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OTC Medications: Is it Safe for your Pets?

When you visit your vet, you may leave with many instructions to give your pet the medications and treat their condition. Sometimes, these medications may include the ones available without a prescription. You may find this surprising, but many OTC ‘human medicines’ also work on pets like dogs and cats.

However, although these products are available without prescriptions, OTC medicines may have toxic effects on pets if you do not use them correctly. While you should speak with the vet before giving these medicines to your pets, in this blog, we will also discuss some of the most common OTC medicines and whether they are safe for your pets.

Safety of Benadryl in Pets

Benadryl is one of the antihistamines which helps with allergic reactions and mild allergies. It is also helpful in preventing motion sickness in dogs during mild anxiety and travel relief in cats and dogs.

Many humans OTC products combine Benadryl with decongestants like phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. Decongestants are unsafe for pets, so ensure you read the label carefully and see that the product only has diphenhydramine listed in the active ingredients.

You should not give Benadryl to pregnant cats or dogs or those with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or other heart conditions.

Does Benadryl Affect Pets?

Benadryl should work within 1-2 hours to relieve pet allergy symptoms and wear off within 24 hours. Drowsiness is the top side effects, but some cats and dogs may become more excited after a dose. If your pet takes medicine for mood or seizures, the sleepy feeling may be more noticeable or even last for a long time. Lower appetite, less frequent urination, and dry mouth are also common side effects.

You should always check with your pet’s vet about the dose you should give to your pet. Remember not to give your pet the medication per the human’s direction on the OTC package, as pet instructions would differ. Too much Benadryl may also lead to seizures, coma, trouble breathing, or even death.

Are there other antihistamines for pets?

Dramamine is another antihistamine that can help relieve dizziness or prevent motion sickness. Unfortunately, the side effects are quite similar to Benadryl. Many second-generation antihistamines like Claritin and Zyrtec also work well in pets with a chance of less drowsiness. Ask the vet about the type of antihistamine that would be the best option for your pet’s condition.

Giving Pet Aspirin or other Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Medication

Aspirin and other NSAIDs help relieve inflammation and mild pain in pets like osteoarthritis. Usually, vets prescribe FDA-approved pain relievers to use in dogs and cats. Many human NSAIDs could be dangerous for pets. However, you should know a few things if you are trying to give your furry friends an OTC medication. You can get prescriptions on discount with pet medication discount card.


Ask the vet about the type of aspirin you should purchase. While the safety-coated versions may help protect human stomachs, they prevent dogs from digesting properly. As plain tablets may irritate your pet’s stomach, they might recommend buffer aspirin.

Other NSAIDs

While there are a few FDA-approved NSAIDs for use in pets, NSAIDs are the OTC used in humans, like naproxen or ibuprofen, which could be quite dangerous for dogs and cats. In addition, many humans NSAIDs have a sweet outer coating that is enticing for the pets to eat, and keep the medications in a secure place where animals cannot get to them.

Will NSAIDs affect my pet?

Your pet should experience pain relief within one to two hours of the aspirin dose. While diarrhea and vomiting are common side effects of NSAIDs, you should contact your vet if they are bloody or if the stools are suddenly very dark. If you stop giving medication to your pet, or you see yellowing eyes in your pet, or if they stop eating and are inactive, then you should stop giving medications and seek immediate help.


What should I do if I accidentally give my pet an unsafe OTC medication?

Store the medications safely in a secured lunchbox or container out of the pet’s reach. Cats and dogs often swallow human medicines out of curiosity or because of their flavor. You can also find rattling pill bottles that sound like pet toys, so it may be tempting for a pet to get into medicines they should not consume.

If you believe your pet is experiencing an overdose of medication or has accidentally swallowed the medicine, call your pet’s vet or a local emergency number.

What if there’s a problem with the OTC medicine the vet recommended?

Your vet will carefully select a pet medicine dose based on the type and size of your animal. An overdose of a pet-approved medicine can be fatal to your pet. Refrain from doubling up on the next dose if you realize you have forgotten or skipped a dose.


Before you give an OTC medicine to your cat or dog, talk to your vet about the dosing instructions. Although OTC medicines are available without a prescription, human doses can harm animals, and you should never give some products to them.

After giving any medicine to your pet, watch them for bad reactions, side effects, or worsening of conditions. If you are ever concerned about how an OTC medicine affects your furry friend, stop giving the medication and call your vet instantly.

To receive a discount on OTC medications, your veterinarian will need to write a prescription for the OTC medication. Bring the prescription and your Wise Rx Prescription Discount Card to the pharmacy and save up to 85%.

Rx discount card

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