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Best Allergy Medicine For Dogs (Over The Counter And Prescription): Are Benadryl, Zyrtec & Claritin Safe For Dogs?


Last Updated: April 3, 2024 | 8 min read | 7 Comments

This content was reviewed by veterinarian Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM.

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Whether your dog is suffering from digestive issues or skin problems, allergies can wreak havoc on a dog’s body. How can you relieve your dog’s suffering? You’re likely wondering, what can I give my dog for allergies? Our experts tell you all of the safe allergy medications, supplements, and other products that can help your pup.

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What The Vet Says

Dog during taking medicine from male vet.
Image credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock

“Dog allergies often cause them to have itchy and sore ears. Unfortunately, allergies can’t be cured, and since home, remedies don’t tend to work and aren’t proven, the best thing you can do if your dog is affected by an ear infection or allergic skin disease is to get them veterinary treatment promptly to relieve their symptoms.” Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS

Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS explains a little bit about dog allergy medications and how they work. “There are a variety of dog allergy medications available, and the medication that I choose to prescribe for each case will vary depending on the severity and pattern of the symptoms, any other health conditions, or medications that the dog is receiving, the ease of giving the dog medication, and any financial constraints.”

Dr. Godfrey goes on,” Apoquel (oclacitinib) tablets and Cytopoint (lokivetmab) injections can both cause good control of allergy symptoms – of course, allergies can’t be cured. They can only be managed with medication. These medications are safe to give in the majority of circumstances, including with many other medications; however, they can be expensive. Steroids are less costly, but they are associated with side effects and aren’t suitable for use alongside many other medications, including anti-inflammatories and vaccinations. Steroid (prednisolone) tablets are favorable to the injectable forms (e.g., dexamethasone) as the dose can be tapered to the lowest effective dose, reducing the risk of side effects like a weakened immune system, diabetes, weight gain, and increased appetite, thirst, and urination.”

Other options include anti-histamines; however, these are often ineffective, and Atopica (cyclosporin), which can lead to stomach upsets and suppresses the immune system. Atopica used to be used much more regularly before the availability of other drugs, and I have seen several dogs develop diarrhea in the first few days after treatment starts. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Atopica isn’t a suitable treatment for your dog, but the vet might choose to lower the dose or monitor closely,” Dr. Hannah Godfrey.

Prescription Medications

Some of the best allergy medicine for dogs is available only by prescription from your veterinarian. These allergy medications are immunosuppressants, which work directly on your dog’s immune system to suppress an allergic reaction.

Nonsteroidal Immunosuppressants


Nonsteroidal immunosuppressants relieve allergies without the negative side effects of steroids. The dog allergy medicine Apoquel (oclacitinib) is highly effective against airborne allergens and food and flea allergies. It begins to relieve itching and inflammation within four hours, and its effects can last up to 24 hours. Learn more about Apoquel for dogs.

Atopica (cyclosporine) is another nonsteroidal immunosuppressant that is most commonly prescribed for airborne allergies. Both Apoquel and Atopica are suitable for both short and long-term treatment.



Steroids help control allergy symptoms by reducing inflammation. But because they have significant negative side effects, they’re best for short-term treatment. The most common oral steroids prescribed for dog allergies are prednisone and Temaril-P (trimeprazine with prednisolone).

Some veterinarians use longer-acting steroid injections such as Vetalog, but side effects can be harsher with injections rather than steroid pills. Long-term side effects from steroids can include increased urinary tract infections (UTIs), susceptibility to bacterial and fungal infections, obesity, muscle weakness, and more.

What’s The Best Antihistamine For Dogs?


Several over-the-counter (OTC) human antihistamines can work to help relieve dog allergy symptoms, but we recommend that you consult with your veterinarian before administering any of these medications.

Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is the most popular antihistamine for humans and can be effective for dogs as well. Just be aware that Benadryl has sedative properties, so your dog could get very drowsy. Also, take note that diphenhydramine hydrochloride is the active ingredient in “American Benadryl” (found in the U.S., Canada, Singapore, Taiwan, Italy, and Hong Kong).

However, in the U.K. and Denmark, the active ingredients are acrivastine in Benadryl Allergy Relief and cetirizine in Benadryl Once a Day. Limited information exists on acrivastine and cetirizine use in dogs, so if you’re in Europe, make sure the active ingredient is diphenhydramine, the only form of Benadryl that’s considered safe for dogs

Other safe antihistamines for dogs include Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine). They produce less sedation than Benadryl does but could still make your dog drowsy.


Make sure your OTC allergy medicine only contains antihistamines. Some may contain other ingredients, such as decongestants, which aren’t safe for dogs.

Dosing For Dogs*

  • Benadryl: 1 milligram/pound of body weight, given twice daily
  • Claritin: approximately 0.1 to 0.5 milligram/pound of body weight, given once to twice daily
  • Zyrtec: approximately 0.5 mg/pound of body weight, given once to twice daily

*Learn more about the guidelines for antihistamine dosing for dogs. If you’re wondering why antihistamine dosing differs from human dosing, it’s because dogs metabolize Benadryl and other antihistamines much faster than humans.

Other Over-The-Counter Allergy Relief For Dogs

If you’re wary of giving your dog pharmaceutical drugs, you’re in luck. There are a lot of safe and effective products on the market these days that can help ease your dog’s allergy symptoms. They come in several forms, from dietary supplements and food toppers to shampoo and topical sprays and balms.

Talk to your veterinarian before using these products, especially the medicated shampoos, to help relieve your dog’s allergies. You’ll want to be sure that the products will not interfere with any other medication that your dog may be taking.

Dietary Supplements

Pet Honesty Allergy Support

PetHonesty has several excellent, all-natural daily supplements for dog allergies, including Allergy Support soft chews, Allergy Skin Health soft chews, and Allergy Anti-Itch Salmon Oil. Another highly-rated option is Zesty Paws Aller-Immunity Bites. These grain-free soft chews contain immune-boosting ingredients, a five-strain probiotic, apple cider vinegar, salmon oil, and colostrum.

Full Review Of PetHonesty


Giving your dog a daily probiotic can help ease such allergy symptoms as digestive problems and itching and scratching. We recommend Nusentia Probiotic Miracle, a powder that contains six different probiotic strains and a prebiotic to combat diarrhea, loose stool, yeast overgrowth, bad breath, constipation, itching & scratching, allergies, and digestive issues.

If you’d prefer to give your pup a daily chewable probiotic, Pet Honesty’s Digestive Probiotics is an excellent option. It contains nine probiotic strains, prebiotic, and natural enzymes to support proper digestion. No matter what form of supplement you choose, just be sure to give your pup a probiotic specifically formulated for dogs.


Pet MD Hydrocortisone Spray

Pet MD Hydrocortisone Spray for dogs and cats helps relieve itchy and inflamed skin due to allergies, hot spots, skin infections, and more. It contains 1% hydrocortisone, is non-toxic and gets excellent reviews from pet parents. A fantastic all-natural, alcohol-free spray alternative is Wondercide’s Skin Tonic Spray, which contains heavily diluted essential oils to ease itching and help moisturize skin.

If you prefer a balm rather than a spray, the Natural Dog Company has an excellent all-natural Skin Soother balm that helps treat itchy and inflamed skin, rashes, hot spots, bacterial skin infections, cuts, burns, surgical wounds, mange, and more. This organic and vegan balm contains soothing and healing ingredients like lavender, chamomile, frankincense, cocoa butter, and vitamin E.


PetHonesty has a fantastic Allergy Anti-Itch Shampoo that contains chlorhexidine and ketoconazole to ease skin itching and improve skin inflammation, rashes, hot spots, skin infections, and wounds. Another effective option is Vet’s Best Allergy Itch Relief Dog Shampoo, a veterinarian-formulated blend of essential oils and key natural ingredients (oatmeal, D-limonene, and tea tree oil) to calm down and moisturize itchy red skin.

How Do I Know What’s Causing My Dog’s Allergies?

Dogs can be allergic to a few different things. Allergies tend to fall into three categories: food, skin, and environmental. Often, allergic reactions are the first sign you have that your pup cannot have a certain food or be near a certain plant.

Consulting with your vet is the best way to determine what your dog is allergic to. But you can also do an at-home dog allergy test to discover if your dog has any insensitivities to many food ingredients and environmental allergens.

If you use an at-home allergy test, discuss the results with your vet so they can confirm the results and recommend the most appropriate allergy treatments for your dog. A food allergy may require a special diet to determine what the trigger is. This is often done through an elimination or hydrolyzed diet. You will need to work with your vet to determine treatment and reduce allergy symptoms.

Allergy Symptoms

Dog with allergies itching in a field

The signs of dog allergies typically involve skin and digestive issues. Symptoms depend on the allergen that’s causing the allergy and the severity of the reaction. But here are some signs to look out for:

  • Excessive itching
  • Constant licking
  • Biting or gnawing at the skin
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Hives or rashes
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflap
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes

Frequently Asked Questions About Allergy Medicine For Dogs

Here are some of the common questions we get from our readers about allergy medicine for dogs. If we didn’t get to yours, let us know in the comments.

You should always check with your vet before administering any medication to ensure it’s safe for your dog. Each dog is different, and dosage amounts vary based on the dog’s size and needs.

Can I Give My Dog A Decongestant?

Experts warn against a decongestant for dogs. Like pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, decongestants can be life-threatening for dogs and can cause vomiting, severe blood pressure changes, abnormal heart rates and rhythms, tremors, and seizures.

Seek veterinary care immediately if your dog accidentally ingests any kind of decongestant (they’re commonly found in human cold and flu OTC medications, particularly ones with a “-D” at the end of the name.)

Can Dogs Take Claritin?

Yes, Claritin can be safe and effective for dogs. Vets recommend that you give your dog approximately 0.1 to 0.5 milligrams/pound of body weight once to twice daily. However, check with your vet before administering any medication to ensure it’s safe for your dog.

Can Dogs Take Zyrtec?

Yes, Zyrtec can be a safe and effective antihistamine for pups. Vets recommend approximately 0.5 mg per pound of body weight, given once to twice daily.

Zyrtec vs Claritin for dogs – wondering which is better? Like with humans, it depends on the individual. You can speak with your vet about trying both individually to see which seems to work better for your pup.

Can Dogs Get Allergy Shots?

Yes, vets can use allergy shots to help deal with symptoms and provide your dog relief. Cytopoint is the most common allergy shot.

Home Remedies For Dog Allergies

There are a few different home remedies you can try, depending on the type of allergy your pup has.

  1. Skin allergies and itchy skin may be helped with an oatmeal bath. Blend dried oatmeal up into a powder, then mix it into your pup’s bath.
  2. Apple cider vinegar is another bath option, as well as a topical treatment to soothe the skin. You may also try a topical chamomile tea spray.
  3. Probiotic supplements can be helpful to improve gut health and reduce food allergy symptoms.

Check out this three-minute video to see some cheap and easy home remedies that may help ease your dog’s allergy symptoms.

Pet Insurance Can Help Pay Vet Bills

Dogs can develop many chronic problems over their lifetimes, as well as unforeseen accidents and illnesses. But if you get pet insurance early in your dog’s life (before a condition is considered pre-existing), health issues that arise in the future (like chronic allergies) could be covered for vet visits and prescription medications. See our reviews of the best pet insurance companies, or use our free quote tool below to learn more.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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