Can Antihistamines Treat Your Dog’s Allergies?

Allergy season is here again for humans. As gorgeous as flowers are, they bring allergens like pollen onto our clothes and shoes and, in turn, into our homes. These allergens not only cause us to cough and sneeze but may affect our dogs as well.

Antihistamines like Benadryl are a go-to over-the-counter solution for humans with allergies. Sometimes, pet parents give their dogs antihistamines if they notice they’re showing allergy symptoms.

“It’s few and far between that a dog with true seasonal allergies is going to respond adequately with an over-the-counter antihistamine,” says Dr. Lara Wilson, DVM, of Firehouse Animal Health.

But that doesn’t mean it’s never OK to give your dog an antihistamine. Dr. Wilson says there are a few situations where they may be helpful, just not as many as she feels the public often thinks. Dr. Wilson shared when to reach for Benadryl or ask your vet about different solutions for your dog’s allergies.

When Can I Give My Dog Benadryl?

Antihistamines have their place in dog healthcare.

“They are helpful with acute allergic reactions, such as if a pet gets a vaccine and is lethargic after, or if they are out in the yard and bit by ants or stung by a bee,” Dr. Wilson says.

They may also help with mild seasonal allergy symptoms.

“If it’s just sneezing or watery eyes, I might use Benadryl,” Dr. Wilson says.

Related: Is Benadryl Safe for Dogs? What to Know About Benadryl for Dogs

Why Don’t Antihistamines Work for Chronic Seasonal Dog Allergies?

When people have seasonal allergies, they often sneeze, get watery eyes and develop hay fever. Dogs may also experience these things, but typically chronic seasonal allergies present differently in our furbabies.

“More often, they’ll get serious itchy skin which can lead to a bacterial or fungal infection from the inflammation of whatever they are allergic to, like pollen,” Dr. Wilson says. “In that scenario, the over-the-counter antihistamines don’t really help. They don’t cut back on the level of itch.”

dog allergies

Photo:  Shutterstock.

How Should I Treat My Dog’s Seasonal Allergies?

If you notice your dog showing signs of seasonal allergies, which may include sneezing and constant itching, contact your vet. Dr. Wilson advises letting your vet know:

  • How old the pet was when the symptoms started.
  • What part of the body the pet is experiencing symptoms.
  • Whether it appears to be seasonal or if it’s 24/7/365.
  • What medications the pet is taking, particularly for fleas and ticks.

Your vet will then be able to diagnose and prescribe treatment. Dr. Wilson believes the treatment of seasonal dog allergies has come a long way recently.

“In the last five to seven years, we’ve seen more oral and injectable medications that the itch and treats the infection,” Dr. Wilson says.

Dr. Wilson often prescribes Apoquel to her pup patients. The label for the oral medication contains some scary-sounding side effects, such as lethargy, loss of appetite and vomiting, but Dr. Wilson advises patients not to worry too much. She hasn’t had a dog get sick from the medication, and she feels they are safer than steroids, which aren’t compatible with every medication a pup may need and increase the risk for muscle/joint changes and Cushing’s Disease.

“When you read the Apoquel label, it can look terrifying, but the safety studies are really extensive,” Dr. Wilson says.

Your vet can also give you prescription-strength topical treatments, such as shampoos and wipes, that can alleviate itchiness. Sometimes, an over-the-counter solution may work.

“For mild itchy/dry skin, aloe and oatmeal shampoos are great,” Dr. Wilson says.

She recommends keeping shampoos on the skin for 5 to 10 minutes.

“Think like using a beauty product face mask for ourselves,” Dr. Wilson says.

Featured Image: Shutterstock.

Read Next: Can You Give a Dog Aspirin? Are Human Pain Meds Safe for Dogs?


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