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Are over-the-counter medications safe for my dog?

By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Much of the time, the answer to this is “no!” Even for those that can be used, many of the time, a more effective dog-specific alternative exists. In fact, inadvertent overdosage of a human medication is one of the top reasons people call the Pet Poison Control Hotline.

Antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Tavist, are some of the more commonly used over-the-counter medication for dogs. Veterinarians may also occasionally recommend over the counter antacids such as Pepcid for certain conditions. Because canine dosages can differ from human dosages, it’s important to get directions specific to your pet if these medications are recommended.

Pain medications is the number one category where owners seem to have problems when it comes to dosing their dog with human medications. Aspirin, Tylenol, and NSAIDS are often given to pets with very variable results. Best case scenario, they just don’t work. Worst case scenario, a pet can go into renal failure or suffer from ulcerations in the GI tract. Worse still, even one Tylenol is enough to kill a cat! (I know this is a dog article, but it never hurts to remind people.)

Although it may be tempting to skip the office visit and try an Aleve instead, my clients who spent thousands of dollars in the vet hospital after a pet develops bleeding ulcers can confirm: it’s not worth it. Safe and effective veterinary pain medications are always a better choice.

Despite how we think of them, dogs aren’t just small, furry humans. The fact is, there are many differences in the way dogs metabolize drugs compared to people. This can have tragic consequences. Never dose your pet with a drug meant for you without talking to your veterinarian.

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