Benadryl is one of the most popular over-the-counter allergy medications on the market. If you've ever snuffled up once the spring winds start blowing or experienced mild symptoms after a brush with a specific allergen (dander, grass, insect bites), you've probably been offered Benadryl. That is if you don't already take it regularly yourself.
But did you know that many dog owners give their furry friends Benadryl, and not just as an allergy medication? Benadryl (generic name diphenhydramine) has been used to treat a wide swath of symptoms in dogs, from motion sickness and anxiety to as an adverse reaction inhibitor after heartworm treatment or mast cell therapy.
Innovet has put together a complete guide to the information and resources you need to know about before trying diphenhydramine on your dog, from dosage to vet recommendations to potential side effects of Benadryl. Remember that before ever putting your dog on a new drug, you should always consult your veterinarian.
What is Benadryl?
To understand what the diphenhydramine drug known as Benadryl is, you must understand what an antihistamine is and understand what an antihistamine is. You must understand what a histamine is. They are a substance produced by your immune system. They're like white blood cells for allergies, meaning they target potential threats to the system and automatically act to eliminate them.
The reason you get sneezing, sweating, and watery-eyed symptoms during an allergic reaction are because histamines are trying to expel the foreign allergen from your body. Sometimes, these chemicals get a little carried away; however, the body cannot reign them fast enough. That's how severe allergies can cause symptoms such as the closure of the breathing passage and cardiac arrest.
This is where antihistamines come in. These are the compounds present in high dosages of diphenhydramine. What they do is block cells' histamine receptors, meaning allergic reactions are prevented from occurring. Many doctors and veterinarians are encouraging Benadryl use in their human and dog patients, understanding that when allergic reactions come, they can come on suddenly and severely, leaving little time for crisis response.
Many who suffer from common food-borne or other allergies, who develop troubling, but not life-threatening enough symptoms to require something like an Epipen, keep a little of the medication with them at all times.
Is Benadryl Safe For Dogs?
It should be said that the FDA has not cleared Benadryl for veterinary use. Still, most veterinarians you talk to will tell you that a reasonable dosage on a clearly afflicted dog will do nothing but alleviate their symptoms, actually making them safer than had they not taken the drug. Benadryl can be a perfectly safe and healthy course of treatment for anxiety, allergies, and more in your dog, but there are a few things to check first.
It's important to keep a running list of any medications your dog might already be on. Veterinarians frequently prescribe medications like nervous system depressants and anticoagulants after dogs have surgery. But these medications can interact poorly with Benadryl, sometimes worsening the symptoms of allergic reaction.
Keep in mind that every dog is different. Your dog's size, body mass, diet, exercise regimen, and general temperament will factor into the drug's effect on them. What's safe for a German Shepherd isn't necessarily going to be safe for a Pekinese. This is another reason to consult your veterinarian before you give your dog Benadryl.
When is Benadryl Prescribed For Dogs?
Benadryl can be prescribed to dogs by a licensed veterinarian for a number of symptoms. Below are four of the most common:
If Benadryl is good enough for your sneezing and snuffling, it's good enough for your dog. The canine immune system is similar enough to humans' so that Benadryl can be a safe and effective treatment for mild to moderate allergic reactions. If the allergy symptoms are severe, of course, see a veterinarian immediately.
Too many dog owners have learned to resort to extreme measures to get through New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July. That is, to get their dogs through the trauma of fireworks. Many dogs get crippling anxiety from loud noises, over-activity, and more. Benadryl has a unique effect on serotonin, which makes you drowsy. Sleepy dog = less anxious dog.
In the same way that Benadryl's sleep-inducing effect can be used to treat anxiety, it is serotonin modulating, anti-inflammation effects can soothe dogs who are prone to nausea on long car rides.
Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cells are white blood cells that play a role in responding to allergic reactions. It's no surprise that when a dog develops a tumor in their mast cell that histamines are overproduced, sending dogs down a spiral of allergic reactions. Veterinarians often prescribe Benadryl to dogs to combat this condition.
Benadryl Dosage For Dogs
Okay, Benadryl is safe for your dog, and can be used to treat several symptoms. But how much should you give them, and in what form? These are great questions to consider with your veterinarian, but we'll go through the basics here.
Benadryl is generally prescribed to dogs by veterinarians in tablet form. Wrap it up in their favorite treat, and they'll gobble it down without a second thought. If your dog is on the discerning side or is known for being a pill splitter, ask your vet about liquid Benadryl that you can mix into water.
How much of the drug you give your dog depends entirely on their size (but don't forget those other factors - diet, exercise, and temperament). You do not want your dog to overdose on the drug, which can result in constipation, seizures, and a rapid heart rate. The dosage weight guide is as follows:
30lbs or lighter - 10mg dose
30 to 50 lbs - 25 mg dose
Over 50 lbs - 50 mg dose
If you're ever confused about what these dosage sizes look like, you can call your veterinarian's office to confirm.
Possible Benadryl Side Effects in Dogs
While it is generally safe to administer Benadryl as an allergy medication to dogs, there are potential side effects to watch out for.
Some of the most common and least concerning side effects include sedation, dry mouth (and alternatively, hypersalivation), and heightened heart rate.
Some side effects that are on the troublesome side can be diarrhea and vomiting (both rare) and urinary retention. If your dog suffers from prostatic hypertrophy or bladder neck obstruction, consult your veterinarian. It may not be a good idea to use Benadryl for dogs.
If your dog lives with any of these other conditions prior to ingesting the Benadryl, check with your vet first, but consider holding off:
- Severe Heart Failure
- High Blood Pressure
- Allergic Lung Disease
If a side effect is going to pop up, it's almost always going to pop up within the first hour after dosage. So keep an eye on your dog, and if their condition alarms you, remain calm and call a vet.
Alternatives To Benadryl For Dogs
Benadryl is generally a safe, fast-acting, and effective medication. But it isn't right for everyone. If your dog lives with any of the previously mentioned conditions, or you administered the medication to them, and they reacted adversely, there are alternatives to consider.
CBD has proven to be a remarkable treatment for all the same conditions Benadryl is prescribed for in dogs, from allergies to anxiety. The many benefits of CBD begin with the fact that it is a naturally-derived compound. While most vets would tell you Benadryl is perfectly safe if you're still nervous, the potential side effects of CBD pale compared to that of the medication.
CBD's natural active ingredients can also improve your dog's overall health and beauty, from promoting brightness in dull coats to soothing dry skin to healing cracked paw pads. CBD also boasts the benefit of micro-dosability. Whether you're administering Innovet's PurCBD+ PhytoCannabinoid Oil or the delicious Hemp Soft Chews, you can control how much CBD your dog is getting through tincture measurement down to the last drop.
It's not the only alternative on the market, but CBD is certainly one of the most exciting new products for treating allergies, anxiety, motion sickness, and more in your pet. The volume of clinical research on CBD's active ingredients in pets also testifies just how effective it can be.
Doing What's Best for Your Dog
There is a trove of peer-reviewed clinical research and first-hand accounts of the benefits of Benadryl for dogs online, and you should spend some time looking through it. What you absolutely must do before considering Benadryl for dogs is consult your veterinarian.
Get to know your dogs' allergies, tabulate the right Benadryl dosage (or the right CBD dosage), and sit back and discover how much happier your dog's life could be.
Innovet Pet Products brings pet owners together with licensed veterinarians, health, hygiene, and wellness experts to provide you with the best information. All our efforts are focused on developing the safest, most innovative CBD products, grooming solutions, and animal necessities and educating our customers about them in an engaged, shame-free way.