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Allergies In Dogs: How Benadryl Or This Natural Alternative Could Help

| Published on October 30, 2017

Many pup parents know all too well: it’s not just humans who can suffer from seasonal allergies. Our dogs’ health and happiness is our top concern, and seeing them uncomfortable – from gnawing at itchy paws to bouts of sneezing – breaks our hearts. Luckily, once the allergies are identified, they can be easily remedied; but we do need to know a little bit about the cause and treatment in order to help our loyal friends.

We at iHeartDogs asked Dr. Michel Selmer, DVM, CTCVMP, about using Benadryl as a treatment for seasonal allergies, as well as what could be used as a natural alternative. Also known as “The Caring Vet,” Dr. Selmer is a Certified Veterinary Food Therapist (CVFT) who uses principles from Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) to treat his patients.

If you suspect your dog has allergies or any other health issue, always consult with your vet before starting any kind of treatment. 

In the words of Dr. Selmer:

Allergies. You know: itchy skin, red and watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose. Allergies are a pain, for you and for your dog.

A little about Benadryl:

Some veterinarians will prescribe Benadryl or another antihistamine for allergies. Generally speaking, Benadryl is safe. It would be contraindicated (inadvisable) in dogs that have had an adverse side effect to Benadryl or any other antihistamine.

Benadryl should also be used cautiously in dogs with glaucoma, difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate, or obstructions at the neck of the bladder, vomiting due to an obstruction at the pylorus (between the stomach and duodenum), hyperthyroid disease, cardiovascular disease and/or high blood pressure (hypertension).

Related: Best Quercetin Supplements for Dogs

Benadryl is an antihistamine used primarily for prevention of motion sickness, as a sedative, as an anti-nausea and for itchiness as a result of an allergic reaction, mast cell tumors, etc. Benadryl inhibits histamine release, can cause sedation, help dry up mucus membranes, inhibit coughing and control nausea.

Benadryl, or any other antihistamine, is best used in dogs with a predictable pattern of allergic exposure. For example, I will typically recommend an antihistamine (ie. Zyrtec, Benadryl, Atarax or Chlor-Trimeton) before the start of allergy season in a dog with seasonal allergies and to continue until allergy season is over. I have not found antihistamines to be very good at controlling the itchy dog, as there are many things that can cause a dog to be itchy and histamine release is only one pathway. So, if Benadryl doesn’t work for an itchy dog after using it for 14 days, I would recommend trying a different antihistamine.

(Check out “5 Things Dog Owners Should Know About Giving Benadryl To Dogs” for more.)

Quercetin, a natural alternative:

A great natural remedy to try is a flavonoid called Quercetin. This flavonoid is a plant-based compound with powerful antioxidant and antihistamine properties.

Most people think to use an antihistamine when their dog is having an allergic reaction. Quercetin, or any other antihistamine, will work best when given very early in the event of an allergic reaction, before histamine is released. Once a dog is symptomatic, the histamine has already been released and Quercetin may not help.

There are many things that can cause a dog to be itchy and histamine release is only one pathway. Like with Benadryl, if Quercetin doesn’t work for an itchy dog after 14 days, I would recommend trying a different antihistamine.

Related: Best Allergy Medicines for Dogs

Image Source: Dr. Selmer


We want to thank Dr. Selmer for sharing his knowledge with us. If you want to learn more about taking a holistic approach to your pet’s healthcare, check out his book The Best of Both Worlds: An Advanced Guide to Integrative Veterinary Care for Happier, Healthier Pups.

You can also check out his website and follow him on Facebook.

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