By Helen Anne Travis
When our pets are sick, we want to do everything possible to make them feel better. Sometimes that means giving them the same medications we use to treat our own strains, sprains, and symptoms.
While some of the pills and potions in our medicine cabinets are safe for pets, it’s imperative to consult your veterinarian before administering any new medication, says Dr. Cathy Meeks, a board-certified internal medicine specialist and a Group Medical Director at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Florida.
“We have to remember the size of our pets compared to us,” she says. “Even with the medications that are safe for pets, the dosages are drastically different.” And some drugs are flat out dangerous for pets at even the tiniest doses.
Here are nine “human medicines” that, when dosed properly, are vet-approved to help your pet feel better faster.
Uses: Helps reduce stomach acid and protect the stomach lining
Pepcid can be used to treat or prevent ulcers and inflammation caused by stomach acid in pets and humans. Some pet owners also administer it to pets to help with vomiting. But this isn’t always a sure-fire plan, Meeks says. If your pet is vomiting and uninterested in her food, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. Consult your veterinarian if symptoms continue, she advises.
While Pepcid is relatively safe for pets, in dogs it may cause side effects such as loss of appetite and drowsiness, says Dr. Carol Osborne, an integrative veterinarian and author of the books “Naturally Healthy Cats” and “Naturally Healthy Dogs.”
“Signs of overdose include vomiting, increased heart rate, red mouth and ears, pale gums, restlessness, low blood pressure, and collapse,” Osborne says.
Uses: Helps reduce stomach acid
Prilosec is another acid-reducing medication that’s generally safe for pets, Osborne says. But it’s not without its side effects, which may include decreased appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, and changes in urination or behavior
Uses: Antidiarrheal and cough reliever
While Lomotil can treat diarrhea, it’s most often used as a cough suppressant in dogs. Smaller toy breeds are predisposed to collapsing trachea, a condition whose symptoms include a persistent cough, Meeks says. Lomotil can help dry out the air passages and reduce the spasms that cause coughing.
Lomotil is a relatively safe drug, but since it’s also an antidiarrheal, side effects may include constipation in pets and confusion in pet owners, she says.
“Whenever I prescribe it, people will call back and say, ‘I think you gave us the wrong medicine,’” Meeks says.
Uses: Antihistamine and mild sedative
Just like with humans, Benadryl can be used to help treat acute allergic reactions, Osborne says. It can also serve as a mild sedative for pets who are stressed out by road trips or fireworks and as a preventative for motion sickness.
Side effects include dry mouth, decreased urination, vomiting, and loss of appetite, Osborne says. It may also cause hyperexcitability in cats.
To learn more about giving Benadryl to dogs, watch this video. By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
Benadryl, also known by its generic name diphenhydramine, is one of the few over-the-counter drugs that veterinarians routinely have owners administer at home. While it is generally well tolerated and has a wide safety margin, there are a few things owners should keep in mind before dosing it at home:
1. What is Benadryl used for?
Benadryl is an antihistamine, blocking the H-1 receptors on smooth muscle and blood vessels. Some of its most common indications are the treatment of environmental allergies, allergic reactions to insect bites or stings, and pre-treatment of vaccine reactions. It also has some efficacy in the prevention of motion sickness in dogs and as a mild sedative.
2. When should I not use Benadryl?
Benadryl is contraindicated with certain conditions, such as pets with glaucoma, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. It’s always best to contact your veterinarian for guidance before administering any medication to your pet, including Benadryl.
- How much Benadryl should I give?
The standard dosage for oral Benadryl is 1 mg per pound of body weight, given 2-3 times a day. Most drug store diphenhydramine tablets are 25 mg, which is the size used for a 25 pound dog. Always double check the dosage before giving an over the counter medication. In addition, many formulations are combined with other medications such as Tylenol so make sure Benadryl tablets contain only diphenhydramine.
- When should I contact my veterinarian?
Oral Benadryl is considered a mild to moderately effective antihistamine. If a pet is having an acute allergic reaction with facial swelling or difficulty breathing, skip the oral medications and go straight to the vet. Many allergic diseases require a combination of medications and treatment of underlying infections; if your pet is not responding to the medication, talk to your vet for other options.
Saline Eye and Nose Drops
Uses: Rinses, moisturizes, and relieves congestion
Meeks says she uses children’s nose drops to help clear the upper airways of congested cats. Saline eye drops can also help relieve mild conjunctivitis and other eye irritations.
Uses: Relieves motion sickness and vertigo
Pets get dizzy too, Meeks says. Properly dosed Dramamine can help relieve the symptoms of carsickness and vertigo. The most common side effect is drowsiness, she says.
Glucosamine, Chondroitin, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Uses: Improves joint health
These supplements can be administered to older or injured animals to help alleviate the pain caused by arthritis and other joint problems, Meeks says. There are little, if any, side effects, she says.
Everyone’s favorite stinging antiseptic can also help induce vomiting in pets who have swallowed something they’re not supposed to, say a dog who just ate five chocolate bars. But call your vet first. You don’t always want to induce vomiting when a pet has eaten something dangerous. Batteries, among many other examples.