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Antihistamine For Dogs

Updated on May 9, 2011

What Are Antihistamines?

Those of us who suffer from allergies are already aware of the symptoms - scratchy and teary eyes, itchy bumps and rashes covering your body, and a miserable feeling that leaves one feeling miserable all over. Just makes you feel awful thinking about it, right? 

Well, it might surprise you that pets can suffer from allergies too. Yep, just like us they can be allergic to pollen, food, fleas, dust mites, etc. Given the many things one can be allergic to, it's no wonder nearly all of us have an allergy to something.

So, what do we do we we find ourselves suffering from allergies? Well, we take antihistamines to block the allergens and to alleviate the symptoms - and it works the same way with dogs, expect we're the ones providing the meds, as their little paws aren't well adapted to opening up pill bottles. And that's the way it should be, right? After all, you wouldn't let a small child medicate themselves, and we do understand that our pets are small children in need of our care.

Well then, let's learn more so we can care for our loved one properly, eh?

How Do Antistamines Work?

Antihistamines for dogs are generally prescribed in pill form, and once you manage to trick Rover into taking one of these yucky pills (yes, all dogs think pills are yucky, don't you?) the medicine then travels through the bloodstream and goes to work, blocking the histamines that are causing your pet's discomfort.

Of course, knowing pills are yucky to dogs you might go with something more liquidy. Your vet can assist you with finding the least-troublesome med that will make both you and Rover happy.

And what are histamines? Histamines are the things we are allergic to. Thus, the reason we take antihistamines to fight off the effects of histamines. Makes sense, doesn't it? Yes, it seems there should be more to the story, but it's really an Old West tale of good guys vs. bad guys, where the histamines are wearing the black hats and the antihistamines are wearing the white hats. So, if you drive the histamines out of town you save Dodge City, right? Good ... glad my little analogy helped ya out!

What Antihistamines Are Available for dogs?

Benadryl is the best known antihistamine for dogs. It reduces itchiness and swelling while attempting to barricade your pet against airborne allergens. At a recommended doe of 1mg/lb twice daily, it's very effective in most cases. However, be certain the Benadryl you have prescribed to your dog only contains diphenhydramine - nothing else - as other ingredients could dilute the med, impeding your dog's recovery.

Chloropheniramine in another histamine available that comes in tablets that are administered (as a rule) three times daily. While it's not particularly effective for dogs, it is very effective for cats, which once again shows there are major differences between the internal physiology of cats and dogs, and why both should be treated seperately (and differently) when it comes to caring for their health.

Clemastine has been observed by many pet owners to be highly effective and is given every 12 hours. When compared to Benadryl it's a very close race as both meds are highly effective. Of course, the reason both exist is because some pets respond better to one med than the other. Thus, if Benadryl isn't working, try Clemastine.

Hydroxyzine is the last of the well known antihistamines for dogs. I only include it for the completeness of this article and by no means highly recommend it. While it's more aggressive at fighting off allergies than the other three, the trade off is the side effects - in particular, seizures. To be honest, I would rather have my dog scratching away to China than risk inducing a seizure (regardless of how low that risk is), which is why I won't recommend this pet med.

How Effective Are These Antihistamines?

Well, there is no 'one med cures all'. As such, that's why multiple meds exist for this condition. Personally, I would start with Baytril, and if that didn't work I would move onto Clemastine. Save Chloropeniramine for a time when the others fail, and if that doesn't work I wouldn't move onto Hydroxyzine, for the reason mentioned above.

Yes, there will be those who swear that Hydroxyzine was the miracle cure when everything else failed, and yes, they will say how it caused no injury to their pet. Fair enough. But you don't own their pet, you own yours, which is why you can't count on another person's good fortune to guarantee your own.

Are There Any Side Effects?

All pet meds have side effects of some sort or another. That's why it's important to know what they are, so we can establish their severity before medicating our pets and so we can know what to look for, should our pets condition happen to change.

Most antihistamines cause drowsiness. Again, you allergy sufferers out there are already aware of this. It's one of those trade-offs. To feel better we need to feel groggy, but that's much better than itchy, teary, and miserable, right?

Chlorophemiramine adds the possibilities of lethargy and diarrhea to the fun. Again, mild and manageable effects, but less pleasent than most. That's why I count this med as my thrid choice and not my first or second.

Finally, Hydroxyzine can cause nausea and seizures, and neither one is good for your pet as both conditions are worse than the one you are trying to cure.

A rich diet in fatty acids will help the antihistamines do their job, and could also help your pet accept the meds better. As such, a diet change is recommended during the course of treatment.

Can Antihistamines Be Purchased Online?

Yes, they can. However, I do highly recommend (and I can't stress this enough through my pet meds series) that you allow the vet to have a look at your dog first, to be certain you are about to treat the right condition with the right medicine.

While I agree that vet bills are yucky (just like dog pills), but backyards and pet cemeteries are filled with the old bones of pets who were misdiagnosed or prescribed meds improperly. And if you think that was written to scare you - it was - as I want you to think before acting. Sometimes underlying conditions can present themselves as pet allergies and giving your pet antihistamines will remove the symptoms without curing the actual ailment that lies below the skin. As such, you could overlook a more serious issue, placing your pet at risk.

That's why it's so important to have your vet look over your dog and then when he prescribes the needed meds you can purchase them online as you please, knowing that you are providing the proper meds for the proper condition.

I Can't Thank You Enough For Reading This Article

As a pet lover who owns three animals of my own (A German shepherd named Rex, a Siamese cat names Keisha, and an Ocicat named Simba), I dispense this information to help others. But I debated doing so, as I know knowledge can be poison just as much as it can be helpful. Some of us take things into our own hands without recognizing the consequences that could come later.

Two years ago I lost my favorite cat, a Lynx-point siamese by the name of Tyco. And, while nothing could be done different (he was diagnosed with wet FIP and died of fluid in his lungs), I know he didn't suffer much as the problem was found quickly (due to periodic checkups) and he was cared for properly (through meds that eased his suffering until it was time to put him to sleep).

I still miss those paws that would bat me in the nose and wake me in the middle of the night, and I do hope that some of the information I provide will prevent someone else from missing a loved one, as I miss mine.

The worst part of pet care is having a pet's health spiral out of control and know there is nothing that can be done, and that's why I write this series on pet meds, to quietly remind people that there are many treatable conditions out there and that - if managed properly - they can lead to happy results.

So Tyco, if you're listening up there ... I'm spreading the word little buddy. I'm spreading the word ...

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    • Paulart profile image

      Paulart 5 years ago from 2510 Warren Avenue Cheyenne,Wyoming 82001

      Very nice information is given regarding Antihistamine for dogs.

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      Yoshi this is a great article we have a Cocker who suffers from allergies and we give him benadryl, I cannot thank you enough for telling me what hydroxizine would do to our dog, thank God we never gave that to him!! :)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      Well researched, yoshi, thanks for the illuminaing information. I know that dogs are subject to many of the same ailments affecting humans, but I wasn't aware of the value of antihistamines for those who have allergies.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Thanks for the info - I know Benadryl works great for dogs but will have to look into the others.