Allergy Medicine For Dogs That’ll Actually Help Your Itchy Pup

Allergy medicine to the rescue 💊

allergy medicine for dogs

Your dog hates his allergies as much as you might hate your own. So you’re probably wondering if there’s allergy medicine you can give your dog to help soothe his symptoms.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinary consultant with Dog Lab, and Dr. Linda Simon, a veterinary surgeon and veterinary consultant for Five Barks, to find out everything you need to know about allergy medicine for dogs.

Can dogs take allergy medication?

Dogs actually can take medication to help with their allergy symptoms. When it comes to allergy medicine for dogs, there are both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) options.

“Allergy medications for dogs work just like with people,” Dr. Ochoa told The Dodo. “They decrease the histamine response, thus decreasing the itching and inflammation in your dog's skin.”

No matter what kind of allergy medication you give your dog, it’s important to remember that you’re treating your dog’s symptoms, not the allergy itself.

“Owners need to understand, though, they cannot cure allergies,” Dr. Simon told The Dodo. “They mask symptoms and make dogs more comfortable during flareups.” The closest you can get to curing allergies is with immunotherapy (which only works for environmental allergies — more on that below) since it has the potential to permanently change how your dog’s immune system reacts to triggers.

Prescription allergy medication vs. OTC allergy medication

There are varying levels of effectiveness between prescription and OTC allergy medications — but it’s important to remember that each dog is different, and what works for some dogs might not be the best approach for your dog.

“Typically, prescription medicine issued by the vet will be most effective,” Dr. Simon said. “This tends to include strong anti-itch medicine, which can minimize itching and stop the itch-scratch cycle in its tracks.”

According to Dr. Ochoa, OTC medications are really only effective for mild allergy symptoms, whereas prescription allergy medication can help with more severe symptoms.

Some allergy symptoms include:

  • Licking
  • Scratching
  • Diarrhea
  • Ear itchiness or infection
  • Eye discharge
  • Paw chewing or swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Snoring
  • Vomiting
  • Wet, irritated or scabbed skin

Best OTC medication for dogs

Some OTC medications for humans can be effective at reducing allergy symptoms in dogs. But before you hit the drugstore, chat with your vet to make sure these medications will work for your pup’s symptoms and that you know how to administer them properly.

“It is important owners use the correct dose and use them often enough for them to have an effect,” Dr. Simon said. You should also consider that antihistamines can make your dog drowsy.

There are some dog-safe antihistamines available to pet parents, which can obviously eliminate the dangers of taking medications meant for humans.

PetArmor is a dog-friendly antihistamine that has the same active ingredient as Benadryl.

Try PetArmor from Chewy for $5.99

Just be sure to double-check the dosages with your vet to make sure you’re giving your pup a safe amount.

Can dogs take Benadryl?

Benadryl is an antihistamine called diphenhydramine. It’s typically an allergy medicine for humans, but giving some to your dog could help his allergies, too.

You just have to be super careful that you’re doing it correctly — so you should only give your dog Benadryl with guidance from your vet.

That’s because you want to make sure you’re giving your dog the right dose. The rule of thumb is usually that you can give your dog 1 milligram of Benadryl for every pound he weighs. (But since every dog is different, this might not always be the case.)

If you give your dog too much Benadryl, he could overdose, causing major problems for his cholinergic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems.

Can dogs take Zyrtec?

Zyrtec is an antihistamine called cetirizine. It’s another human allergy medication that can help your dog if given properly.

If you and your vet have agreed that Zyrtec is a safe and helpful option for your dog, make sure you only give it to your pup exactly as recommended. The proper dosage of Zyrtec is going to vary depending on your dog’s weight, and your vet can determine the right amount for your pup.

Can dogs take Claritin?

Claritin is an antihistamine for humans, also known as loratadine. Claritin can be safely given to your dog as long as you have approval from your vet and are following their instructions.

The right dose of Claritin will be based on your dog’s weight, so your vet can help you figure out the perfect amount to give him.

You’ll also want to make sure to avoid Claritin that’s dissolvable (aka those “meltaway” pills) since it could contain xylitol, which is a common ingredient that’s toxic to dogs.

Best prescription allergy medicine for dogs

If you’re concerned about the effectiveness of OTC allergy medication, you could always chat with your vet about some good prescription options for your dog.

“Prescription medicine tends to be more effective and to work quicker,” Dr. Simon said. “Generally, they stop the itching within a matter of hours.”

Allergy shots for dogs

Allergy shots for dogs can be anti-itch shots, which treat your pup’s symptoms for several weeks at a time, or immunotherapy shots, which desensitize him to the allergens that affect him.

When it comes to anti-itch allergy shots for dogs, both vets we spoke to recommended Cytopoint.

Cytopoint is an injection that works to reduce your pup’s itching. One injection can last four to six weeks.

If your pup has environmental allergies, you might want to consider immunotherapy.

With immunotherapy, your vet will actually create an injectable serum for your dog that contains a small amount of the allergen he’s sensitive to. These shots will help him build up a tolerance to that allergen until his immune system is so used to handling it that he’s essentially no longer allergic to it.

Basically, immunotherapy shots work to treat your dog’s underlying environmental allergies as opposed to just treating the symptoms, so they can be a more permanent solution. They aren’t super effective for every dog, though, and in some cases they might not work at all or only prevent your dog’s allergies from getting worse. Talk to your vet if you’re interested in this treatment option for your pet.

Oral prescription allergy medicine for dogs

For oral prescription allergy medicine, both vets we spoke to recommended Apoquel.

Apoquel is an oral tablet you can give your dog daily for his allergy symptoms. It works by suppressing your pup’s immune system so he doesn’t have such a strong reaction to the things he’s allergic to.

Get Apoquel from Chewy for $75.90

Oral steroids are sometimes prescribed for allergies, but these aren’t a good long-term medication because of the side effects associated with them. So you should really only use oral steroids as needed, like if other treatments aren’t effective or it’s the only option you can afford.

And now that you know your options for your dog’s allergy medication, you’ll be able to help ease his symptoms in no time.

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