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 additional 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 bathwater 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 hair dryer; 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 his 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Any or all of these products can be purchased online from DrsFosterSmith.com or at Amazon.com.
So, if you’re wondering, “Can I give my dog Claritin?,” you now have enough information to make an informed decision.
1. Drs. Foster & Smith, http://www.drsfostersmith.com/?ref=4136&subref=AA&cmpid=PPC-B-4136
2. The Pet Lover’s Guide to Cat & Dog Skin Diseases, Karen L. Campbell, DVM
3. Dogs: The Ultimate Care Guide, Edited by Matthew Hoffman
© 2011 Donna Cosmato