Which Over-The-Counter Medications Are Safe For Dogs?

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Person holding medicine in handWe consider our dogs family members, so it’s a natural instinct to turn to your medicine cabinet to relieve your dog’s mild ailments. Many human meds are safe for dogs — but not all. Before popping any pills into your pup, make sure you follow these tips on over-the-counter medicine for dogs.

Always consult your veterinarian before giving your pup any medicine. Even over-the-counter meds that are generally considered safe for dogs may be potentially dangerous for certain breeds or dogs with pre-existing conditions.

Article Overview

1. Pain Relievers

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Any over-the-counter pain medicine containing Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen is not safe for dogs. These medicines can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

Buffered aspirin isn’t quite as risky, but most vets recommended avoiding most aspirins as unsafe over-the-counter pain medicine for dogs.

For more information on OTC pain meds for dogs, be sure to read our guidelines on the best pain meds for dogs.

2. Allergy Medications

Editor’s Pick
ClaritinClaritin

Common antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Claritin (loratadine) and Zyrtec (cetirizine) relieve allergy symptoms and allergic reactions. These medications are usually safe for dogs, but they can cause drowsiness or hyperactivity.

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

Dosage: 1 milligram for every pound, given twice daily

3. Gastrointestinal Medications

Pepto-Bismol

Editor’s Pick
Pepto-BismolPepto-Bismol

A staple in many medicine cabinets, Pepto-Bismol is safe for dogs (but not for cats!). It’s used to treat diarrhea, vomiting and an upset stomach. If your dog vomits up the Pepto-Bismol, however, you should consult with your veterinarian.

Dosage: 1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of weight, every 4-6 hours for 24 hours

Imodium

Imodium (loperamide) is safe for most dogs and cats to relieve diarrhea. If the diarrhea doesn’t improve after 24 hours, contact your vet promptly as diarrhea can quickly lead to potentially dangerous levels of dehydration.

Dosage: 1 milligram per 20 pounds of weight, every 4-6 hours.

WARNING: Some breeds related to Collies may have adverse reactions to Imodium. Do not give this medicine to Collies, Shelties, Australian Shepherds and Long-haired Whippets.

Pepcid-AC, Tagamet and Zantac

Pepcid-AC (Famotidine), Tagamet (Cimetidine) and Zantac (Ranitidine) are common OTC medications to treat or prevent heartburn and stomach ulcer-related symptoms. They’re generally effective and safe for dogs (and cats). You can administer the correct dosage once or twice a day.

It’s okay to use them for periodic dietary indiscretions, e.g. if your dog gets into a bag of chips or slurps up the rest of your salsa. See your vet to rule out other problems if your dog’s stomach woes persist.

Dosage:

  • 1/4 tablet for dogs less than 20 lbs
  • 1/2 tablet for dogs 20-60 lbs
  • 1 whole tablet for dogs over 60 lbs

4. Dramamine

Editor’s Pick
DramamineDramamine

An antihistamine that helps prevent motion sickness in dogs (and cats), Dramamine is safe for most dogs and works best if given at least ½ hour before travel.

Note: There are canine-specific medications that work faster and last longer than Dramamine.

Dosage: 

  • 12.5 milligrams for small dogs
  • 25 milligrams for medium dogs
  • 50 milligrams for large dogs

5. Cold And Cough Medicine

Most OTC cold medications contain decongestants that are not safe for dogs, so steer clear. Many OTC cough meds, however, like Robitussin DM, contain ingredients that are relatively safe for dogs. Check with your vet before administering a cough medicine.

WARNING: If your dog is coughing, it could be a sign of a more severe problem like respiratory infection, heartworms or cardiac disease, so we advise that you have your pup examined by a vet before giving them human meds for coughing.

6. CBD Oil & Treats

Editor’s Pick
KING KALM CBD OilsKing Kanine CBD Dog Products

CBD drops and CBD dog treats can ease several conditions your dog may suffer from occasionally or chronically, including:

Be sure to check with your vet before administering any product containing CBD.

Dosage: Varies depending on the product, dog’s size and dog’s symptoms.

7. Hydrogen Peroxide

You can use hydrogen peroxide topically to clean your dog’s superficial skin wounds, but it’s not as effective as antibacterial soap and water. If your dog ingests something toxic, you may be able to give them a small oral dose of hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting.

Symptoms of Dog Poisoning SignsWARNING:

Never induce vomiting unless your vet first approves it (and gives you a dosage). If you think your dog may have ingested a toxic substance, call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. If you are unsure, consult these symptoms to identify poisoning in your pet

8. Antibiotic Ointments & Other Topical Creams

Editor’s Pick
HydrocortisoneHydrocortisone Cream

Can you use over-the-counter antibiotics and other topical creams for dogs? You have a couple of options here. Antibiotic creams, e.g., Neosporin, are common topical antibiotic creams used to treat minor cuts and scrapes. They’re safe for dogs, as long as they don’t contain steroids.

Be sure to clean your dog’s wound before applying any antibiotic ointment and cover the wound, so your dog doesn’t lick it off.

Hydrocortisone, another popular OTC topical cream, is also safe for dogs to relieve itchy, raw or irritated skin. You can apply a small amount up to two times daily.

9. Glucosamine (For Arthritis Relief)

Editor’s Pick
Cosequin Maximum Strength Joint SupplementCosequin Joint Supplement

The best over-the-counter arthritis medicine for dogs is Glucosamine (and Glucosamine in combination with Chondroitin Sulfate). Glucosamine is a long-term treatment for joint pain associated with arthritis. Read our article on Glucosamine for dogs to learn more.

10. Eye Drops

Editor’s Pick
Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye DropsSystane Eye Drops

Is your dog blinking or squinting a lot? It could be due to dry eyes, allergies or debris. You can apply a bit of OTC lubricating eye drops to ease their irritation. Just make sure the drops are lubricating only — no Visine or other medicated eye drops.

If these drops don’t do the trick, however, go to the vet right away (especially if your dog’s eyes are red, swollen or have a discharge). An eye infection, a foreign body that needs removal or a scratch on the cornea all need immediate professional attention. These symptoms may also be early signs of cataracts or other more serious ailments.

11. Nasal Sprays

Editor’s Pick
Basic Care Premium Saline Nasal Moisturizing SprayBasic Care Saline Nasal Spray

If your dog is congested or has a dry nose from a cold, you can give them pediatric or saline nasal sprays. Don’t use any other type of OTC nasal medication unless prescribed by your veterinarian.

Which Over-The-Counter Medications Are Safe For Dogs Infographic

Which Over-The-Counter Medications Are Safe For Dogs Infographic

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How Do OTC Pain Meds Affect Your Dog?

We’ve given you a long list of dog-friendly over-the-counter medications but want to make sure you know the detrimental effects that OTC pain relievers can have on dogs. Be sure to read our guidelines on pain meds for dogs to understand the dangers they can pose. Don’t forget to talk to your vet before treating your dog with any unprescribed medications to make sure they are safe for your pet, even these common OTC products.

Have you ever given your dog anything from your medicine cabinet? Did it work?

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets).

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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Teresa
May 18, 2020 12:06 am

Hi I have taking my poodle, Buddy, to the vet. She said he had an upper respiratory infection and gave him Augmentin 457 mg two times a day. He has finished his meds but he is still not feeling good and his ears are hot to the touch. What can do to help him?

Apiffany Gaither Billings
May 18, 2020 10:11 pm
Reply to  Teresa

I would recommend reaching back out to Buddy’s veterinarian to see if there are lingering symptoms of his upper respiratory infection or if he has another infection or ailment.

Susan Larrimore
April 15, 2020 2:45 pm

Please recheck the dosage recommended for allergy medications. I think this is way to high. You may have meant 1mg for every 10 pounds but giving that much benadryl to person would be an overdose. Please recheck your source.

Carolyn Lovie
April 14, 2020 4:58 pm

What over the counter medication can I use to treat my dogs ear infection? The last RX was Gentizol (Malotic generic) He’s had them for the last 15 years. My vet wants to charge an office visit, lab work and medication fees; when we both know exactly what it is.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
April 14, 2020 5:12 pm
Reply to  Carolyn Lovie

We always recommend seeing your vet for any concerns that may require medication due to underlying issues that may be occurring. My basset hound consistently was getting ear infections and it turned out to be from a build up from allergies. I would recommend cleaning your dog’s ears regularly. If you dog is diagnosed with an ear infection, you can purchase your prescription for a cheaper price on Chewy.com.

Kristen
March 4, 2020 5:33 pm

oh my gosh there’s an ad for a canine carcinogen on this page … Apoquel … the rest of info seems pretty standard, but … wondering about the standards of a page that promotes carcinogens. Obviously not every dog who takes Apoquel gets cancer. But … I think people would think this page would recommend safe stuff.

Linda Wilmoth
March 9, 2020 5:12 pm
Reply to  Kristen

The choices with Aqoquel boil down to; How bad does my dog suffer with Allergies? In my dogs case, it is the only product on the market that has helped her. I wouldn’t always believe the scare tactics, sometimes you have to make an educated guess in what best way (or only choice) there is available to help your dog.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
March 6, 2020 9:11 am
Reply to  Kristen

Hi Kristen, thanks for your comment and your concern about Apoquel. Advertisements on our site are powered by Google’s Adsense network. Unfortunately we don’t have control over what shows up, but we are able to block specific advertisers if we feel they are not appropriate.

We investigated Apoquel and found that while it’s a commonly prescribed medication for allergies, the FDA appears to be actively pursuing the maker Zoetis to update marketing and promotional materials for the product on their website to accurately reflect the risks.

As a result of our investigation, we have decided to block all advertisements related to Apoquel at this time. This change is effective immediately. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Annie
February 22, 2020 2:01 am

Hi, my little Billy is a 6kg Silky Terrier with extreme storm phobia. I have got Valium for him from my Vet in the past, but I was just wondering whether there is anything else that you might recommend? I live in Australia. Thank you.

Apiffany Gaither Billings
February 25, 2020 3:42 pm
Reply to  Annie

Hi Annie. I am sorry to hear that your pup is dealing with his storm phobia. CBD oil and CBD treats can be beneficial in limiting anxiety in dogs. Thunder shirts are also a great option for some dogs for fears of storm and fireworks. Good luck!

Mark D
November 24, 2019 8:17 pm

I believe vet prices are a form of animal cruelty. I had taken dog to the vet, they pamper your dog, sympathise, look concerned. They want payment up front prior to treatment but give you no guarantees as to success.
If they were animal lovers they wouldn’t let you leave their surgery without some sort of treatment.

Ola Smith
September 12, 2019 5:39 pm

Can I give my 8 yr old Chihuahua Robitussin for his cough?The vet gave him a shot fo antibiotics and said it was probably tonsillitis, but this has been going on for 5/6 months.He keeps me awake quite a bit.

Linda Wilmoth
March 9, 2020 5:15 pm
Reply to  Ola Smith

Find a better Vet.

Ruby Tash
December 2, 2019 1:17 pm
Reply to  Ola Smith

I would have your vet check for collapsing trachia. Small dogs are prone to this condition. I actually diagnosed my own dog with this condition after 2 failed visits with my vet.

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
September 13, 2019 10:32 am
Reply to  Ola Smith

We suggest asking your vet or trying out this online vet service to see if it’s safe for your dog.

Pam Krause
September 12, 2019 11:19 am

I have a 15 year old mini doxie and she eats and drinks water but she wheezes a lot and gains weigh then loses it then gains it again. I know she probly wont be around for many more years but other then that she is fine. What can I give her for the wheezing?

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
September 12, 2019 2:39 pm
Reply to  Pam Krause

Hi Pam, we always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help. Hope your dog gets better soon.

Jill Rosenberg
September 1, 2019 10:38 pm

I have a proximately a nine-year-old golden retriever that has thrown up four times today. Still drinking have now removed food last time she eat she threw it up. Overall she acting normal. What can or should I do. Holiday weekend and vets are closed tomorrow.

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
September 3, 2019 10:39 am
Reply to  Jill Rosenberg

You could try out this online vet service to see what’s wrong with your dog. Hope she feels better soon!

Deana
October 31, 2019 10:59 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

@Kimberly. Why is your answer the same for every question? And that’s to check out the online vet service which costs money if you want real answers.

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
November 4, 2019 11:47 am
Reply to  Deana

My answer is the same because we aren’t licensed vets, so it would be inappropriate for us to diagnose a dog. We recommend the online vet service because many people cannot afford a vet or the vet is closed. The online vet service is typically less expensive than going to a regular vet and you can get answers sooner.

donna
August 17, 2019 2:40 am

hi my little princess lulu is a 2 year old bulldog and after chasing a cat cut her paw quite badly and had to have surgery to stitch it up i was not given any antibiotics or pain reliefe for her she sounds like she is in a bit of pain is there anything i can buy over the counter to safely give her please many thanks.

Joy Doyle
August 20, 2019 9:27 pm
Reply to  donna

You can give CBD OIL for pain. I give it to my 16 yr old Pom for pain management.

pamela morrison
August 9, 2019 4:58 pm

what is the best fever reducer that can be given to a dog that weighs around 20-25lbs

PMS
July 31, 2019 9:46 pm

I would like to know why a large dog with tapeworm and small dog with tapeworm are treated with different doses of the same dewormer. The parasite in the large dog is the same as the parasite in the small dog, therefore, the amount of dewormer needed to eliminate a tapeworm should be the same for both dogs. When a doctor prescribes the same antibiotic for infLuenzato two people of different size, is one given 200mg and the other given 500mg to kill the same flu? No! When the diagnosis is the same and treatment is the same, the dose is only different because size is directly associated with the likelihood of experiencing adverse reactions. This means the larger patient can tolerate more medication without adverse reaction and more means more $$. It’s called exploiting human ignorance!
How did ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ allow our minds to get so enslaved that we are so easily duped?

Carollynn Hall
November 23, 2019 2:49 pm
Reply to  PMS

It depends on the size difference in the people. Dosages do change with people size. A large dog, say 60#, is six times larger than my Pomeranian who is just under 10#. Do Drs give different size dosages to adults and infants? Yes.

Casey York
March 14, 2020 11:17 am
Reply to  Carollynn Hall

Actually a newborn baby receives the same vaccine that a full grown adult receives.

Nat
April 22, 2020 8:59 pm
Reply to  Casey York

And a chihuahua gets the same vaccine amount as a full grown adult Dobermanvaccines are a different story from medications. Medications have to be dosed according to the pet’s weight.

Gloria
July 28, 2019 3:42 pm

My chaweenie is sick! We took her our regular vet Monday. He said her thyroid levels were out of whack. She already has allergies and her skin is in bad shape. She has been treated for this condition over and over. Can’t seem to get the right remedy. Right now she acts like she afraid to go to sleep, lethargic, don’t eat like she used to, and her breathing is short breaths, when she is breathing her whole body moves. I am so worried.

Traci
July 30, 2019 2:38 pm
Reply to  Gloria

Did they start her on thyroid meds? A lot of skin issues clear up once we get the thyroid under control.

Christine Smith
July 5, 2019 6:55 am

Please check your allergy med dosages. Milligram amounts vary in different medications ( example: Benedryl dosage amount is different than Zyrtec) Adult human dosage of Benedryl is 25 milligrams, but adult human dosage of Zyrtec is only 10 milligrams. I would think that would effect the dosage that you recommend for dogs.

Yolande
June 18, 2019 9:56 am

Can I give my Pekanges of 3yrs weight 5.7 Bisolvon linctus..
He got a cold, running nose,yellowy mucus and sound congested and doesn’t want his cooked Dinners

Joy Doyle
August 20, 2019 9:29 pm
Reply to  Yolande

Need to call a vet!

Kelly S.
April 18, 2019 1:28 am

My 1yr 56lbs pit bull keeps having ear infections and vet bill is ridiculous!! I have some 500mg amoxicillin pills can I give her some ??

Linda Wilmoth
March 9, 2020 5:24 pm
Reply to  Kelly S.

We have a Golden with ear troubles and most of the time the Vet meds don’t work so I resorted to an old farm remedy to help which is and NFZ Puffer. It can be shot into the ear and will help with infection, it does a good job. You will still need to find out if its mites or an infection, the NFZ won’t kill the mites. It is Nitrofurazone and is used for ear infections among other things. It’s a great product. I’ve been using it for over 30 years.

Sherry
January 5, 2020 11:42 am
Reply to  Kelly S.

Ear infections are not always bacterial. They are sometimes of the fungal/yeast variety. Antibiotics (amoxicillin) could make it worse.
You need uto find out what type of ear infections they have been. Sometimes it can be both.
Also, allergies can cause itchy ears which your dog may then scratch. The scratching in turn can then cause an infection.
There are some OTC methods that can help prevent these once there are treated. With a little online research you may find things you can try (especially since your dog’s problem sounds chronic) but I wouldn’t treat with anything unless I knew the cause. Best wishes for a cure.

Rachel
October 20, 2019 10:12 am
Reply to  Kelly S.

That’s how I spent the first 4 years of my pitties life, complete change of diet is what it took. She would get massive ear infections and we couldn’t figure it out. Come to find out she is allergic to dyes and additives in foods hence the bloody ear infections, she also has very narrow ear canals. Literally all I did was change her food to an all natural, within a few weeks we could see the difference.

Dora
April 25, 2019 11:02 am
Reply to  Kelly S.

If you’re interested in homeopathic remedies check with your vet first and see if you can use garlic oil drops. I don’t see why not because it’s not a medication but check first of course. You can get them on Amazon I use them on my kids instead of antibiotics most of the time and it works very well. If there’s an infection in one ear only you still have to treat both. I take a medicine dosage cup and put it in a small dish of hot water for a few minutes to heat up the oil before putting the drops in the ears. And when I had my chocolate labs they used to get a lot of brown wax in their ears and I used to clean it with 50/50 water and vinegar with a Q-tip and baby wipe to keep it clean. I would clean it like that first if you’re going to try the garlic oil drops. If it was dry after that I put a very very small amount of coconut oil on my finger and rubbed it inside the skin of the ear only, his body heat will make the oil spread. That might help as well. Never pour it into the ear.

Kristin
November 25, 2019 12:43 am
Reply to  Dora

Garlic is toxic to dogs, you must want to kill your animal

Tokie
December 8, 2019 3:51 am
Reply to  Kristin

Garlic is not toxic. My vet has even had me use it on my Chihuahua because he cant give her any meds that could irritate her breathing. Read this article please.

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
April 18, 2019 9:13 am
Reply to  Kelly S.

Call your vet and ask.

Constance York
April 6, 2019 9:20 am

My little dog Maltese has Allergies what can I give her over the counter medicine please

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
April 8, 2019 8:36 am
Reply to  Constance York

This article about dog allergies may be helpful.

Connie Caldwell
March 6, 2019 11:39 pm

Hello, my small baby dog has allergies, my vet sat to give her tylenol, baby. I gave her some cold and allergy, just a amount.
Now she’s so sleepy and I’m a little scared I might have messed up.
I usually read up on anything I give her, or have around her.
Right now she’s so far acting ok.
Any advice?
Thanks

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
March 7, 2019 10:09 am

Call your vet with any follow-up questions after an appointment. They should be more than willing to help you and if they aren’t, you may want to get a different vet. After I take my dog to our vet I call with follow-up questions and she is always willing to help. Since your vet already knows your dog’s situation they will be able to give you the best advice.

Denisd
March 4, 2019 5:12 pm

My little fur baby has started sneezing the past couple of days and is starting to go off her food/water today. She had a full vet check the end of Dec and all was well. I think with all the rain and cold she might be getting a cold. Do you think a baby aspirin and pedialyte (she is 8lbs) will help get her over a cold or should I take her to the vet immediately. If it’s a cold how long will it last?

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
March 5, 2019 3:56 pm
Reply to  Denisd
Stacy
February 16, 2019 3:32 am

I know that my vet told me awhile back to keep baby aspirin for my dogs and my cats. He said never to give them Tylenol or Ibuprofen because it could damage their liver, but that the baby aspirin was completely safe for them. He said it could be used for fever or pain. Some dogs will actually chew it up like a treat if they like the flavor…I’ve always kept the cherry flavored. Also, if your dog or cat ever has tummy issues and has been vomiting or having diarrhea, you can actually give them Pedialyte in place of their water for a few days to replace lost electrolytes. My dog just recently had a stomach bug and my vet suggested this, I bought the unflavored and just replaced her regular water in her bowl with it for about 3 days and she drank it just fine. Does anyone have any suggestions for a mild cough? I noticed Robitussin was mentioned…has anyone tried this? She’s just been coughing a bit on and off and I really can’t afford another trip to the vet this month… I already paid one large bill at the beginning of the month when she had the stomach bug and I’m disabled so I’m on a fixed income…any suggestions would be appreciated. I’m sure it’s just a little cold…she stays in the house…but she has to go out to go potty and she goes with me in the car a lot…it’s been really damp and rainy here lately so I’m sure it’s something to do with that.

Anni
February 23, 2019 8:55 pm
Reply to  Stacy

U can give peptobismol and keep him warm

Breanna Tyler
January 31, 2019 6:25 am

My dog is sick, she has a cold what should I give her

(Admin)
Kimberly Alt
January 31, 2019 10:33 am
Reply to  Breanna Tyler

Hi Breanna, we always recommend seeing a vet when you think something is wrong with your pet. If you cannot take your dog to a vet, perhaps this online vet service can help.

Dr Fabulous
January 24, 2019 2:21 pm

Sally, Pepto is not safe for canines. Has new ingredient that is NOT safe for dogs.

Bengie
January 17, 2019 7:38 am

I have a 12 yr Pomona Sable and he just has been coughing .
What can I give him so he can get better.
He ok when we walk at times he cough a little bit.
But it seems More when he is waking up that he starts to cough .

Tokie
December 8, 2019 4:07 am
Reply to  Bengie

Coughing can be a sign of worms. I had a dog with asthma. He couched and wheezed a lot. When my other dog started coughing I knew there was an issue. The both had whip worm, tape worm, hook worm, and round worms. My husband is a truck driver and he would take his little dog on the road with him, this is where he got them and brought them home to my little dog. Whip and hook are not easy to see, so you may not notice them.

Mary A
April 18, 2020 12:33 pm
Reply to  Tokie

What did you give your dog for the cough ?

Tracy
December 29, 2018 10:55 am

Thank you ☺️.

talon controls
November 1, 2018 9:33 am

really good subject good work