Every pet owner has been there before — it’s evening and your vet just closed when you realize your dog has an upset stomach or has started itching badly. You want to give them a little relief until you can get to your veterinarian. Many owners are unsure of what over the counter (OTC) human medications can be used for their dogs, so I’m providing an overview to get you, and your dog, through the night.
While many OTC medications can be used safely in dogs, some of them can be toxic, or even fatal, to your dog. You need to research OTC medications very carefully before administering them. Additionally, dogs are typically much smaller than people — so using the amount of medication you would use for yourself could be toxic to your pet, even if it is a safe medication for dogs, because the dose given is too high. Thus, it is VERY important to calculate the correct dose of these medications before giving them to your pet. Below, I will cover some of the most common OTC medications owners ask me about using for their dog.
Many common OTC allergy medications (antihistamines) can be used in dogs. Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), and Claritin (loratadine) are the most commonly used OTC antihistamines for dogs. Antihistamines may make some dogs drowsy, while others might become more energetic. Make sure you pick a product that only contains the antihistamine ingredients listed above and no other active ingredients such as decongestants or stimulants. I typically prefer Benadryl or Zyrtec for my patients, the doses for these two are listed below:
Zyrtec (10mg tablets):<15 lbs– 5mg/day (1/2 tablet) per day, 15-39 lbs– 10mg (1 tablet) per day, 40+ lbs– 20mg (2 tablets) per day
Benadryl (25mg tablets or liquid)– The dose for dogs is 1mg per pound of body weight every 8-12 hours. For toy breed dogs Benadryl liquid can be used, just make sure not to use any sugar free versions of the liquid
**Side note — Many owners give their dog Benadryl in order to “calm them down,” and for most dogs this will have the opposite effect!
Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin:
Advil (Ibuprofen) is quite DANGEROUS for dogs and should NEVER be given! Tylenol and aspirin can be given to your dog if needed in a pinch. However, I strongly recommend getting an anti-inflammatory/pain medication from your veterinarian that is dog specific as they are much safer and MUCH more effective.
Tylenol (Acetaminophen) can be given at a dose of 5mg per pound of body weight twice daily.
Aspirin can be given at 5mg per pound of body weight twice daily.
Dramamine can be used for car or motion sickness. Dramamine can be used for mild car sickness, however it is not super-effective. Fortunately, there are dog-specific medications that you can get from your veterinarian (Cerenia) that work faster, are much more effective, and last longer. If you need to use dramamine in a pinch, the dose is 2mg to 3mg per pound of body weight every 8 hours.
There are many stomach medications that can be used for dogs that help with upset stomach, diarrhea, and vomiting. If the problem does not resolve or worsen, take your dog to your veterinarian to determine the cause of the diarrhea and get prescription medications to resolve it. These medications listed below can help settle your dog’s stomach until you can get to a vet, but will not fix many of the underlying causes of upset stomachs in dogs.
Pepto-Bismol can help settle an upset stomach. The dosage for dogs is 1 teaspoon per 5-10 pounds of body weight every 6 to 8 hours to help with both diarrhea and vomiting.
Imodium is a good treatment for diarrhea and can help dogs. It will not fix the problem that is causing the diarrhea but can help solidify the stool. The dose for dogs is 0.5mg per 10 pounds of body weight every 12 hours. NOTE: Do NOT use if your dog is a Collie, Sheltie, or Australian Shepherd.
Pepcid AC (Famotidine) and Prilosec (Omeprazole) are used to help decrease stomach acid and prevent heartburn. They can help with an upset stomach, but they will not cure the cause of it, just help settle things down.
Famotidine (Pepcid) – 0.25 to 0.5mg per pound of body weight twice daily
Omeprazole (Prilosec) – 0.25 to 0.5mg per pound of body weight once daily
Kaopectate —This anti-diarrhea is quite safe and can help settle an upset stomach. The dose is 1 ml per pound of body weight.
Miralax —This is a flavorless powder that can help with constipation. It helps make the stool less firm, so if your dog is constipated this can help ease their symptoms. Starting doses are listed below, and the dose can be increased slowly until reaching desired effects if the starting dose is not effective enough.
- Small dogs —1/8 to ¼ teaspoon every 12 hours
- Medium dogs —¼ to ½ teaspoon every 12 hours
- Large dogs —½ to 1 teaspoon every 12 hours
TOPICAL ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENTS
Neosporin/Triple Antibiotic ointments —These common topical antibiotics can be used for minor cuts and scrapes on your dog. Clean the wounds first and a thin layer of the ointment can be applied 2 to 3 times a day.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While there are many medications that can be purchased over the counter to use for dogs, most of them are not as effective as dog-specific medications you can get from your veterinarian. If you decide to use OTC medications on your dog, make sure you thoroughly research the medication and its safety for use in dogs, then calculate the correct dose for your dog. In addition, if your pet is on medications prescribed by your veterinarian, I STRONGLY recommend consulting with your veterinarian before giving any over the counter medications, as medications can interact with each other and cause problems for your pup!
Spencer Mills, DVM
Have you needed to use OTCs on your dog? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments!
Dr. Mills is a veterinarian and avid dog lover who is dedicated to helping further educate pet owners on all things health related for their four-legged companions. In addition to practicing in his local vet clinic, Dr. Mills has a mobile house call veterinary business, works with numerous local shelters and rescue organizations, and is in the process of opening an emergency veterinary clinic giving him a wide array of experience in the veterinary field.