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Can I Give My Dog Claritin?

Donna shares insider tips about your pets gained through exclusive interviews with industry experts.

Getting an opinion from your vet is a good idea when you are trying to decide "Can I give my dog Claritin?"

Getting an opinion from your vet is a good idea when you are trying to decide "Can I give my dog Claritin?"

If you are wondering if you can give a dog Claritin allergy medication, the answer is more complicated than a simple "Yes" or "No." While giving him a pill to stop his itching might seem like the easiest way to handle the problem, it may not be the safest move for your pet.

Itching can be a symptom of allergies or more serious systemic issues. Here we examine the pros and cons of using over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat itching and give you some choices of some safer alternatives.

Why Is My Dog Itching?

According to Dr. Karen L. Campbell, “Allergies affect 10 to 25 percent of dogs...”1 Furthermore, the animal may be allergic to several different things, making a diagnosis difficult. In addition to allergies, the following things can trigger the itch-scratch cycle:

  • Environmental conditions like tobacco smoke or house dust.
  • Insects like mosquitoes, fleas, lice, ticks, or chiggers.
  • Grasses, trees, or weeds.
  • Molds or animal or human danders.

Much like other diseases such as canine epilepsy, the cause of scratching and itching is usually determined by exclusion. In other words, the veterinarian rules out other causes such as systemic disorders and determines a treatment based on the way the dog presents its overall health, age, and weight, and the results of any tests or trial treatments.

For example, if the dog is treated for fleas, and the symptoms disappear, the vet assumes that the fleas were the trigger for the itch-scratch cycle. It’s important to know why the dog is scratching to determine the proper treatment method.

Should I Try Eliminating Allergens?

Here are some simple steps you can take to relieve or eliminate potential allergens and make your dog more comfortable.

  • Reduce the dog’s exposure to potential allergens. Bedrooms, for example, typically have a higher level of dust, mites, and other allergens than other rooms in the house, so it might be better to have Fido sleep in another location.
  • Wash the dog’s bedding weekly to remove pollen and dust.
  • Avoid walking the dog on newly mown lawns or in areas with plants that are known allergic triggers.
  • Limit the dog’s exposure to allergens by covering the skin. Make an inexpensive skin cover by slipping a tee-shirt over the dog’s body,
  • Bathe the dog in cool water to which dry milk powder or oatmeal is added. This soothes the skin and reduces the urge to itch. While Epsom salts can be used in bath water to relieve itching, they are a laxative, so take care to keep your dog from licking the water off their fur.
  • Dry the fur with a towel rather than a hairdryer; the hot air could dry the skin and exacerbate the itching.

When, and why, would a vet prescribe an antihistamine such as Claritin? Let's find out in the next section.

Why Vets Sometimes Recommend Claritin

According to Dogs: The Ultimate Guide, “Some of the antihistamines designed for relief of allergies in humans are effective in about one-third of canine cases, and you can purchase most from a pharmacy without a prescription. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), clemastine (Tavist), and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) have all been successfully used with dogs.”2

If your vet has prescribed Claritin or another OTC drug, it is probably because, in their opinion, the risk versus the reward of using such a drug is justified to control your dog's symptoms.

Should I Try OTC Remedies?

Many pet owners prefer to use safe and effective itch stop aids rather than risk potential side effects from drugs that are not formulated for canine use. Here are some products you might want to try.

  1. No-Chew Trainer: This pet-friendly itch stop product is a water-based, alcohol- and aerosol-free spray. It contains water and a natural bittering agent—extract of Andrographolide and Kalmeghin—to reduce or eliminate chewing, licking, and scratching. An eight-ounce bottle costs about $7.
  2. Herbal Skin and Coat Rub: This soothing water-based product contains pennyroyal and comfrey oils. Rub directly onto the dog’s skin to relieve itchy skin. A 16-ounce bottle costs around $11.
  3. Anti-Lick Strips: Convenient and easy-to-apply strips are impregnated with cayenne pepper, oregano, lemon powder, and oil of cloves. They are applied to the paws like a bandage and come in packs of six strips. Purchase based on the dog’s size with prices ranging from approximately $20 to $30.
  4. Itch Stop Kit: This kit is the best buy for both saving money and providing convenience. It contains everything needed to treat itchy skin and discourage excessive biting, licking, and chewing. The products contain 0.5 percent hydrocortisone. The kit includes Itch Stop Shampoo, Itch Stop Spray, and Itch Stop Salve and costs about $20.
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Read More From Pethelpful

Any or all of these products can be purchased online from or at


Drs. Foster & Smith,

The Pet Lover’s Guide to Cat & Dog Skin Diseases, Karen L. Campbell, DVM

Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide, Edited by Matthew Hoffman

© 2011 Donna Cosmato


Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 12, 2011:

Hi is amazing that sometimes the vets do end up prescribing what we consider to be human medications. I've had to take a prescription for antibiotics to our local pharmacy in the past for my Chihuahua when she had pneumonia, and when our diabetic cat was living, we got her needles and insulin from the pharmacy as well. The key is letting the vet make the decision:)

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 12, 2011:

Hi Judi Bee...thanks for the vote of support and your nice comments. I really appreciate hearing from you about my hubs. We had a dog that was allergic to fleas (can you believe that!) and our cat has food allergies. I guess you just never know when it comes to pet health issues such as allergies or food sensitivities, do you?

Kris Heeter from Indiana on December 12, 2011:

Very interesting - I had no idea that an over the counter drug like claritin might be prescribed in some cases for dogs!

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 12, 2011:

Hi Deborah, thanks for reading and commenting on this hub. I certainly appreciate your vote of confidence, and I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm a nervous parent so whether it is my child or my fur baby, when there is any sign of illness we pack up and head for the professionals:)

Judi Brown from UK on December 12, 2011:

Hi Donna - I have to say, I've never considered giving my dog human medicine, but I was interested in this hub nevertheless. The issue of allergies in a dog hadn't occurred to me, but I guess if we get them, the dog can too.

Voted up etc.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on December 12, 2011:

Thanks for the Hub and the advice...I did not know any of this..I always take my animalss to the vet...I voted up...

Donna Cosmato (author) from USA on December 12, 2011:

Hi LindaSmith!...Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this hub about whether or not you should give your dog Claritin or other human meds. These are some awesome tips for everyone to heed, and I appreciate your comments.

LindaSmith1 from USA on December 12, 2011:

Although vets often give medications used for humans, the dosage is for the pet according to size and weight, just like a doctor does for us.

Another reason for dogs itching is a skin infection. You cannot always see the infection. My dog was chewing her backside up, literraly, and it was some type of infection. Antibiotics and medication for the itch took care of it. We give our dogs bits of cake, cookies, ice cream and maybe candy. This creates yeast infections in dogs including in their ears. The brown stuff in their ears is not always mites, it very well may be a yeast infection.

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