Treating Dog Anxiety with Benadryl (is it safe and does it help?)

Benadryl is a cough medicine for humans, but can you give Benadryl to dogs to treat their anxiety? Is Benadryl safe for dogs and does it actually work?

Okay, so let's move on to question number two, and that is: is Benadryl safe for anxiety in dogs?

Does benadryl help treat an anxious dog, and is it safe?

Is Benadryl safe for dogs?

Benadryl contains the antihistamine diphenhydramine. Generally speaking, Benadryl is safe but there are conditions where it might be dangerous to give this medication to your dog. these conditions include dogs with glaucoma, with some urinary problems, with some causes of vomiting, heart disease and high blood pressure, and also hyperthyroidism, which is very uncommon in dogs but if it's present, then nonetheless we need to be careful with Benadryl.

So whenever we're giving anything to our dogs (or cats), you really need to be talking to your vet because they will be able to give you specific advice for your pet. Any information that you read online or I'm giving in these podcasts is going to be just general advice for the majority of the population, but it's never going to be individual advice for a specific patient.

For the first reason I'm not allowed to do that, it would be unethical, there's a high probability of giving the wrong advice, or it may be that your dog is the exception to the rule and then something which most others would be fine with, your dog would really have problems with.

So definitely speak to your vet but those conditions where Benadryl isn't safe are reasonably uncommon.

It is also important to mention that some benadryl or diphenhydramine products contain additional drugs or ingredients which may not be safe. This might be different pharmaceutical drugs or dangerous additives like the sweetener xylitol (click through to read all about the danger of xylitol poisoning in dogs).

Does Benadryl work in dogs?

So if we think of Benadryl or diphenhydramine as a whole, it can be given and it's often given more to treat allergic disease and I’d say this is the most common reason that this drug has been given to dogs. Although the individual response does vary and when it comes to antihistamines, it seems that dogs do have a very individual response. They will respond to one and not another, and that you may need to cycle through several different types of antihistamines before finding one that works for your dog (if indeed any work at all!).

Now, one of the potential side effects of Benadryl is sedation and it's primarily this sedative effect which people rely on when it comes to treating anxiety. Although the drug does have some kind of anti-anxiety effect as well that's separate from the sedation.

So the other thing to think about is if we're using it on a regular basis, then actually the sedative effect generally wears off and also some dogs may be unaffected anyway like I just discussed.

So while it can be used for some cases of anxiety, it might not be beneficial if you're using it regularly or if your dog is one of these that doesn't respond.

the sedative effect of benadryl in dogs tends to wear off over time and some anxious dogs are also unaffected

While Benadryl can be used to treat anxiety, it’s probably best suited really to mild anxiety and really only used in conjunction with other management techniques. For example, I've discussed those in my article all about helping a dog cope with fireworks

What else can help treat an anxious dog?

So whenever we're treating anxiety or behavioural problems there’s a whole wealth of things that we can do and if we can do a lot of different things, then it's going to have a much better effect than just trying to find that one magic bullet, that one magic treatment. Very often there's no such thing and we need to do a lot of other things.

In the case of an anxious dog it may be that we need to do other things and there may be some other products that are more suitable for your dog depending on the nature of their anxiety or any other medical issues that they're suffering with.

That might be something like an Adaptil Collar or plug in diffuser and that's a pheromone treatment. It could be a dietary supplement like Calmex or Zylkene or it could be another pharmaceutical product. So that goes back to discussing with your vet, what's the best thing for your dog or your cat if they're suffering from anxiety or stress and what's the most effective management strategy.

So we don't want to think about treating a condition, especially one like anxiety or phobias or fears with a drug alone. That's not a management plan, that's one part of a strategy but we need to do lots of other things and definitely chat with your vet or a behaviourist as well when it comes to developing other strategies to help. Although your vet will be the number one port of call for pharmaceutical intervention.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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