Many dog parents wonder if over-the-counter medications can be used to treat minor health problems in dogs.
While some OTC meds are safe for our dogs, many of them are quite dangerous simply because dogs have different metabolisms and physiology from us.
Also, even with OTC medications that are considered safe for dogs, administering a wrong dosage can be dangerous or sometimes even fatal. Just breaking adult human versions of some pills into Chihuhua-size doses is difficult and simply does not work.
OTC Meds for Dogs – Precautions
While the over-the-counter option may seem simpler and cheaper, giving OTC meds to dogs without precautions may prove more costly in the long run.
Most OTC meds are not FDA approved for use in animals, so the exact safe dosage may not have been determined through clinical studies and there are no clear dosage directions for dogs.
Veterinarians use dosages that have been developed anecdotally or through experience. It is therefore important to always check with your veterinarian first before giving any OTC medications to your dog.
In particular, if your dog has any pre-existing medical conditions or is already on another medication, ask your veterinarian if the OTC med you are going to give your dog is safe, and if the dosage has to be adjusted.
ALWAYS let your veterinarian know if your dog is taking any OTC meds because drug interactions can be fatal, and some OTC meds could be dangerous in dogs with chronic health problems.
Asking the pharmacist at your local drugstore is not good enough because while pharmacists are knowledgeable about human drug usage, they are usually unfamiliar with animal physiology.
Also, do not use any drugs that have past their expiration dates. Read the directions for use on the container and follow any special directions, e.g. taking on an empty stomach.
Always follow the directions given by your veterinarian. If possible, get a written dosage schedule and directions from your vet so you know exactly how to use the medication.
A List of OTC Meds for Dogs
Before is a list of safe OTC meds for dogs (as suggested by the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook). However, you still need to consult your veterinarian before giving any of these drugs to your dogs. In addition, the doses given below will need to be adjusted if your dog has other health conditions.
|OTC Drug||Action||Dosage||How to Give||How Often|
|Aspirin (buffered; enteric coated)||Pain-killing; anti-inflammatory||4-10 mg/pound of body weight||Orally with food||Once daily|
|Benadryl (diphenhydramine)||Antihistamine||2 mg/pound of body weight||Orally||Every 8 hours|
|Betadine solution (povidone-iodine)||Antiseptic||Dilute to 0.2%||Topically||As prescribed for wound cleaning|
|Activated Charcoal||Binds stomach poisons||5 g/10 pounds of body weight||Orally||Give once (only under veterinary direction)|
|Dramamine (dimenhydrinate)||For motion sickness||2-4 mg/pound of body weight||Orally||Every 8 hours|
|Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)||Induce vomiting||1 teaspoon/10 pounds of body weight||Orally||May repeat every 15-30 minutes (3 times only)|
|Kaolin and pectin||For persistent diarrhea||1-2 teaspoons/10 pounds of body weight||Orally||Every 6 hours|
|Metamucil (psyllium)||For constipation||1 teaspoon/11-22 pounds of body weight||Orally, add to meals||Once daily (for short-term use)|
|Maalox||Antacid, laxative||2-4 ml/pound of body weight||Orally||Every 12-24 hours|
|Pepcid (famitodine)||Histamine blocker for antacid effect||1 mg/pound of body weight||Orally or injection||Once or twice daily|
|Pepto-Bismol||For diarrhea||0.5-1.5 ml/pound of body weight||Orally||Every 12 hours|
|Prilosec (omeprazole)||Antacid, ulcer med||0.25-0.5 mg/pound of body weight||Orally||Once daily|
|Robitussin DM, Benylin Expectorant (dextromethorphan)||For cough||1 teaspoon/20 pounds of body weight||Orally||Every 6 hours|
|Tagamet (cimetidine)||Histamine blocker for antacid effect||10 mg/pound of body weight||Orally||2-3 times daily|