Allergy Medicine For Dogs: Benefits, Risks, Dosage & Can Dogs Take Them?

allergy medicine for dogs

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This content was reviewed and fact-checked by veterinarian Dr. Aukse Caraite, DVM.

If you’ve ever watched your pup struggle with allergies, you know how heartbreaking it can be. But can you give allergy medicine to dogs? This question plagues the minds of many loving pet parents who hate seeing their fur babies suffering from allergies. This comprehensive guide will discuss everything you need about dog allergy medication. We cover many allergy treatments, from over-the-counter options to prescription medications, including the risks, benefits and dosages.

By understanding how different allergy medicines work in dogs, pet owners can make informed decisions regarding the most effective action for their pet’s specific needs. Let’s dive right in!

What Are Allergy Medicines For Dogs?

Allergy medicines for dogs are typically used to treat all the major dog allergy symptoms from different types of allergies, including seasonal, food, skin, indoor, environmental, insect bite allergies, and more. Dog allergy medications also relieve the itchiness of many canine skin conditions and reduce allergy-induced inflammation. These medications also help prevent secondary infections and improve the dog’s overall quality of life.

Dog Allergy Medications Formats

Allergy medicine for dogs comes in the following formats:

  • Pills
  • Liquids
  • Inhalers
  • Nasal sprays
  • Eye drops
  • Skin creams
  • Shots (injections)

Types of Allergy Medicine For Dogs

There are several types of dog allergy treatments available.

  • Antihistamine
  • Nonsteroidal Immunosuppressants
  • Corticosteroids (steroids)
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots)
  • Over-the-counter (OTC)
  • Natural options (homemade & supplements)

How Do Allergy Medicines For Dogs Work?

Each type of dog allergy medicine works differently in your dog’s body.


  • Common types: Some of the most commonly used antihistamines for dogs include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and loratadine (Claritin). These medications are often used to treat mild to moderate allergies in dogs.
  • Mode of action: Antihistamines block the action of histamine, a chemical released by the body in response to an allergen. Histamine is responsible for causing allergy symptoms such as itching, inflammation, and redness. By inhibiting the effects of histamine, antihistamines help alleviate these symptoms and relieve dogs suffering from allergies.


  • Common types: Corticosteroids like prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone are often prescribed to treat severe allergies in dogs. These medications are potent anti-inflammatory agents that can quickly provide relief from allergy symptoms.
  • Mode of action: Steroids suppress the immune system’s response to allergens, thereby reducing inflammation and discomfort. They do this by inhibiting the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which cause inflammation. As a result, steroids can effectively reduce itching, redness, and swelling associated with allergies.

Nonsteroidal Immunosuppressants

  • Common types: Cyclosporine (Atopica) and oclacitinib (Apoquel) are two immunosuppressive drugs commonly used to treat allergies in dogs, particularly for cases where steroids and antihistamines may not be effective or have undesirable side effects.
  • Mode of action: Immunosuppressive drugs work by modulating the immune system’s response to allergens. Cyclosporine inhibits the activation of immune cells called T-cells, which play a crucial role in triggering the allergic reaction. Oclacitinib, on the other hand, specifically targets the enzymes responsible for producing inflammatory and itch-inducing substances. By dampening the immune response, these drugs help to reduce the severity of allergy symptoms in dogs.

Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots)

  • Common types:  Cytopoint is the most common allergy shot. Immunotherapy is a treatment option for dogs with allergies that do not respond well to conventional medications or when the cause of the allergy cannot be eliminated from the environment.
  • Mode of action: Immunotherapy involves administering gradually increasing doses of allergens to a dog, either through subcutaneous injections or sublingual drops, over an extended period. Exposing the dog to controlled amounts of the allergens makes the immune system less reactive to them over time. This process reduces the production of allergy-causing antibodies and decreases the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. As a result, the dog experiences fewer allergy symptoms and improves its quality of life.

Over The Counter (Topical, Natural & Homemade)

  • Common types: Over-the-counter treatments for dog allergies can include topical creams, homemade remedies, medicated shampoos, and topical sprays containing natural ingredients like oatmeal, aloe vera, or essential oils. These treatments are often used with oral medications to provide localized relief for skin-related allergy symptoms.
  • Mode of action: Over-the-counter treatments typically work by soothing inflamed and irritated skin, reducing itching and discomfort. Some medicated shampoos and creams may contain antimicrobial or antifungal agents that help to prevent secondary infections caused by excessive scratching. Certain topical treatments can also create a protective barrier on the skin, helping to prevent allergens from coming into contact with the skin and triggering an allergic reaction.

Dog Allergy Medicine Benefits

Dog allergy medicine benefits include relief for the following canine allergy symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Increased scratching
  • Itchy, red, scaly, moist, oily, or scabby skin
  • Itchy paws
  • Constant licking
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itchy ears, ear infections, or eye discharge
  • Hair loss
  • Skin rashes
  • Hot spots (skin infections resulting from excessive scratching)
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Red eyes
  • Inflammation
  • Yeast or bacterial infections
  • Anaphylaxis shock (severe allergy case)

Some pet allergy medicines are more effective at treating certain symptoms than others.

Can A Dog Take Allergy Medicine?

Yes, dogs can safely take dog allergy medicine. However, only give medication approved by your vet and follow the recommended doses. Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications are NOT safe for dogs. OTC human doses and doses for dogs are different, so you need to know the correct dose for your dog. Some drugs are flat-out dangerous for pets in even the tiniest amounts.

Many vets prescribe Zyrtec for dogs to treat allergies, even though it’s FDA-approved for people.[1] Most dogs react positively to Zyrtec and other allergy meds. On the other hand, Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) are extremely toxic to dogs,[2] which is why you should never just give any OTC medication to your dog without prior professional consultation.

Whether you are taking a prescription or an over-the-counter canine allergy medication, you need to be aware of the risks associated and get your vet’s approval.

Dog Allergy Medicine Risks

Like any medication, allergy meds have a risk of side effects. Although the number of dogs who experience side effects from them is low, you need to be aware of the risks.

While over-the-counter meds offer relief to some dogs, other OTC remedies for dog allergies can be toxic. For instance, only use an antihistamine that does not contain decongestants as an ingredient. Decongestants are not safe for dogs.[3] Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec are antihistamines typically safe and recommended by most vets. The most common types of decongestants are pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine. These drugs are commonly found in allergy medications.

Antihistamines like Contac, Actifed, Sudafed, Tavist-D, Claritin-D, or any other brand antihistamine with “D” added to the name are best avoided. The “D” indicates the medicine contains a decongestant but always read the labels carefully before administering any OTC pills to your pets and do so at your vet’s discretion. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, decongestants can be deadly in dogs. They can result in vomiting, dilated pupils, severe blood pressure changes (hypertension), abnormal heart rhythms and rates, tremors, and seizures.[4]

Regarding prescription dog allergy medications, common risks involve double-dosing, drug interaction, drug ingredient allergens, and wrong dosage. Drug interactions can be dangerous, so your veterinarian should review your dog’s medical record to prevent adverse reactions. Antiparasitics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, pain medications, and corticosteroids (steroids) may also pose adverse effects. Penicillins and sulfonamides have the highest rates of allergic reactions in dogs.[5]

Luckily, most dogs can safely use corticosteroids if proper guidelines are followed. These drugs have a wide margin of safety when ingested. When ingestion accidentally occurs, it can result in mild signs of gastrointestinal distress in dogs.[6] 

Upon your veterinarian’s recommendation and proper dosage, treating a dog’s allergies with over-the-counter antihistamines and prescription drugs is perfectly safe. Although it’s rare, a dog may occasionally be allergic to the medication.

Allergy Medication For Dogs Side-Effects

Medication allergy side effects or allergies can result in the following symptoms.

  • Diarrhea
  • Facial swelling
  • Hives
  • Dry mouth
  • Itchy skin
  • Lethargy
  • Intense scratching
  • Licking and biting fur and skin
  • Red rash anywhere on the body
  • Runny nose
  • Shaking head
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Hypersalivation
  • Anaphylactic shock (cold feet, collapse, extreme sleepiness, hyperventilation, muscle weakness, respiratory failure, weak pulse)

According to PetMD, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, altered urinary habits, and abnormal bleeding is also possible.[7]

Med allergic reactions can happen immediately after dosing or during the first hours, so keep an eye on your dog for any changes in behavior after a medication or vaccine has been administered, especially if your pet has a history of other allergies.

If you believe your dog has overdosed or is experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately and follow their instructions for emergency treatment.

What Do Vets Prescribe For Dog Allergies?

Most veterinarians commonly prescribe antihistamines (such as Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec), nonsteroidal immunosuppressants (like Apoquel and Atopica), and corticosteroids (including Prednisone and Temaril-P) to treat canine allergies. Additionally, there are natural treatments and homemade remedies that you may consider exploring. However, each dog’s allergy situation is unique and requires an appropriate diagnosis by your veterinarian.

Where To Find The Best Dog Allergy Medications?

Are you looking for the best allergy medicine for dogs? We’ve compiled a guide covering the best allergy meds for dogs by type. From the best antihistamine for dogs to the best natural dog allergy treatment, our guide will help you find the appropriate medication for your pup.

Dog Allergy Medication Prices

It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact price for dog allergy medications because there are many types, both prescription and OTC. But we compared the pricing of the most popular dog allergy remedies recommended by vets.

On average, you can expect to pay for dog allergy medications anywhere between $3.30 to $186.98.

Here is a price breakdown for the most common dog allergy medications.

Nonsteroidal Immunosuppressants

  • Apoquel – Priced at $72.90
  • Atopica – Priced at $33.99 – $186.98


  • Prednisone – Priced at $3.30 – $18.00
  • Temaril-P – Priced at $28.20 – $56.40 (for 30 or 60 tablets)


  • Benadryl – Priced at $11.94 (100 counts)
  • Claritin – Priced at $26.99 (70 counts)
  • Zyrtec – Priced at $26.75 (45 counts)

Prices are subject to vary depending on tablet count, potency, brand, store, and other factors.

How Much Allergy Medicine Can I Give My Dog?

The information in the table serves as a general guideline and may not be suitable for every dog. Please consult your veterinarian for specific dosage instructions tailored to your dog’s needs and follow them closely.

Giving your dog the wrong medication or dosage can lead to serious health consequences. Never give your dog any medication without your veterinarian’s approval; follow their instructions carefully.

MedicationDosage (per pound of body weight)Frequency
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)1 mgEvery 8-12 hours
Cetirizine (Zyrtec)0.5 mgOnce daily
Loratadine (Claritin)0.12 – 0.25 mgOnce daily
Prednisone/Prednisolone0.5 – 1 mgOnce daily or every other day (as directed)
Dexamethasone0.1 – 0.2 mgOnce daily or as directed
Cyclosporine (Atopica)1.5 – 3 mgOnce daily for the first 30 days, then adjusted
Oclacitinib (Apoquel)0.18 – 0.27 mgTwice daily for 14 days, then once daily

Can Dogs Take Over The Counter Allergy Medicine?

Certain antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and loratadine (Claritin), can be used to treat mild to moderate allergies in dogs. However, antihistamines like Contac, Actifed, Sudafed, Tavist-D, Claritin-D, or any other brand antihistamine with “D” added to the name are best avoided. While some OTC allergy medications can be given to dogs, it is critical to consult with a veterinarian first to ensure the medication is safe and obtain the correct dosage instructions.

Can Dogs Take Antihistamines?

Antihistamines can be given to dogs, but it’s important to consult with a veterinarian first. Antihistamines are commonly used to treat allergies in dogs, and they can help reduce itching, swelling, and other allergy symptoms. Some antihistamines can cause drowsiness, so it’s essential to use them cautiously and avoid giving them to dogs with certain health conditions.

Are There Home Remedies For Dogs Allergies?

Look at this brief three-minute video, which features affordable and simple home allergy medications that could alleviate your dog’s allergy symptoms.

Human Allergy Medicine For Dogs

Can I Give My Dog Claritin?

Claritin, or loratadine, is an antihistamine sometimes used in dogs to treat allergies or allergic reactions. If your dog is experiencing symptoms such as itching, sneezing, or skin irritation, contact your veterinarian for advice and a proper diagnosis with this medicine.

Can Dogs Take Benadryl?

Many people wonder if dogs can take Benadryl, and the answer is yes, but with some precautions. Benadryl is an antihistamine medication that can help relieve allergies, anxiety, and motion sickness symptoms in dogs. However, it’s important to note that you should always consult a veterinarian before giving your dog any medication, including Benadryl. Your vet can determine the correct dosage based on your dog’s weight and health condition and advise you on any potential side effects or interactions with other medications.

Can I Give My Dog Cetirizine?

Cetirizine is an antihistamine medication commonly used to treat allergies in humans. While cetirizine can be given to dogs, it’s important to consult a veterinarian first. Cetirizine can be effective in reducing symptoms such as itching, sneezing, and watery eyes in dogs with allergies, but it’s essential to use the correct dosage and take into consideration any potential side effects or interactions with other medications.

Can I Give My Dog Zyrtec?

Zyrtec is a popular allergy medication that is sometimes prescribed for dogs. The active ingredient in Zyrtec is cetirizine, which can help alleviate symptoms like itching, sneezing, and runny nose in dogs with allergies. Additionally, some dogs may not respond well to Zyrtec or experience side effects such as drowsiness or dry mouth. As with any medication, it’s always best to consult a vet before giving Zyrtec to your furry friend.

Frequently Asked Questions

While certain antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can be used for dogs in specific situations and under veterinary guidance, it is crucial not to self-medicate your pet. Some human allergy medications contain toxic ingredients for dogs and can lead to severe health issues or even death.

To treat dog allergies at home, minimize exposure to allergens, regularly clean their living space, and groom them with hypoallergenic shampoos. If food allergies are suspected, consider adjusting their diet. Use over-the-counter antihistamines under veterinary guidance. Consult a vet if symptoms persist or worsen.

The frequency of administering allergy medicine to your dog depends on the specific medication and your dog’s needs.

Allegra (fexofenadine) is an antihistamine typically used to treat allergy symptoms in humans. A veterinarian may prescribe it for dogs in some cases.

Yes, Vistaril (hydroxyzine) is an antihistamine sometimes prescribed for dogs to help manage allergy symptoms, itching, or anxiety.

Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid found in many fruits and vegetables. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Quercetin is a potential supplement to help manage allergies and inflammation in dogs.

Administering a decongestant to your dog should only be done under the guidance of a veterinarian. While some human decongestants might be prescribed for dogs in specific situations, many contain ingredients that can be harmful or even toxic to your pet.

Yes, dogs can receive allergy shots, also known as allergen-specific immunotherapy. This treatment involves injecting gradually increasing amounts of an identified allergen into the dog’s body to help build tolerance and reduce the severity of allergic reactions over time. Allergy shots can be an effective long-term solution for dogs suffering from environmental allergies, such as pollen, dust mites, or mold.

Can You Give Dog Allergy Medicine? — Conclusion

In conclusion, understanding whether you can give your dog allergy medicine is of the utmost importance for any pet owner who wants to ensure their furry friend’s wellbeing. As you’ve seen, there’s a lot to consider when treating allergies in our canine companions. As the various types of allergy medications are available, essential considerations for consulting with your vet are potential side effects and guidelines for administering the medication safely. We hope this article has given you a good starting point and some food for thought.

Being proactive is a great way you can tackle allergies. An at-home dog allergy test can help you find those potential allergens that may trigger allergies in your canine friend.

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