Can I Give My Dog Benadryl?

Apr 11, 2022

Is your doggo having an allergic reaction? It’s easy to think medications that work so well on humans can do the same for our pets, and in this specific case – you’re right. Benadryl is safe for dogs of any size.

You have the a-okay to give your dog this human medication, as long as it’s used appropriately. Your furry friend might be experiencing their own dog allergies, but Benadryl can also have a helpful effect on anxiety and motion sickness when traveling. Before you jump the gun, it’s good to know the basics.

What is Benadryl and how does it work?

Benadryl’s active ingredient, diphenhydramine HCL, is what helps fight allergies. Your immune system creates a chemical called histamine, which overreacts to whatever your body is allergic to. Since this over-the-counter drug is an antihistamine, that means it works by blocking the receptors that receive histamines in the body to relieve the symptoms of allergies like itching.

TLDR; It helps block allergies, and it does a dang good job.

Is Benadryl for my dog safe? Dosage, side effects, and more

Yes! *Deep exhale* Giving a dog Benadryl is safe. In fact, Benadryl is a fantastic medication to treat dogs with mild-to-moderate allergies. It’s most commonly used to treat skin allergies, but it can help aid with anything from seasonal allergies to environmental allergies to food allergies to an allergic reaction to a snake or insect bite.

If your dog is experiencing any of the allergy symptoms below, Benadryl can surely help with your dog’s health:

  • Hives
  • Itchy skin
  • Facial swelling and inflammation
  • Runny nose and eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Anaphylactic reaction

How much Benadryl can you give your dog?  

You might be wondering how much Benadryl you can give for a dog that’s large vs one that’s small. Like anything else, the best and most effective way to figure out the best dosage of Benadryl for your dog is to contact your veterinarian, especially because certain conditions like glaucoma and high blood pressure can’t be treated by Benadryl. We at Airvet deal with this type of question all the time, so you can leave it up to the experts on this one.

Your dog is going to have its own sweet spot with allergy medication. Size, breed, and age are factors that can potentially change the standard dosage. However, the recommended benadryl dosage for dogs is around 1mg of Benadryl per pound of body weight, two to three times a day, or until symptoms ease. So, for example, you would give a 25-pound dog 25 mg of Benadryl.

If using Benadryl as a mild sedative for motion sickness or any sort of thunderstorm or travel anxiety, it’s best to think ahead so you can plan out when you give it to your doggo. It will usually take 30 minutes for Benadryl to take full effect, and you want your pup calm and anxious-free.

In terms of what form of Benadryl, that’s entirely up to your vet. It doesn’t really matter if you use the brand name medication or not. With liquid Benadryl, it’s safer to use the children’s formula because it doesn’t have alcohol in it. The biggest well-known no-no is giving your doggo a time-release Benadryl tablets. Unfortunately, the pill is absorbed way differently in dogs than us humans, and could really cause harm if ingested.

Potential side effects of Benadryl for dogs

The most common side effect in dogs while taking Benadryl is drowsiness, so you may see your dog a little…sleepy. And if that’s the goal (to ease car rides) then we’re happy for you.

There are potential life threatening reactions that all dog owners should be aware of, especially if your doggo is taking any other medications or has pre-existing medical conditions. Talking to your vet beforehand will not only give you the insight you need but a clear and confident yes before pulling Benadryl out of the medicine cabinet.

Like many allergic reactions, side effects will occur within the first hour, so keep an eye on your pup and watch out for any of these symptoms.

Side effects for Benadryl in dogs include: 

  • Sedation of the central nervous system
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinary retention
  • Hypersalivation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing

Sometimes, there are even rare side effects:

If you notice your dog having any of the above symptoms, contact your vet immediately.

You should also watch out for signs of an overdose, which may include:

Feel comfortable knowing that for the most part,  over-the-counter Benadryl is totally fine, and sometimes even the best option for your dog. Bottom line: if your veterinarian gives you the ok, you’re in the clear.

If you’re in a pinch and having trouble contacting your vet, speak with us at Airvet – we’d be happy to help you decide if Benadryl is the best option for your furry friend.