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Benadryl for dogs: benefits and alternatives

Is Benadryl safe for dogs?

Is Benadryl safe for dogs?

As dog guardians you must have heard of Benadryl for dogs. Is it a safe option as an over-the-counter medication? Let’s find out.

Most dog guardians must have heard about the benefits of Benadryl for dogs. It is a very common medication in case of humans. Primarily used to alleviate the itchiness of skin as well as to fight seasonal allergies, Benadryl has a wide safety margin for humans. However, is it a safe over-the-counter medication for your dog too?

The first thing I would advise is to not give your dog any medication out of your medicine cabinet. Dogs have a very different constitution compared to humans. The medication for humans and dogs is widely different. Hence, do not administer any medication to your dog without a prior consultation with your veterinarian.  

For easy understanding of the article, I have divided the article into the following subheadings

Some other articles you may be interested in:

Kennel cough in dogs: causes and symptoms
Hypothyroidism in dogs. All you need to know as a dog guardian

What is Benadryl?

The drug known as diphenhydramine is commonly referred to as Benadryl. Diphenhydramine has been observed to reduce the harmful effects of histamine in your dog’s system.

What does histamine do?

Histamine has a few very important roles:

Moderate amounts of histamine can help your dog’s body function properly. However, in case of allergic reactions, the production of histamine is way too much. Under high conditions, histamine can cause damage to your dog’s capillaries. This causes blood plasma to leak into the body tissues and causes redness, itchiness as well as inflammation which is observed as a response in dog allergy.

Histamine is a chemical released by your dog’s body in response to an allergic reaction, an injury or any kind of inflammatory reaction. Since Benadryl primarily works to counteract histamine, it is referred to as anti-histamine. This is a medical term most dog guardians must be familiar with. Diphenhydramine plugs the receptors which receives the histamine. This relives the symptoms associated with production of histamine like sneezing, hives and itching.

Diphenhydramine is a first-generation anti histamine, which has the ability to cross through the blood-brain barrier. The purpose of the blood brain-barrier is the protect the brain from bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances. The blood brain barrier allows a very few selective compounds to pass through, Benadryl being one of them.

The potential ability of diphenhydramine to cross the blood brain barrier easily makes it a very potent drug. However, this ability of diphenhydramine also elevates the risk of adverse side effects of this drug.

What disease is Benadryl used to treat in dogs?

Benadryl is used to treat many symptoms on dogs including the following:

Benadryl also helps to relieve pain in dogs.

It is also used to treat other diseases when used in conjugation with other medications like:

Benadryl has not been approved by the FDA for veterinary use. However, it is considered safe for administration to dogs and is very popular in veterinary practices across US.

Let’s understand the use of Benadryl in different diseases in more detail:

Benadryl to treat dog allergies:

In case of humans, seasonal allergies cause sneezing runny noses, teary eyes, itching etc.

In case of dogs, the symptoms of allergy are very different. Dogs mostly show allergy on the surface of their skin.

In some cases, dogs do show symptoms similar to humans. However, you must make sure that your pup is not suffering from a serious allergic episode. The most common symptoms of allergies in dogs are:

However, these symptoms can also be indicative of other disorders in dogs. Hence, never assume what your dog might be suffering from. Always consult your vet before you administer any medication to your pup.

Check out the complete article on allergies in dogs, symptoms and treatment.


Benadryl to treat hives in dogs:

Benadryl has been observed to be an effective treatment for both dogs as well as humans. Even though dogs look very miserable when suffering from hives and their skin breaking out, dog guardians must not worry. The hives can be easily treated without any complications with Benadryl.

Benadryl to treat anxiety in dogs:

One of the primary side effects of Benadryl is that it makes your pup drowsy and sleepy. If your dog suffers from anxiety or becomes anxious during thunderstorms, car rides or fireworks, Benadryl can be extremely effective in easing the symptoms of anxiety as well as calming down your anxious pup quickly.

Benadryl can be used to treat motion sickness in dogs:

If your dog hates car rides or feels sick during the same, Benadryl can be very helpful in calming your pup down and ensuring a smooth ride. Benadryl will put your pup in a state of drowsiness which helps him or her overcome stressful situations like riding in a car or a boat, travelling etc.

Benadryl can be used to treat mast cell tumor in dogs:

Mast cells are the primary cells responsible for most allergic reactions in both dogs as well as humans. If your dog is suffering from mast cell tumors, he or she will undergo mast cell degeneration which leads to a ton of histamine release, causing symptoms of allergic reactions. If your dog is suffering from a mast cell tumor, your vet might recommend using Benadryl to reduce the symptoms of allergic reaction caused by the release of histamine from tumor cells.

Benadryl is used to treat heartworms in dogs

If your pup has heartworms, killing the heartworms can cause a massive allergic reaction in your dog. Hence, veterinarians generally recommend administration of Benadryl to the dog along with heartworm medication to ease the symptoms associated with the death of heartworms.

What dose of Benadryl should be used for dogs?

When vets prescribe Benadryl for dogs, it should only be administered in the form of a tablet. In certain cases, your vet might recommend administration of Benadryl in liquid form to your dog. The doses of Benadryl primarily depend on your dog’s body weight. Never opt for the time release capsules in case of dogs. These capsules will react differently in your dog than you and will affect the dosage your dog receives. Another risk with time release capsules is that they might break during the chewing process and release a ton of medication at once putting your dog at the risk of overdose.

According to experts, 1 mg of Benadryl per 1 pound of dog’s body weight is enough. The recommended dose can be administered to your dog 2 to 3 times per day.

Benadryl has been observed to take effect by 30 minutes of the dogs entering your dog’s body. One primary thing to keep in mind here is that every dog will respond differently to any medication. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a talk with your vet and find out if Benadryl is right drug for your pup and what dose of Benadryl should you use if needed.

Side effects of Benadryl

Benadryl is a very helpful drug when it comes to dogs. However, it has its own closet full of skeletons.

Even though it has been deemed as safe for use in dogs, responsible dog guardians must be aware of any side effect with this drug can cause to the dog.

Some potential side effects of use of Benadryl in case of dogs involve:

Overdose of Benadryl:

This is another reason, why I always tell you to consult your veterinarian before you decide to give any over-the-counter medication to your dog. Any drug can cause overdose if it’s given in higher amounts than absolutely needed. Benadryl overdose can lead to hyper excitability of the central nervous system of your dog. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from Benadryl overdose, consult your vet immediately. The sooner you consult your vet, the higher chances of your dog’s recovery.

Signs and symptoms of Benadryl overdose

to name a few.

When should you avoid administering Benadryl to your dog?

All drugs are not meant for all dogs. Depending on your dog’s condition, one drug which may otherwise be safe for other dogs might be lethal to your dog. Dogs who suffer from high blood pressure, glaucoma or cardiovascular diseases should avoid being given Benadryl at all costs as this drug can worsen their current condition.

Dogs who suffer from the following conditions should also avoid Benadryl at all costs:

If I cannot give my dog Benadryl, what should I give him?

If you cannot administer Benadryl to your dog, you should look at the natural alternatives available for diphenhydramine.

Diphenhydramine natural alternatives:

In the current world, there are many holistic options to support your dog’s happiness and health. In case your dog cannot be administered Benadryl, do not worry, there are several popular alternatives that dog guardians have opted for to treat their dogs itchy skin and other allergic conditions.


Oatmeal can act as a very soothing simple to use home remedy for your dog’s itchy and irritated skin. To use oatmeal for your dog, mix some plain oatmeal with water till you form a paste. Massage this paste on your dogs affected regions, and allow it to stay on your dog for 10 to 20 minutes. Following this, rinse the paste off with slightly warm water.

As an alternate option, you can also give your dog a bath with the oatmeal added to the water. Allow your dog to soak in the water for around 20 minutes to relieve the itchiness of the skin.

Baking soda

Baking soda is another great alternative for dog guardians for treatment of itchy skin in dogs. Make a paste with a tiny amount of water and baking soda and apply this directly on the irritated region on your dog’s skin. Allow the paste to sit on your dog’s skin for around 30 minutes before you rinse it off.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a very popular home remedy for dogs. It can be used to treat a wide variety of conditions as well as irritations on the skin. The antifungal and antibacterial property of apple cider vinegar makes it one of the most popular home remedy for dogs. To use Apple cider vinegar, make a 1:1 ratio of water and apple cider vinegar and store it in a spray bottle. You can directly spray the solution on your dog’s irritated skin. However, be very careful to not spray  the solution on any open wound as it will sting.

Check out this article on the amazing benefits of apple cider vinegar for dogs.

Green tea and chamomile:

Both green tea and chamomile can soothe your dog’s irritated skin and allow him or her to feel much better.

To use green tea and chamomile, just draw a warm bath and add a few tea bags of green tea and chamomile to the water and allow them to steep for a while. After around 3 minutes, remove the bags. Following this, let your pup soak in the bath for 5-10 mins.

When is it time for a veterinary consultation?

Many dog guardians and veterinarians find that Benadryl is a safe and effective antihistamine when it comes to relieving dogs from any moderate level allergic reaction. However, in case you observe your pup to show signs of labored breathing or facial swelling, immediately contact your nearest veterinarian.  This situation Is not one where you can sit back and watch Benadryl take effect. Such situations warrant the need for veterinary consultation.

Even before you decide to use Benadryl on your dog, have a discussion with your vet. Benadryl may interfere with other medications your dog might be prescribed for other conditions he or she is suffering from. Your vet will be able to tell you if Benadryl is safe or not for your dog.


Even though Benadryl is a relatively effective and safe medication for your dog, always use it according to your veterinarian’s instructions. If you are administering Benadryl to your dog for the first time, keep a very close eye on your dog to look out for any kind of adverse reaction. One final thing to remember, keep all medicines of the from bathe your dog can easily reach. If you found this blog post interesting, subscribe to the blog, so I can send you dog care tips directly in your inbox. 

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