OTC Medication for Dogs What You Can & Can't Give Your Pet

OTC Medication for Dogs


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Knowing what to give your pet for their scratchy eyes or blistered paws can be challenging. This quick guide will help make sure you know what's safe (and what isn't) for your four-legged friend.

Whether your pet is experiencing a upset stomach or a simple bug bite, over-the-counter (OTC) medication intended for humans can sometimes be the solution. But, not everything you take for yourself is safe for your pooch.

Keep in mind that these are just general guidelines, and it's always ideal to consult with your veterinarian before giving your pet anything.

For Allergies

If your dog is stung by a bee or bit by a mosquito, it's important that you make sure their vaccines and heart worm medication is up-to-date. If so, your next logical step is to give them something to ease their itching and prevent an allergic reaction from occurring.

In this case, it's safe to reach for Benadryl, the same thing you'd take if you experienced it yourself. However, Benadryl should never be given to a dog that has Glaucoma, Cardiovascular Disease, or High Blood Pressure.

While it's considered safe and effective for most dogs, if they experience swelling or difficulty breathing, take them straight to the vet (this could be a reaction to the Benadryl or an allergy to the bite/irritant itself).

When figuring out the dosage, your dog should be given about 1 mg per pound of body weight (give them this dosage 2-3 times per day until no longer needed). Most tablets are 25 mg, which makes them perfect for a 25-pound dog.

Make sure that the Benadryl you give them has no other active ingredients on the label aside from diphenhydramine. Benadryl actually has a few different uses for your pooch, including motion sickness and environmental allergies.

For Motion Sickness

A dose of Benadryl can help your dog if they are experiencing motion sickness, but if that's not an option, there are also some other solutions.

First and foremost, consider trying to make the trip itself less stressful for your dog. You can do this by getting them accustomed to short, calm rides in the car. Basically, train them that the car is a fun place to be and not something that should make them anxious.

Look for signs of motion sickness so you can react accordingly during the ride. These symptoms include excessive licking of lips, excessive drooling, yawning, whining, crying, immobility, and vomiting.

Before giving your dog medication, there are many simple ways to help alleviate their motion sickness. Aside from getting them accustomed to traveling in your car, which you can do over a period of a few weeks by taking them on various short trips during the day, you can also crack the window while driving to give them fresh air.

You should also enable your dog to look out the window. Just like with humans, watching out the window (versus looking at a stationary object within the vehicle) can help stop motion sickness from occurring or at least lessen it to some degree.

Make sure you don't feed your dog directly before a car trip either, but take frequent breaks and give them the chance to drink from a portable water bottle.

When it comes to OTC medication, dramamine is considered save for most adult dogs, but you should talk to your vet first. Cerenia is also a motion sickness medication specifically formulated for dogs and cats, but you'll need to ask your vet for a prescription.

For Gas, Constipation & Diarrhea

When your dog is experiencing digestive upset, you have a few different options.

For gas and bloating, you can give your dog Gas-X (Simethicone) as a short-term solution. But, if the problem persists, you should definitely talk to your vet about it. Give your small dog about 25 mg total and up to 200 mg for a large dog. They can be given this medication every 6-12 hours until no longer needed.

For constipation, your vet may suggest giving them a mild laxative, but the dosage will depend on the severity of their constipation and your dog’s size. Only some laxatives are safe, and they are generally discouraged, so definitely give your vet a call first.

For diarrhea, Pepto-Bismol is safe for dogs. Imodium tablets can also be given to larger dogs (each tablet contains 2 mg of the drug), but you should ask your veterinarian first.

For Pain

An injury, infection, or disease can all cause pain in your pet. Your first response should always be to make a vet appointment to get to the root of the problem, but is there anything you can give them in the meantime?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are widely used by humans to help reduce stiffness, joint pain, and swelling. Fortunately, they can do the same thing for your dog and are commonly prescribed following surgery or a diagnosis or arthritis.

However, in this case, you can't simply reach into your own medicine cabinet to pull something out. Instead, opt for a pet-safe solution like: carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl), deracoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), or meloxicam (Metacam).

If you're in a pinch and cannot access one of the above, you probably have Aspirin in your cabinet. This OTC medication may be okay to give to your dog (ask your vet) but it should not be given over the long-term. Aspirin is only safe for dogs in the short-term for a very limited amount of time, like if you can't get to the vet until the weekend to address something that's causing them pain.

Aspirin does come with the risk of many side effects, including bleeding. The risk of these side effects greatly increases as you continue to give your dog Aspirin, which is why you should keep the dosage low and the period of use as short as possible. Coated aspirin is best for the stomach and you should always give your dog a pill inside of food.

Hopefully you can reach your vet for a personalized recommendation, but the general guidelines are 5mg to 10mg of Aspiring per pound of body weight. You can give them this dosage twice a day (once every 12 hours). A typical baby Aspirin is 80mg and a typical standard sized Aspirin is 325mg, for reference.

So, if your dog weighs 50 pounds, you'd want to give them 250mg, which is about 3/4 of a standard sized Aspirin.

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