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

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

A staple in many medicine cabinets, Pepto-Bismal 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

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. 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.

WARNING: 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

7. Antibiotic Ointments & Other Topical Creams

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.

8. Glucosamine (For Arthritis Relief)

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.

9. 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.

10. Nasal Sprays

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.

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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.

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Ola Smith
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.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
We suggest asking your vet or trying out this online vet service to see if it’s safe for your dog.
Pam Krause
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?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
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
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.
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
You could try out this online vet service to see what’s wrong with your dog. Hope she feels better soon!
donna
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
You can give CBD OIL for pain. I give it to my 16 yr old Pom for pain management.
pamela morrison
what is the best fever reducer that can be given to a dog that weighs around 20-25lbs
PMS
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?
Gloria
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
Did they start her on thyroid meds? A lot of skin issues clear up once we get the thyroid under control.
Christine Smith
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
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
Need to call a vet!
Kelly S.
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 ??
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Call your vet and ask.
Dora
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.
Constance York
My little dog Maltese has Allergies what can I give her over the counter medicine please
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
This article about dog allergies may be helpful.
Connie Caldwell
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
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
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
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?
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
Stacy
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
U can give peptobismol and keep him warm
Breanna Tyler
My dog is sick, she has a cold what should I give her
Kimberly Alt (Admin)
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
Sally, Pepto is not safe for canines. Has new ingredient that is NOT safe for dogs.
Bengie
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 .
Tracy
Thank you ☺️.
talon controls
really good subject good work