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Benadryl For Dogs: Good or Bad?

Labrador retrieverAre you planning a long trip that could cause your dog to get motion-sickness?

Or maybe, the conference you have to attend on the east coast will give your pet an anxiety attack.

And, with spring right around the corner, what about those allergies that she invariably suffers from?

Gosh, there’s a wasp in the house — the last time your pet was stung, she scratched at it for over a week.

Yes, all the above situations can be alleviated with Benadryl. But, before you make a beeline to the nearest drug store, here are a few things that you need to know about this “wonder drug”.

What is Benadryl?

Benadryl is a brand name for a range of products that, in North America, contain diphenhydramine.

Diphenhydramine is the actual wonder drug; it is available under different brand names, as well as in generic form.

Generic forms are usually cheaper — for example, Benadryl Allergy (25 mg) sets you back around 20 cents per tablet, whereas the same dose from Kirkland’s generic brand sells for under 2 cents on Amazon.

Formulations containing diphenhydramine are often available over the counter (OTC).

For simplicity in this article when we say “Benadryl” we really mean Diphenhydramine.

How Does Benadryl Work?

Benadryl has three effects on your Dog:

  1. First, it is an antihistamine — this provides allergy relief from seasonal allergies or insect bites.
  2. Secondly, it is an antiemetic — this provides relief from motion sickness.
  3. Finally, it also is a sedative — this provides a calming effect to an anxious dog.

When Should You Use Benadryl for Your Dog?

In general, your first use of Benadryl should be under the supervision of a veterinarian. Not only will you be advised on the correct dose and the correct product, but you will have backup in case of an adverse reaction.

Having said that, Benadryl can be used to counter allergies, motion sickness, and to reduce anxiety. Dosages vary by purpose, so make sure you consult with your veterinarian.

How Do You Administer Benadryl?

Typically, the tablet form works best because it can easily be administered in a morsel of food.

For local skin issues like a bee sting, you can use a topical gel.

Do not, yourself, administer diphenhydramine by injection as there is potential for serious consequences.

When Do Clinics Use Diphenhydramine?

Clinics will use diphenhydramine in a variety of situations beyond what you will at home. For example:

  1. It is often administered prior to a blood transfusion to prevent a potentially deadly allergic reaction.
  2. Another common use is prior to removal of a mast cell tumor — again, to preclude an allergic reaction.
  3. It can also play a role during some cancer treatments which can trigger potentially dangerous reactions.

You may also recall being asked to remain within the clinic premises for a few minutes after your dog receives her vaccinations. That’s to cater to the possibility of an allergic reaction. Mild reactions are usually treated by the clinic with a diphenhydramine injection.

Not All Benadryl Are Created Equally?

Depending on which part of the world you live the Benadryl you pick to treat your dog might not contain diphenhydramine.

This seems odd, but only Benadryl products sold in North America contains diphenhydramine.

Benadryl products sold in the U.K. do not contain diphenhydramine; instead, they may contain either acrivastine or cetirizine. These drugs have some similarities to diphenhydramine, but a number of differences, too. They should not be treated as equivalent.

Benadryl sold in Australia and New Zealand, if you happen to be on a holiday there, contains no drug remotely like diphenhydramine.

Certain Benadryl Used On Dogs Can Be Deadly?

We stress again, that Benadryl is a brand name, which is a sort of umbrella term for a number of products.

Drugs marked Benadryl may often contains other drugs in addition to diphenhydramine; these will always be listed under “Active Ingredients” on the packaging. For example, “BENADRYL Severe Allergy Plus Sinus Headache Caplet” also contains acetaminophen and phenylephrine.

Important: some of these drugs, like acetaminophen, can be deadly to dogs!

A Final Word

Benadryl has become synonymous with diphenhydramine much like “xerox” with photocopying or “googling” with searching the internet. But some Benadryl products may contain other drugs in addition to diphenhydramine; in fact, in some countries, Benadryl may not contain diphenhydramine at all.

Also, some drugs contained in Benadryl can be fatal to your pet.

So, it is particularly important that you consult with your veterinarian before administering any Benadryl product or, for that matter, diphenhydramine, to your dog.