when giving your pet anything. After all, cats, dogs, and other pets are a part of the family.
If your veterinarian has recommended Benadryl for your cat, then it is likely to be helpful. To avoid an overdose, follow the recommended dosage and instructions that your veterinarian gives you. Remember, Benadryl is safe for cats but only use to treat symptoms.
Make sure to consult your vet with any concerns or changes that your cat is experiencing. The bottom line is that giving your cat Benadryl is a decision you will have to make for yourself.
Dr. Ivana Vukasinovic
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Belgrade
Ivana Vukasinovic grew up in Serbia and attended the University of Belgrade where she received a degree in Veterinary medicine in 2012 and later completed surgical residency working mostly with livestock. Her first year of practice was split between busy small animal practice and emergency clinic, and after two more years of treating many different species of animals, she opened her own veterinary pharmacy where an interest in canine and feline nutrition emerged with an accent on fighting animal obesity. In her free time, she acts as a foster parent for stray animals before their adoption, likes to read SF books, and making salted caramel cookies.
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The Innovet Team
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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