By Caitlin Ultimo
It’s hard to watch your dog feel uncomfortable, especially if what ails him is as common and simple as an upset stomach. If your dog has diarrhea, he may not be acting like himself and you may want to help him feel better by reaching for the same thing that comforts you when your stomach hurts: Pepto Bismol.
The famously pink over-the-counter medication, Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) is used to treat gastrointestinal upset in humans, and although it may aid in the resolution of diarrhea in dogs in certain situations, it should only be used if directed by a veterinarian and at the appropriate dose, said Dr. Jessica Wallach, a staff doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center, adding that it should not be administered long-term.
While Pepto Bismol can work wonders on your stomach, it could cause more harm than good when it comes to your dog’s overall health.
Potential Side Effects of Giving Your Dog Pepto Bismol
There are some concerns and potential risks involved when it comes to giving dog a dose of Pepto Bismol, and that is why it is best to leave the ultimate decision up to your veterinarian. Pepto Bismol can cause dogs’ stools to turn a greenish-black color and, “as a result, it can be difficult to discern if your dog is experiencing melena (blood in the stool), which presents as black, tarry stools and can be indicative of a serious medical issue,” Wallach said.
Additionally, Wallach said that the active ingredient in Pepto Bismol contains aspirin, so if used too frequently or at high dosages, it can result in stomach ulcers in dogs. “The risk of ulceration is increased if used concurrently with certain medications, so always talk to your veterinarian prior to administration, especially if your dog is on medications or has any health conditions.”
Pepto Bismol tablets can also appear radio-opaque on x-rays, Wallach said. “This means that if your dog's gastrointestinal signs [become worse] and abdominal radiographs are performed by your veterinarian, the tablets can be mistaken for a metallic foreign body.” This could lead to unnecessary surgery or other medical procedures, putting your dog’s health at greater risk than it needs to be.
Alternative Solutions for Stomach Pain Relief
If your dog has an upset stomach, there are ways to comfort him until the diarrhea passes. “Mild [sudden onset] diarrhea in dogs is often self-limiting and medications are not needed for resolution,” Wallach said. “That being said, you can feed your dog a bland diet (like plain, boiled chicken with white rice) for a few days if he has soft stool or diarrhea.”
Knowing that you are nearby can also help soothe your dog, so try to fit in a few tummy rubs while he rests. If your pet’s symptoms do not resolve or if they worsen, or if other signs of illness develop (like vomiting, lethargy, inappetance), however, you should bring your dog to the veterinarian, Wallach said.
Although Pepto Bismol may help address your dog’s mild diarrhea, never administer a dose without consulting your vet first. And, if you’re curious about if the same rule applies to your cat, know that Pepto Bismol should never be given to cats under any circumstances due to the risk of salicylate (aspirin or aspirin derivatives) toxicity, Wallach said. Salicylate toxicity can cause anemia, ulceration and liver failure in cats, making salicylates toxic at any dose.
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