Proper Use of Benadryl for Dogs

by tessa

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In the last post Maddie’s incessant licking and scratching was discussed.

A new development is that she has now added licking her paws to the mix.

The last time I was at the vet she suggested Benadryl. As an antihistamine it was supposed to help, along with bathing with a gentle oatmeal based shampoo.

Truth be told I was not committed to the use of Benadryl until I did some additional reading today.

Importantly you should check with your vet to see if they advocate the use of Benadryl for your dog. Included in their consideration will be the types and amounts of other drugs that are being administered to your dog.

Special consideration should be given to dogs that have thyroid issues, glaucoma and cardiovascular disease to name few.

What I found is that Benadryl is used for a host of purposes including:

  • Controlling itching
  • Help stop vomiting
  • Motion sickness
  • A mild tranquilizer
  • Snake bites
  • Vaccination reactions
  • Insect bites or bee stings
  • Blood transfusion reactions

The type of Benadryl that you give should be the name brand.

Alternately it you choose to use a generic brand, which would be cheaper, close attention should be paid to the ingredients.

Diphenhydramine is the active ingredient in Benadryl. Generic brands may have ingredients that will cause your dog harm. For instance acetaminophen, a common added ingredient in some generics, can be lethal to dogs.

Some people are giving their dogs Benadryl in liquid form. This might be o.k. but only if you can verify that the liquid version does not contain any alcohol. For that reason the pill form is preferred.

At one point I was concerned that the amount of Benadryl I was giving Maddie was excessive. She was receiving 25 mg once per day. It seems that the guidelines vary by very small amounts.

As such I plan to administer every 8 hours using these guidelines:

  • Dogs under 30 lbs = 10 mg
  • Dogs over 30 lbs and less that 50 lbs = 25 mg
  • Dogs over 50 lbs = 50 mg

Others have suggested 1 mg per pound of dogs weight.

Given what I’ve learned I will continue to give Maddie Benadryl .

The dose will be 25 mg.

Instead of once per day I’m going to move to twice per day.

Next thing to try to ease her discomfort will be adding oil to her food. Salmon oil, omega 3, olive oil are all possibilities.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine Young May 30, 2011 at 7:25 PM

Crissy is a small (under 10 lbs. when not on stroids) 3 year old Shih tzu. I got her when 2 from daughter’s neighbor at Tampa, FL. According to vet records back to her infancy, she had problems with allergies. My vet and I have tried everything, to no avail. Finally, vet did skin test and sent it off. ($350 here in Ga.) I was shocked and quite upset to learn that, among many other allergens, I was one. Your comments from other owners with same problems give me hope. Incidentally, I also tried the generic liquid Benedryl, which did not help. She is currently on two 10mg hydroxyzine daily which does nothing except cause loss of appetite. I plan to administer the injections, not only because it’ll be less expensive; but also because she trusts me more than anyone else to inflict the least amount of pain to her. We have a very loving, close relationship, since my husband passed away, and I was quite lonely.

ML June 1, 2011 at 9:05 AM

My 2 1/2 year old Portuguese Water Dog has suffered since he was a puppy with itching. I’ve done everything humanly possible to bring him relief( I’ve almost lost my mind with his discomfort) In Henry’s case I’ve come to the conclusion that he has seasonal allergies sooooo as we approached spring and pollen he gets wiped off with a moist washcloth everrytime he comes in from being outside. I also use an organic herbal and coat rub to bring him relief. During the worst times he get two doses of Zyrtec ( vet approved). Over the past three weeks he’s stopped the frantic itching so we’ve limited the Zyrtec to periodic use. We also use allergy shampoo. As we head into June he seems to be OK

tessa June 1, 2011 at 10:24 AM

I have to admit that the injections sounded like a good idea at the time. In fact I went so far as to order the serum and learn how to inject myself. Once I got home I came to the harsh realization that this could be a forever situation. In fact right on the label of the serum it states that the success rate is less than 50%. That was enough to have me explore still other options. I’ll try to write about those soon.

tessa June 1, 2011 at 10:26 AM

So glad you found a system, or combination of treatments that work for your dog. Having been awake today since 5 AM courtesy of Maddie scratching I understand the ‘almost lost my mind’ thing!

Amanda June 2, 2011 at 2:36 PM

We have a chocolate lab and he had very dry skin and was constantly scratching and licking his paws, we took him to the vet and found that he has an allergy to chicken, and all by-product of the sort. We put him on a strict fish diet, that is all natural and has no chicken meal, or by-product and his coat cleared up within days. Now he has a beautiful coat that is shiny and very soft. We get so many comments about his coat, and I believe it is from the oils that come from the fish.

tessa June 2, 2011 at 3:16 PM

Boy, I’ve been down that whole road of eliminating chicken, giving fish oil, etc. It never worked for me – glad it did for you!

labeau August 2, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Proper benadryl administration for dogs is 1 mg. per pound. The dose recommended here will be too low for most dogs. A 30 pound dog needs 30 mg. of benadryl to be affective. Pink pills in cheese work best. Dogs with acute allergies can stand a higher dose but a Vet. should be consulted. Also, even if the dog stops itching a dose should not be skipped or itching will return. If the dog is groggy simply cut down on the dose.

Betty Andrews January 9, 2012 at 5:04 PM

I have a 6 1/2 yr old Japanese Chin Female dog. She weighs 18 lbs, 4 oz. She itches a lot and has small bumps on her body. The vet seams to think they are flea bites. I never saw a flea on her. He said I should give her Benadryl 25 mg every 12 hours. Is the generic name Diphenhydramine? She is on other medications, too. I need to start her on something Jan. 10, 2012. I would like your opinion. Thank you.

tessa January 9, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Betty – one thing we don’t do is offer opinions. We simply relate to our readers our experiences. My experience with Benedryl has been o.k. but it did not take care of the issue that was effecting Maddie. Thahks for reading.

sgt.pepper April 11, 2012 at 3:17 PM

I am answering (from my own experience)…about my not yet 2 yr old pit bull that thinks she is a shih tzu lap dog…has had ‘the itch’ since she was about 6 mo old…I too thought it was fleas and tried everything..even to put her down so as not to suffer..and her hair was/is falling out like crazy… I did oatmeal shampoo baths, food change and nothing seemed to help…I took her to the vet, and they gave a perscription..$30 bucks, the visit $60? bucks..put her on some bland vet wet dog food $20? bucks..and a dry vet dog food $30? bucks more…..I will say the pills did help! she was on a med perscription”Vanectyl P”…they worked great!..but it was myself that remembered one day that hives are an allergy reaction, so (no thanks to any vet)… and her scratching drove us both crazy…but I didn’t want her to have to be on meds all her someone told me it is like a steroid…but the next time the hives came up…On my own I gave her benadryl..which helped some but not now I’m an back to the perscription(3rd time)..she can’t have grain products only fish dog food…and.. a life on vanectyl P…but at least she feels better…because some dogs can’t take any or many changes period–it’s a stress to them…so and I look at it this way if she has a short life span on steroids…at least she will have a good quality shortlife span!!!..who knows?!..I also now know that we can get pet medical insurance?

VT June 4, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Be careful using benadryl, it can dry out the anal gland and cause even more problems. If it is doing the boot scoot get it to the vet. Gland can become impacted. 9 years I have been dealing with this pollen alergy. 6 months(south) out of the year. Diet makes little to no difference on my pet. Steriods are the best option. I agree, shorter life better quality, longer life miserable. Your call. 2% cort. 5mg pred. every other day.
If he makes it to 11 I’ll know I did my best. Dug a hole for him last year and he is still here. My eyes are getting wet gotta go. Good luck to all and love’em wihile you got’em.

Suzanne August 5, 2013 at 11:11 AM

My Shih-Tzu has been snorting and her breathing sounds like she snores. Does anyone know if Benadryl would benefit her? She is around 5-6lbs and a year old.
Thank you!

mara January 5, 2014 at 2:20 PM

Just a bit of advice, if you have a cat and feed it canned food keep the dog from even licking the plate. My dog itched like crazy and we tried everything we could to help him. As with most dogs he would go after the cat food and I was tired of having to put a 2nd can out on most days so the poor things could eat so I put up a shelf the cats could eat on and the dog couldn’t reach. Within in days I started noticing the dog wasn’t scratching so much and his eyes were clearing up. After several weeks his hair even started growing back. The cat food had been the only change in the routine. I’m happy to report that I no longer have a bald butt dog and he isn’t on any meds, no special baths and eating the same old dog food.

diane a May 29, 2014 at 7:51 AM

My Min Pin has seasonal allergies. I gave her Benadryl which sort of worked for the itching and hives. It took 3days. A friend recommended Missing Link supplement during allergy season. No more hives and no more meds.

Bonnie July 1, 2014 at 4:48 PM

My dog started chewing on her skin to the point of bleeding. My vet gave her an antibiotic by injection, which worked for about 2 weeks (at $100) I have found that coconut oil, which I get from my locally owned pet store, works wonders and she loves to eat it.

Carmel July 10, 2014 at 11:58 PM

Also try the Avo-derm dog food brand. It’s got avocado in it for their skin. My Australian shepherd scratched until she was bald. Boy, did Avo derm stop the itching … Along with bathing and conditioning. I recommend it.

MOG July 14, 2014 at 4:22 AM

Yep Benadryl (vet recommended) does work….it worked for my dog (7 lb Pom). I giver her 1/2 pill in cheese.

Margo M. July 14, 2014 at 10:51 PM

My dog had an allergic reaction to Benadryl. He is about 80# and the vet said two per day. We gave it to him and the strangest thing happened. One pupil in his eye got huge and the other side got pinpoint. He also wouldn’t stop staring at us, standing, and breathing heavily. I was in shock. Told my vet later that summer and she said that it was probably not the Benadryl. Tried it again and the same thing happened. We were using SAMs club Benadryl. Read here to use name brand only. I was wondering if the generic form I was using was bad for him? Anyways, people said they used Zyrtec and how much, but no one here that I can see has given the weight of their dog. Just might help if we gave weights of the animals.

My two cents. 🙂

Trina July 15, 2014 at 7:32 AM

I was wondering why cardiovascular disease is an issue when taking the Benadryl supplementation? Thank you for any help!!

betty September 6, 2014 at 9:41 AM

I have a14 year old poodle he has sm. tumors . Will this work on him

Dianne December 26, 2014 at 1:19 PM

You might want to consider yeast causing your dog’s discomfort. I read some articles by Dr. Becker and by Greg Martinez, DVM addressing yeast. It can be corrected by diet. I hope you can find the answer, I can’t imagine the poor baby always being itchy.

andrea December 26, 2014 at 5:06 PM

Thank you! I needed the exact measurements.

christi December 29, 2014 at 9:48 PM

My dog was chewing his paws and privates. I found out that chewing/liking paws is a strong indicator of allergic reactions as well as weeping eyes and pawing/scratching ears & face. Mine does all of these The only thing we began differently was switching his food from puppy to adult. Same brand, same formula. Obviously a filler or preservative has been added to the adult version that is not sitting well. His gas is outrageous too. He already has vomiting/diarrhea from car sickness and separation. Benedryl has never helped a lot but I still tried. Didnt read your other arricle but wanted you to know about the paws!

Linda January 24, 2015 at 5:53 AM

its all about the food. Cheaper food has many ingredients that will cause itching. There are better foods that guarantee improvement of skin. Check out a good pet store, not grocery or discount stores.

brenda vanicek March 20, 2015 at 7:22 PM

I have 4 chis, one weighs 2.5lbs, the 2nd one about 4 lbs, the 3rd one about 10lbs and last but not least my 15lb. I don’t know how many mgs to give them by weight. there is no way I could get 3mgs off of a 25mg pill. can you give me some help with the weight. thank you brenda

Mary April 24, 2015 at 12:50 PM

@Margo M. I realize it’s over a year since your post, but I am alergic to benadryl! Developed the allergy after having my daughter in 2011. I have learned it is extremely rare to have an allergic reaction to benadryl. Some doctors told me it was impossible. After studying though, only about 500 people in the world have ever had allergic reactions! It is possible though, and like most allergies the more you ingest, the worse it gets! It’s the diphenhydramine in benadryl that I’m allergic too. I personally have uncontrolled muscle spasms, last time I took it I clapped uncontrollably for 4 hours, even when laying on my arms. Anyway I’d recommend finding an alternative to benadryl, not easy but possible. Even talk to a pharmacist, they tend to have more knowledge about the chemistry of different meds and what might work. Blessings, Mary

Andrea May 29, 2015 at 1:38 AM

Apoquel is safer than a steroid and stops the itch fast. Then figure out the allergen and eliminate it.

Becky June 25, 2015 at 7:30 AM

To those worried about giving prednisone to your dog that it will shorten their life, here was our experience. I had a Cairn Terrier who had terrible allergies and was miserable. I was so afraid of prednisone because of what I had read that it took me a long time to try it. His allergies started at 1 year and I think we started prednisone finally at about age 3 or 4. We also put him on a raw diet gave him fish oil and I used something called moducare. Because of the good diet the fish oil and the moducare I was able to keep my 25 lb dog comfortable on just 1 mg every other day. My little guy lived to be 12 and died of a brain tumor which the prednisone probably slowed it’s growth. He lived two years after he was diagnosed with no treatment other than what I was already giving him for his allergies. Anyway my point is that prednisone when used appropriately is a miracle for a dog with allergies…and if you can find a dose that works given every other day or even every third day the dog can live a normal lifespan

Cathe Opaska July 6, 2015 at 9:29 AM

They make a dye free Benadryl. I use this for our boy Deacon when needed. They don’t need the dye!

Diana Hensley July 22, 2015 at 10:32 AM

If you have never tried cocconut oil, you should ! It has many useful benefits for your dog’s skin, and other needs! Boy the organic in the jar. You can melt it by sitting it in hot water. It will go back to solid form! It has too many uses to name on here, but great for people too!

Mary July 31, 2015 at 5:30 PM

I’m a veterinarian in FL so allergies in dogs and treatment for them comprise the larger part of every one of my working days. I’m responding to the last iaragraph of the initial post… oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce itch in your dog, this is true. Olive oil is not an option for this purpose and will only fatten your dog. Depending on the breed of dog (some are more predisposed than others) you can actually cause pancreatitis by adding olive pile to the food and I want to help you avoid this.

Ruth Thomas August 16, 2015 at 1:20 PM

My Pennie is almost 16. She itches chewed her tail & chews on her feet & scratches her ears. would it be safe to give her benadryl. I need something now. Cant afford A vet just now. Thanks

Jesse August 18, 2015 at 12:13 PM

Ruth Thomas, give Penny Benadryl. Either name brand or equate from Walmart that tells you same ingredients as Benadryl. If under 50 lbs give her 1 tablet if over 50 give her two. They are 25mg tablets. Correct dose is 1 mg per lb. this according to my vet today as I gave to my dogs

Kathy October 7, 2015 at 8:23 PM

I tried all of the above remedies to ease my dog’s constant itching and paw licking and none of them worked. What did work was a course of oral anti-fungal medication.

Lyne October 14, 2015 at 3:04 PM

My pitt started eating and licking his paws and around his eyes to the point of bleeding. Took him to the vet and she said he had allergies from the mold in the yard. We have been here two years and never had this issue before. He is on steroids now, one pill every other day and he’s fine but we also went thru about 10 days of antibiotics for the scratches on his face and bleeding paws. Benadryl did not work on my dog so I will stick to the pills from the vet and hopefully not need them thru the winter.

cid January 9, 2016 at 1:12 PM

Our dogs skin problems were caused by the red die in dog food. No red die no more problems.also have to watch out for die in treats. She would scratch and her hair would fall out. She tried many vet treatments. Most were short fixes.

Paula August 25, 2016 at 5:42 PM

Benadryl works great for the itching, but it makes my baby throw up very smelly stuff the next day.. He licks his feet so bad they get bloody blisters. Started washing his feet when he comes in. We’ll see if that helps.

Margaret Owens June 30, 2017 at 2:38 PM

I have been given my golden retriever Angel who is 11 yrs old Benedryl for a while now because of the excessive licking and biting come to find out she had food allergies, now she is on natural balance limited ingredients diet sweet potato and venison, no more excessive licking we were on temporal P because of her allergies also which helped with the benedryl also when your baby goes outside and comes back in if you take a damp paper towel or wrap and wipe the top and bottoms of the feet and blot them off then that would cut down on the itching also. Walmart has a shampoo called anti itch it works great too it is in a white and blue bottle for 7.97 but we’ll worth it lather and leave on for 10 min rinse off works wonders

Lori August 3, 2017 at 4:47 AM

Our 4 year white boxer has had allergic reactions about this time of year for two years in a row. Last year, her face swelled and she had hives and we gave her liquid Benadryl. She recovered pretty quickly without any issues. This year, we ran out of the liquid benadryl so I ran to the c-store in the middle of the night as she was covered in hives and scratching. The generic pills there have pink dye in them and when admistered she would get the shakes for a few minutes until they broke down. She also vomited. And the hives weren’t going completely away. This went on for 4 days until she quit eating and drinking and her breathing was getting shallow and she no longer wanted to get up and move around. I decided that the pink benadryl was upsetting her stomach and that I would try one more thing before an emergency visit to the vet. We went and purchased DYE FREE liquid benadryl and administered it. The hives went completely away for the first time in 4 days and we were able to get her to drink chicken broth. Her temp returned to normal, her skin color back to normal and her breathing became less labored almost immediately. We are convinced she was allergic to the dye in the benadryl so be careful about what kind of benadryl you use. It could be causing more harm than good. Our baby is resting comfortably now and I expect she’ll be back to normal soon.

Barbara September 15, 2017 at 1:43 PM

I have to say thanks to all of you,I will be trying some of your cures for my dog he does so much biting and licking it is driving me nuts

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