Is Benadryl for Dogs Safe? The Controversial Remedy for Dogs

is benadryl for dogs safe

The emotions we experience upon noticing the unmistakable signals of an allergic reaction in our dog:

Worried. Panicked. Helpless. Afraid.

But there’s a simple, inexpensive item in your very own medicine cabinet that could help your furry friend right now.  What is it?


More specifically, diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in the drug better known by the brand name Benadryl.

It’s a non-prescription drug that can help treat a number of different conditions in people—but it can be a very powerful tool to help your pup stay healthy and happy, too!

In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Benadryl for dogs.

We know that in giving a potentially dangerous drug to your trusting four-footed bff, you have questions:

  • What is Benadryl, exactly?
  • What conditions can it be used to treat?
  • Does Benadryl have side effects for dogs?
  • How do I determine the right dose of Benadryl for my dog?
  • How do I administer Benadryl to my dog?
  • Are there any dogs that shouldn’t take Benadryl?
  • What happens if my dog overdoses on Benadryl?

We’ll answer all of these questions for you (and more!)

Benadryl for Dogs: What is it? What’s it for? How do I use it effectively?

Benadryl is one of the brand names under which diphenhydramine is sold. It’s best known as an antihistamine. An antihistamine is a medication that counteracts allergic reactions.

There are other uses for Benadryl for dogs, as well.  We’ll cover those too!

Uses For Benadryl

As we’ve mentioned, Benadryl is well-known as an allergy medicine. That means Benadryl can be used to treat many different allergy-related symptoms in dogs.

Veterinarians also prescribe Benadryl for dogs that suffer from situational anxiety and for motion sickness, according to the American Kennel Club.

But how do you even know your pup’s allergies are acting up?

Look for these signs:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, itchy, or dry eyes
  • Excessive itchiness
  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Redness and inflammation

When the symptom is due to an allergic reaction, Benadryl may be able to give your dog some relief—and you some peace of mind. It’s also good for runny noses and watering eyes caused by other things.

But that’s not all this medicine can do to help your pooch!

Benadryl can be used as a sedative and a treatment for motion sickness, according to Jessica Vogelsang, DVM.  Its efficacy as a mild sedative makes it an ideal treatment for many dogs that suffer from travel anxiety or anxiety in other unfamiliar situations.

Your vet probably wouldn’t recommend Benadryl as a treatment for chronic anxiety problems, as there are more suitable medications that won’t sedate your dog. But it can be very helpful for situational anxiety

Situational anxiety, as the name of this condition implies, is fear or anxiety that arises due to the circumstances or situation in which your dog has found itself. Some common causes of situational anxiety in dogs include:

  • Fireworks
  • Thunderstorms
  • Travel
  • Unfamiliar or unusual visitors, like movers
  • Unfamiliar noises, especially loud noises like construction

Symptoms of anxiety in dogs include:

  • Trembling or shivering
  • Tail tucked between legs
  • Hiding
  • Refusing to engage or take part in activities
  • Attempts to escape
  • Diarrhea
  • Compulsive licking or other behaviors

Benadryl’s mild sedative effects can help calm an anxious dog, lessening the intensity of their distress.

What if the next door neighbor decides that New Year’s Eve is a great time to make the neighborhood seem like there’s an air raid overhead? You might be able to soothe Fido’s fireworks fears with a simple dose of Benadryl.

The active ingredient in Benadryl, diphenhydramine, is very close to the active ingredient in Dramamine, chemically speaking.  Dramamine is an over the counter remedy for motion sickness in humans, and vets may also prescribe it for dogs.

The similarity between the two drugs means that Benadryl may also be effective at helping your dog cope with sickness that results from the motion of a vehicle. Symptoms of motion sickness in dogs include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Compulsive licking
  • Repetitive swallowing
  • Restlessness
  • Trembling
  • Whining
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Determining Dosage and Administering Benadryl

Before you decide to give your dog Benadryl, you’ll need to make certain that diphenhydramine is the only active ingredient in the drug.  Whether or not it’s generic or brand name is less important than ensuring you don’t give your dog a medication that might be dangerous for him.

Don’t go by the brand name or color of the bottle alone.  Many formulations—even Benadryl brand formulations—can include other medications to address a combination of symptoms.

Benadryl for dogs also comes in many different forms, including liquid, tablets, capsules, and even powders.  Any of these should be fine, as long as diphenhydramine is the only drug they contain.

The dosage for dogs is 1 to 2 mg of diphenhydramine per pound, with 1 mg per pound typically being quite effective.  You don’t want to give your dog more medication than they really need.

Over medicating your dog can cause your dog to become resistant to Benadryl. It can also lead to an overdose.

How you measure the dosage and administer Benadryl will depend on its form.  Read the instructions carefully. They will tell you how many milligrams are in a teaspoon of liquid or powder, or in each capsule or tablet.

Tablets can be broken in half if necessary to give your dog the right dose.

Of course, for the medication to be successful, you’ll have to figure out how to get your pup to actually take it!

Administering medication to dogs can sometimes be difficult. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that most dogs don’t care for the smell or taste of Benadryl, regardless of the form it is in. Here are a few tips for administering Benadryl for dogs.

  • Use a baby medicine spoon or a needle-less syringe to give your dog liquid forms of Benadryl. Open his mouth and squirt the medicine (slowly!) on the back of his tongue or in the back of the side of his mouth.
  • Mix powder or liquid Benadryl with a strong smelling, pleasant tasting food that you know your dog enjoys, like peanut butter or cheese spread. Even if he doesn’t care for the food with the medicine in it, sticky foods like peanut butter can be placed in his mouth—they’re hard for him to spit out.
  • Tablets and capsules can also be concealed in treats. There are even treats especially made for this purpose. If you don’t have any treats specifically created for administering pills, you can fold a piece of cheese or meat around the pill.

If you’re not having any luck getting your dog to eat tablets or capsules by concealing them in food, you can also force him to swallow the pills:

  • Place the pill in his mouth, preferably toward the back of tongue.
  • Carefully hold his mouth closed. Do not restrict his breathing.
  • Gently stroke your dog’s throat. This encourages swallowing. You’ll also probably be able to feel it when he swallows the pill.
  • Watch your dog for a few minutes after this procedure. Some dogs are very resistant to taking pills, and may hold the pill in their cheek rather than swallow it, and then spit it out.

Here are a few more general tips to keep in mind when you’re giving your dog medicine:

  • Keep your mood cheerful, calm, and positive.

Remember, you’re trying to get your dog to do something he doesn’t like, and he doesn’t understand why.  Be gentle and understanding—he’s not rebelling against you because he wants to be naughty.

  • Be patient.

If your dog is having an allergic reaction or anxiety, it’s understandable that you want to treat him as quickly as possible.  However, your impatience can make your dog more stressed out by the situation, which might make him less cooperative.

  • Be encouraging.

Your pup is probably already a bit stressed and worried about taking medicine, even if you’re not treating him for anxiety.  Telling him he’s bad will only make things worse, so comfort him and tell him he’s a good dog whenever he’s showing signs of cooperating.

  • Reward your dog after he takes medicine.

Make a big deal out of what an accomplishment it is once you’ve successfully administered his Benadryl, even if your dog made it a challenging process.  By having him associate successfully swallowing medicine with praise, you’ll make future experiences with medicine less stressful.

Counter-indications, Side Effects, and Overdoses

Not every dog should take Benadryl, and sometimes even if it seemed like the right treatment, it could have unwanted side effects.  Also, as with any medication, there is some risk of an overdose or allergic reaction.

Age, medical conditions, and other factors might influence whether or not your dog should take Benadryl. Here are some things that might counter-indicate giving your dog Benadryl:

  • Glaucoma

If your dog suffers from glaucoma, he probably shouldn’t take Benadryl. Be sure to talk to your vet about alternative treatments if he does have this condition.

  • High blood pressure

High blood pressure and cardiovascular conditions could mean that your dog shouldn’t take Benadryl.

  • Other medical conditions

If your dog has any other medical conditions, you should always talk to your vet before giving him any medications.  Some medical conditions that could interfere with how his body processes medicine include prostatic hypertrophy, bladder neck obstruction, pregnancy, and allergic lung disease.

  • Age

It’s always a good idea to consult with a vet if you are planning to give medication to a very young or a very old dog. Age can affect how medications are absorbed, and it can also influence what the correct dosage is.

  • Your dog is taking other medications

Benadryl is considered to be very safe for dogs. Nonetheless, your pup could have a reaction if he is taking other medicines at the same time. Consult with your vet.

All medications have the potential to cause side effects.  Severe side effects with Benadryl are very uncommon, but you should always be alert to unexpected side effects.

Sometimes people think that if they’ve given a dog a medication in the past, that means that the dog will always be able to safely consume that medicine.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Even if your dog has taken Benadryl without incident in the past, he could start to exhibit unwanted side effects.  Don’t let your guard down.

Some of the more common side effects of Benadryl include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Excessive drooling
  • Faster heart rate
  • Panting or faster breathing.
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Changes in appetite

If you notice your dog experiencing discomfort from these side effects, contact your veterinarian.

Overdoses on Benadryl are quite rare, but they can occur. Unfortunately, they can also be fatal.

If you believe your dog has overdosed on Benadryl, he needs medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of overdose include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dilated pupils
  • Seizures
  • Constipation
  • Agitation

Also, while allergies to Benadryl are uncommon, there have been cases of dogs that exhibit allergic reactions to Benadryl. Observe your dog carefully.

If you administered Benadryl in response to your dog exhibiting allergy symptoms already, make sure that they don’t seem to be getting worse.

If your dog’s allergy symptoms are not going away or are getting worse after giving him Benadryl, you need to contact your vet or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

Conclusion: Benadryl and Your Dog

Using Benadryl for dogs suffering from allergic reactions, situational anxiety, or motion sickness can be a great solution. Diphenhydramine is inexpensive, convenient, and can be safely used to treat a wide variety of symptoms and conditions.

However, always keep your pet’s safety in mind:

  • Always calculate dosages carefully.
  • Consult with your vet if you’re unsure about your pet’s condition.
  • Consult with your vet if you’re not sure Benadryl is the right solution.
  • Don’t overuse medications when they’re not necessary. Look for non-medical solutions, also.

Finally, don’t assume that because one medication for human beings is okay for dogs, that every single human medication is acceptable for use in dogs.  No matter how harmless a medication may seem, it could be a bad idea to give it to your dog.

We know how strong the bond between you and your dog can be.  That’s why we here at Bulldogology want to provide you with comprehensive, accurate, and helpful information.

This information can help keep your pup happy, healthy, and safe.  If this guide has been helpful for you, please “like” and “share” it, so that other dog owners can benefit from it as well!

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