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Can I Give my Dog Benadryl for Dog's Anxiety?

Old lonely dog laying on the carpet looking out the window

You’ve probably tried a million and one things to calm your anxious dog. Whether your pup is a rescue suffering from past experiences or simply a nervous pooch in new situations, there are a few ways to treat anxiety in dogs.

Although we should never assume human medication is suitable for our beloved furry friends, Benadryl is often administered to dogs suffering from a variety of symptoms. Traditionally an allergy medication, this anti-histamine is given to dogs with hay fever, skin allergies, and even anxiety.

What is Benadryl?

Benadryl is an over-the-counter medication for humans. It is generally used to treat mild-to-moderate common allergy symptoms, such as irritation, watery eyes, and sneezing. Benadryl is the brand name for the anti-histamine with the active ingredient diphenhydramine HCL.

Diphenhydramine is a first-generation ethanolamine-derivative antihistamine. This means it can cross the blood-brain barrier, unlike second-generation antihistamines. As a result, Benadryl is a very effective treatment for allergy symptoms. However, it may also have a higher risk of negative effects.

Is Benadryl safe for dogs?

Goldendoodle laying on a dog bed in a cabin

Although Benadryl is not currently on the FDA’s list of approved drugs for veterinary use, it is generally considered safe to give to dogs. As long as your dog does not suffer from any pre-existing serious medication conditions, it is safe to give your dog Benadryl. However, Benadryl may interact with other medication. So, if you’re in doubt about whether Benadryl is a good idea for your dog, consult your vet first.

What is dog anxiety?

There are so many things that can make a dog anxious. Sadly, our pups can’t tell us what’s bothering them so it’s up to us as their owners to work out what triggers their nerves. Although every dog is different, there are some common anxiety triggers in dogs – these include:

  • Loud noises, such as fireworks

It’s no secret that dogs are sensitive to loud noises. Prepare for New Year’s Eve and 4th of July by taking your dog somewhere quiet or giving them an anti-anxiety treatment.

If your dog is destructive or has accidents when you leave them home alone, they’re probably experiencing separation anxiety. This can be leftover from past experiences or just a characteristic of the breed.

  • Shelter/past home anxiety

If your pup is a rescue dog, then you might know very little about their life before they joined your family. Just like humans, dogs can get post-traumatic stress from bad situations. For example, some dogs may fear men because they’ve experienced abuse at the hands of a male owner. Only experience will teach you what your dog does and doesn’t like.

  • Illness-induced anxiety

Certain medical conditions may cause a spike in your dog’s anxiety. For example, hormone issues caused by hypothyroidism can spark fear responses and common anxiety symptoms. If your dog is losing their sight or hearing, they may become more easily startled and anxious as a result.

What are the symptoms of anxiety in dogs?

Golden retriever laying in a restaurant

Every dog is different. However, your dog may display any or a mix of the following symptoms:

If your dog is regularly displaying the above symptoms, you should consult your vet before starting any new treatment. They are best placed to recommend a course of treatment for your anxious pup.

Is Benadryl a good option for dog anxiety?

Anxious looking pug laying on a white rug

Although Benadryl is traditionally an anti-allergy medication, it can also be used to soothe anxiety in dogs. This is because it causes drowsiness, so your pet can find the rest they need during anxious times. This is particularly useful if your dog suffering from situational anxiety, such as the sound of fireworks or fear of being left alone. Benadryl can help soothe your dog’s anxiety, so they can get used to being left alone or learn to not fear loud noises.

Before administering Benadryl to your dog, there are a few things to consider. If your dog is already taking any medication, you should check with your vet before adding Benadryl to their routine. The anti-histamine may interfere with existing medication or even medical conditions.

You should consider the age, weight, and breed of your dog before adding Benadryl into their daily routine. The standard dosage for oral Benadryl is 1mg per pound of body weight, given 2-3 times a day or as necessary. For example, if you purchase 25mg tablets, this will suit a 25-pound dog. However, if you’re in doubt, always ask your vet before changing their existing treatment plan.

What are the side effects of Benadryl for dogs?

Lab looking sad laying on a couch armrest

Although Benadryl is generally considered safe for canine consumption, that’s not to say they may experience some side effects. As with humans, Benadryl can cause drowsiness. So, if your dog is sleeping more than usual, you may need to reduce their dosage. Both dry mouth and hypersalivation are known side effects of Benadryl for dogs. Uncommon, and potentially dangerous, symptoms of Benadryl include an increased heart rate and rapid breathing. If your dog displays these symptoms or anything else unusual, get them to the vet as soon as possible.

Are there natural alternatives to Benadryl for dog anxiety?

Yes, there is a number of holistic alternatives to Benadryl to help soothe your dog in their anxious times.

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is a substance derived from the marijuana or hemp plant. The naturally occurring oil can benefit dogs with anxiety. When choosing CBD products for your dog, always opt for hemp-derived CBD. CBD oils and treats for dogs are designed to be safe for canine consumption. They contain zero THC – the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis. THC is very dangerous for dogs, so never give your dog human CBD oil.

Luckily, there are some amazing CBD products made especially for dogs. From coconut oil to dog treats and even a concentrated oil, you’ll find something to suit your dog’s routine. Always consult the label before giving your dog CBD, this will help you decipher the best dosage for your dog’s age, weight, and breed.

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Another human remedy for anxiety that’s becoming increasingly popular for dogs is the weighted blanket. The blanket is designed to apply pressure to certain pressure points in the body, they create the sensation of safety and help to ease anxiety.

Be sure to get a doggy-approved weighted blanket, as some of the human ones may be too heavy for your pup – especially if your canine friend is only small!

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Whether you choose to go down the pharmaceutical or holistic route, you’ll be pleased to hear there are so many ways to help your dog through their anxious times. Remember they’ll need constant reassurance and cuddles, especially when they’re panicking. Never punish your pup for having a nervous accident in the house or destroying the odd cushion – instead, work with them to find the right treatment plan to soothe their anxiety.

Meet The Author 

Grant Withers

Canine Specialist & Writer

Grant is an award-winning writer for SitStay with a passion for pets and especially dogs! Grant loves writing about furry little goofballs and aims to educate pet parents about anything and everything regarding their dogs.

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