Benadryl goes by its generic name which is diphenhydramine. It is a popular over-the-counter drug that veterinarians prescribe to pet owners for treating their dogs. But is it safe? Benadryl works as a common receptor antagonist. An antagonist is what blocks the histamine receptors in the body.
Histamines are produced in the body but if you prevent them the receptors from registering the histamine, it can reduce all kinds of symptoms. Symptoms such as sneezing, itching or swelling can be treated by blocking histamines associated with its receptors.
Another common word for Benadryl is an antihistamine that helps cure allergic reactions. One variation of Benadryl contains two ingredients that are not safe for dogs: acetaminophen and pseudoephedrine. Not all brands of Benadryl contain these 2 ingredients, but it’s essential to know which is safe for your dog.
Common Uses of Benadryl for Dogs
To understand if Benadryl is safe for dogs or not- let’s look the varied uses of Benadryl for dogs.
1. Benadryl for Treating Allergic Reactions
Dogs may be allergic to objects inside and/or outside your home. There are many kinds of common allergies in dogs such as grass, weed pollens, dander, feathers, food ingredients, or dust. And the common symptoms of allergies are itching, swelling, redness of skin, or ear infections.
If your dog is licking her paws, scratching her belly, or ears, it may be that your dog is allergic to something you don’t know about, yet. According to research, your vet will prescribe a small dosage of Benadryl for controlling such allergies. Antihistamines is an oral and inexpensive alternative that’s safer for dogs and 75% effective. (1)
But when treating allergies, long-term use of Benadryl can lead to dry mouth or drowsiness. So consulting your vet about the side effects of long-term Benadryl use is essential.
The average Benadryl dose for treating or controlling an allergic reaction should not be more than 1mg/pound of body weight x 2 times a day.
2. Benadryl for Treating Vaccination Reactions
Many dogs are sensitive to vaccinations that may suppress proper mental and physical functioning. In such a situation, consulting your vet for a small dose of Benadryl is optimal.
A negative reaction to vaccination can be treated with an antihistamine such as generic Benadryl. Dogs are likely to experience swelling, mild pain, soreness, or fever post vaccination.
Benadryl, being an over-the-counter medicine, can help control these symptoms in the next few hours. Giving Benadryl to your dog, along with other medications, is not at all recommended. In such a case, consulting your vet for further advice is necessary. (2,3)
3. Benadryl for Treating Nausea
Veterinarians prescribe Benadryl for dogs who experience nausea because of a number of factors. This can include motion sickness, food intolerance, allergies, or from traveling.
One of the main uses of Benadryl for treating nausea is to help relieve motion sickness during drives or plane rides. Travel sickness is more common in dogs and cats than in humans. So to treat feelings of nausea or vomiting, some veterinarians will prescribe a small dose of Benadryl to be given before car or plane rides.
The sedative properties of Benadryl also helps the dog relax and sleep so she doesn’t feel the urge to vomit. It also helps control restlessness and physical discomfort that arises from traveling by car or flight.
4. Benadryl for Treating Stress and Anxiety
Diphenhydramine is commonly prescribed among veterinarians as a reliable drug for sedation. But excess use of Benadryl is known to have negative effects on a dog.
According to one research, unless your veterinarian has prescribed the use of Benadryl for sedation, then it’s safe to use. But using it as an over-the-counter medication to relieve your dog’s anxiety in a high-stress situation is not recommended.
Benadryl treats canine anxiety for many circumstances. But it shouldn’t be your go-to drug for consistent prescription. For that, consulting a veterinarian is important. (4)
Dogs often feel anxious during thunderstorms or before getting on a plane. The mild sedating effects of Benadryl is good for calming your dog down.
5. Benadryl for Treating Hives
Hives are the results of allergies in dogs and is often characterized by swelling and soreness. Hives generally occur on the face, especially close to the eyelids. This happens when the dog is openly exposed to an allergen which triggers an allergic immune reaction.
Other symptoms of hives include itching, drooling, or redness on the face.
One of the most effective ways to treat hives in dogs to prescribing Benadryl. You can request your veterinarian to give your dog a shot of Benadryl to control and reduce hives. It is a solid treatment option, but it can only be carried out with professional supervision. (5)
6. Benadryl for Treating Mast Cell Tumors
Mast cell tumors in dogs are the result of a weak immune system. Most mast cell tumors in dogs are malignant in nature. They are commonly found in the skin or in internal organs as a collection of cells that grow rapidly out of control.
A single cancerous mast cell tumor contains a collection of chemical substances including histamines. When excessive histamines are released in the body as a result of this mast cell tumor, it leads to digestive tract infections.
According to research, a small dose of Benadryl can help control the symptoms of mast cell tumors as it restricts histamines from registering to cell receptors. (6)
7. Benadryl for Treating Insomnia
Insomnia in dogs is a serious condition. It can mean that your dog is having trouble sleeping either at the time of bed-time or in the middle of the night. Insomnia can be a sign of physical injury, anxiety, or illness in most dogs. It is also a common sign of aging, according to studies.
The sedative properties of Benadryl make it beneficial for fighting sleeplessness in dogs. As you already know, Benadryl blocks histamines from registering to receptors. But it has the same kind of effect on another substance called acetylcholine. Acetylcholine regulates the dog’s sleeping cycles, starting from sleepiness to wakefulness.
The effectiveness of Benadryl can help treat insomnia as it promotes sleep by making the dog feel heavy and drowsy.
8. Benadryl for Treating Bee Bites
Certain bee stings and bites release histamine in dogs. The histamine penetrates deep inside the cell receptors- promoting a stronger reaction such as itchiness, swelling, and redness of skin.
Because Benadryl blocks histamines from entering cell receptors, it’s a popular antihistamine for treating stings and bites. But giving Benadryl orally is the wrong way to treat a bee bite. In such a case, you have to contact your veterinarian for further guidance.
A bee bite can infect or cause the airways to become extremely sensitive. So feeding Benadryl orally may be dangerous. According to one report, dogs under 10 pounds should be fed liquid Benadryl and those above 15 pounds should be fed tablets. (7)
Is Benadryl an Effective Drug for Dogs?
To understand the effectiveness of Benadryl as a drug, you need to know how it works in dogs. In dogs, there are 2 kinds of histamine. These types of histamine are also present in human bodies.
Histamine is characterized as a small molecular organism which plays a role in the body’s pathologic functioning. It has inflammatory and allergic properties as it attaches itself to the cell’s receptors. So treating allergic reactions is not possible without detaching the histamines from its cell receptors.
When histamines register themselves to H1 receptors, it causes reactions associated with swelling, itchiness, and other respiratory conditions. In the same way, if the histamines attach themselves to H2 receptors, it causes a different bodily and immune reaction in the body.
Benadryl blocks H1 receptors by restricting histamines from getting close to the cells. By doing so, they also block another inflammatory substance in the body called acetylcholine which is responsible for muscular and memory processes in the body.
That said, using Benadryl as an effective treatment for allergies, hives, motion sickness, and vomiting should always be approved and recommended by the doctor. If you are administering it for the first time, consulting your vet about the weight, dose, and frequency of supplementation is important.
So is Benadryl a safe treatment for your dog? Only when you aware of the dosage and medication side-effects of it after consulting with a veterinarian.
Potential Side-Effects of Giving Benadryl to Dogs
If you’re using Benadryl for your dog, it’s essential that you know the various side-effects of it. In addition to knowing the proper dosage for using Benadryl, if any one of these symptoms arise in your dog after medication, taking him to the veterinarian is crucial.
These side effects usually arise after frequent Benadryl medication. And if left untreated, it can worsen with time and age. Plus, this condition can also impact any preexisting health condition your dog is suffering from.
The following are proven side-effects of Benadryl that generally occur after frequent medication which also results in overdose.
- Rapid heart rate
- Appetite loss
- Excessive vomiting
- Urinary problems
- Dry mouth
- Breathing difficulties
Some side-effects, such as drowsiness, occurs in both humans and dogs. Antihistamines block histamines’ from registering to receptors, but some compounds present in antihistamines cross the blood barriers and inhibit all functions of histamines. And one of the functions of histamine regulate sleep and wakefulness. By blocking any number of histamines and receptors, too much consumption of antihistamines, that is Benadryl, can result in drowsiness. (8)
Benadryl overdose is also a common phenomenon in dogs. It has side-effects that are quite different from the side-effects that occur from frequent Benadryl dosages. Benadryl overdose is when you feed a higher amount of Benadryl to your dog, at one time. The latter is when you feed small doses for a long time.
If your dog has overdosed, these are the warning signs to watch out for. And once detected, contact your veterinarian immediately for further advice and inspection.
- Irregular bowel movements
- Increased heartbeat
- Dilated pupils
- Agitation/ Extreme restlessness
- High temperature
This may also be the case for dogs allergic to Benadryl without you detecting it beforehand. Overdosing on Benadryl in dogs is more common than you think. So keeping an eye on your dog after feeding her Benadryl is critical.
How Often Should I Give Benadryl to My Dog?
Benadryl is available in tablet and liquid form. Based on your dog’s preexisting medical conditions, that is if she has one, research suggests that giving 2mg per kg of body weight x 2-3 times a day is safe. (9,10)
If you’re giving Benadryl in liquid form- 0.4ml per pound of bodyweight is safe.
Giving small quantities of Benadryl to your dog is safer than giving too much. The latter can lead to overdose which can have harmful side-effects (discussed above). Humans also use time-release capsules as Benadryl supplements. But this type of dosage isn’t healthy and safe for dogs.
Time-release capsules break down into a large dose which may cause overdosing in dogs. Choosing a liquid form is safer for dogs as you control the amount of Benadryl you choose to give to your dog. You can divide smaller doses for small-breed dogs and mix it in their food. Tablets, on the other hand, can be crushed into powder and mixed with dog food.
According to research, Benadryl takes about 30 minutes to have an effect in dogs. If you’re treating motion sickness or plan anxiety, scheduling the correct time for giving a dosage is important.
But if you’re treating chronic allergies that require Benadryl, consulting with your veterinarian before fixing a feeding schedule is critical.
When Should You Not Give Benadryl to Dogs?
Benadryl contains traces of sodium which is not good for heart and kidney health in dogs. Excessive sodium consumption can cause hypertension in cardiac patients. Plus, it can impact blood vessels causing restriction of proper blood flow to and from the heart.
Too much sodium can also have a negative effect on the body’s central nervous system and kidneys. So if your dog has a heart or kidney condition of any kind, you should not give her Benadryl. (11)
Before you prepare a small dosage of Benadryl, determine whether your dog has a serious allergic condition. If so, consult your veterinarian immediately. An over-the-counter medicine, such as Benadryl, remains ineffective at controlling chronic allergies such as skin infections or glaucoma.
It’s possible that giving Benadryl to your dog can worsen his preexisting health condition. So make sure you consult with a veterinarian before reaching for the Benadryl bottle.
If your dog has any one of these health conditions, it’s important that you consult your vet before prescribing Benadryl.
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid disease
- Seizure disorder
- Cardiovascular disease
- Kidney disease
- Respiratory disease
- Urinary disorders
- Prostate hypertrophy
Always ask your doctor for advice before giving any kind of medication to your dog. You never know how the substances present in Benadryl might react in the body. It might aggravate a preexisting health condition, cause allergies, or weaken the immune system.
What’s The Right Way to Give Benadryl to Dogs?
Only if your veterinarian approves Benadryl as an effective treatment for allergies, hives, or other conditions.
Try by giving your dog tiny quantities of Benadryl. You can give her half of what’s prescribed by your doctor and wait for a couple of hours to see her response to the new medication. If you see no change, you can give her the remaining dose of Benadryl. If you see a slight change in reaction or a side-effect like itchiness, swelling, drooling, etc. contact your veterinarian immediately.
Once you know Benadryl is safe for your dog, give it with food. You can add it in her meal or give her Benadryl as a treat with doggy treats. This is important because giving Benadryl with food, rather than orally, can counteract some side-effects such as nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite.
Never mix tablets with wet food or liquid with dry food. You can crush the tablet into powder and add it into your dog’s dry food. This works effectively if your dog is not comfortable with swallowing an entire tablet by herself.
If you feed your dog wet food, consider buying liquid Benadryl instead of tablets. Mixing liquid Benadryl with wet food is safer during meal-time. This is necessary with dogs who are fussy and reject taking their medicines orally.
What is Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) Poisoning in Dogs?
Based on a report of fatal diphenhydramine poisoning in a 10-year old male dog proved that over-consumption of Benadryl can cause poisoning in dogs. While chemical poisoning in dogs is common and easy to detect, determining whether the poisoning is dangerous or not isn’t.
Feeding extreme amounts of Benadryl, without proper dosage awareness, can have detrimental effects on dogs. It impacts their immune, digestive, and metabolic system. When diphenhydramine is digested, it passes through the liver with 40% to 60% chances of it reaching the blood circulation. But that doesn’t mean a higher dosage of Benadryl can increase its chances of effectiveness.
According to this report, a healthy dose of 2mg to 4 mg per kilogram bodyweight is good for allergy treatment or mild sedation in dogs. These amounts show no changes in blood pressure, heart rate, or electrocardiogram in healthy dogs. (12)
A report showed that giving a dog 10mg per kilogram bodyweight resulted in increased drowsiness and non-REM sleep.
If your dog shows signs of depression, hyperactivity, or hypersalivation within 60 minutes of giving Benadryl, it may have resulted in overdose. Dogs who have overdosed too many times on Benadryl can also suffer from diphenhydramine poisoning.
Some antihistamines, including Benadryl, also contain alcohol, especially in their liquid form. This possesses a slightly sedative effect. So overdose of liquid Benadryl can increase consumption of alcohol. Which increases the toxicity level in the body causing diphenhydramine poisoning.
Quercetin- A Natural Alternative to Benadryl
If you’re still unsure about giving your dog Benadryl or if your dog has a health condition, consider giving your dog quercetin for treating allergies. Quercetin is a natural flavonoid present in many fruits and vegetables. It has anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, and antioxidant properties.
Just like Benadryl, quercetin blocks histamines from reaching cell receptors. It’s nature’s Benadryl for treating inflammation, skin infections, swelling, itchiness, etc. It even has positive respiratory effects on reducing airway constriction from asthma in dogs.
A simple study proved that quercetin, as a supplement, can boost metabolism and minimize the gastrointestinal tract’s oxidative capacity. (13)
Quercetin is present in apples, green tea, and broccoli. It also comes in the form of a supplement. You can tackle chronic allergies along with its symptoms with the help of quercetin tablets.
A standard dose of 8mg per pound of bodyweight is essential for treating allergies in dogs.
Wrapping It Up
Make sure the Benadryl you’re purchasing has only diphenhydramine as its active ingredient. Do not buy medication that contains diphenhydramine along with other cold or sinus-relieving medication. Unlike humans, a dog’s immune system may react negatively to such substances.
Also, watch out for Benadryl formulas with too much sodium. Some formulas that are generally prescribed for children contain some traces of sodium in them. For dogs, this may be the cause of high blood pressure, kidney, or heart disease. If your dog has some preexisting health condition, the sodium content may worsen it. So look for generic Benadryl without any sodium content.
Being an over-the-counter medication, you do not need to be scared for your dog’s safety. With proper awareness and understanding about Benadryl, you can do your best to do right by your pet companion. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to communicate certain aspects of their life to you. And this includes physical discomfort and pain. So taking precautions beforehand is necessary.
If you still feel Benadryl is not the right choice for your pooch, opt for a simpler and natural alternative- that is quercetin. It is famously known as nature’s Benadryl for treating allergies and inflammation in dogs.