We all have a friend of a friend whose sister is a vet tech and she says it’s perfectly fine to give [enter human medication here] to your dog. But is that medication really safe for your pooch to take? Won't there be any risks? In fact, there really are some human meds for dogs that are completely safe. but must be given under veterinary supervision.
There's a number of unsafe medicine for dogs that pet owners often consider giving their companions. This is mostly due to physical and chemical differences between dogs and humans. Veterinarian at Pet Health Pharmacy explains how the dog's body cannot breakdown certain chemicals in human medicine, like acetaminophen. As a result, the chemicals attach to the dog's liver and slowly destroy it.
Other than the fact that dogs are dogs and not humans, it's also the size of your pet that matters in considering human meds for dogs. Even when a medication is considered safe for animal use, the dosage will not be safe in most cases. Drugs.com warns pet owners to never try to “figure out” the dosage for your pooch simply based on the label.
The Safest Human Meds for Dogs
Before we start covering specific human meds for dogs, it’s important to note that many factors can render “safe” human medications unsafe for your pet. These factors include the dog's overall health, other medications being taken, breed, size, and age. You should never give anything to your dog that is not intended for them without consulting your veterinarian first.
You will also notice that as per dosage warnings, on the list of safe human meds for dogs below, I have not included any dosing information – this is done intentionally. It's unlikely these meds will have a dosage mentioned for an animal on their back label, and you should never rely on the internet to give you veterinary advice. Call your veterinarian and get your dog the professional advice before using any medications.
1. Imodium (Loperamide)
Imodium is a tricky medication. Some dogs with some types of diarrhea can take Imodium; however, it can cause serious side effects in other dogs, so it should never be given without veterinary supervision, even if it's technically one of the safe human meds for dogs.
For example, if given to a dog that carries the MDR1 gene mutation, given to a dog with diarrhea due to an infection, given to a dog with diarrhea due to ingestion of a toxin, or given to a dog with certain health conditions, Imodium can cause constipation, severe sedation, bloat, and pancreatitis. If your dog is experiencing diarrhea, there are a number of canine diarrhea meds and treatments that your vet can prescribe, it is best to utilize one of these options instead.
Pepto-Bismol falls into much the same category as Imodium mentioned above. It is one of the safer human meds for dogs, but only certain canines with specific conditions, and only under veterinary supervision. If your dog has diarrhea or seriously upset stomach, it’s always best to use a canine diarrhea medication or stomach upset aids, but if you are in a pinch, make sure to call your veterinarian before giving your dog Pepto-Bismol. Your vet will help you to determine whether it’s safe for your individual dog and if so, what the safe dosage is.
If you do get the go-ahead to give your dog Pepto-Bismol, be aware that should your dog need an X-ray for any reason before the medication has passed, it may be mistaken for a metallic body in their gastrointestinal system so make sure you notify your vet.
3. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine)
Benadryl is used in veterinary practices as a treatment for allergies, motion sickness, and travel anxiety. It's a popular human medicine for dogs. If your Fido is experiencing any of these illnesses and you’re tempted to give them Benadryl, be sure to call your vet for dosage information specific to your dog. Additionally, ask if any of your dog’s current health conditions will be negatively impacted by administration of Benadryl.
Side effects that you should look out for when giving Benadryl include sedation, salivation, increased respiration, urinary retention, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, increased appetite, and decreased appetite. If you notice that your dog develops dilated pupils, agitation, seizures, rapid heartbeat, and constipation, you may have given your dog too much Benadryl and you need to get to the emergency vet immediately.
4. Buffered Aspirin
Some veterinarians recommend buffered aspirin for dogs with pain due to arthritis; however, it is not generally the treatment of choice and will only be used in rare occasions. While technically it can be one of the safe human meds for dogs, there are many other (better) canine-specific NSAID’s available and less potent dog pain relievers that are safer for canines to take that you can procure from your vet.
If your vet does recommend buffered aspirin for your pet, make sure that there are no added ingredients like acetaminophen, and follow your veterinarian’s dosing instructions to a tee. You should also keep in mind that even buffered aspirin administered under vet supervision can cause side effects like kidney damage or internal bleeding.
5. Tagamet (Cimetidine)
Cimetidine is sometimes prescribed as an extra-label drug in veterinary medicine to treat gastritis, reflux, esophagitis, and for treating mast cell tumors. Although cimetidine is safe to use in most dogs, always consult your veterinarian before use as it can interact with a variety of other medicines and cause problems for senior pets and pets with blood disorders.
Responsible use of Cimetidine generally does not lead to side effects when used under vet supervision, and it has been used to treat pets very often. However, an overdose of cimetidine can result in tachycardia and respiratory failure in the dog.
6. Prilosec (Omeprazole)
Omeprazole can be used in dogs safely if your dog has been given an official diagnosis of ulcers or excess stomach acid from your vet and your vet has approved its use and given you proper dosing instructions. Dosing is particularly important with omeprazole because it was developed for human use and has never been officially approved for canine use.
While this can be one of the safe human meds for dogs, without a vet check-up and consultation, administering omeprazole can cause complications by masking other health conditions in pets. Omeprazole can also cause problems when combined with a number of other medications.
Hydrocortisone creams can be used topically on your dog in small amounts for itchy skin, but they should never be used in areas where your dog can lick the cream away. If the cream is in an area that your dog can reach, you should use an Elizabethan collar instead to prevent licking until the area has healed. Using hydrocortisone cream should be limited to short periods and you should keep an eye out for side effects like behavior changes, weakness, and nausea.
More companies are beginning to use this substance for pet products. You'll find OTC itch creams and dog skin infection treatments to contain this chemical. It’s always best to use hydrocortisone products that have been developed for dogs rather than using human alternatives that may include toxic additives.
8. Lomotil (Atropine / Diphenoxylate)
Lomotil is used by humans to manage diarrhea and it is also used to treat diarrhea and colitis in dogs and cats. Lomotil works by slowing the digestive tract, improves the ability to absorb liquids, and reduces intestinal secretions. In other uses, Lomotil has also been shown to reduce coughing.
Lomotil dosing and length of treatment should be determined by your vet based on your dog’s age, size, breed, current health, and the reason for their needing treatment with Lomotil.
9. Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate)
Dramamine is used by some veterinarians for the treatment of travel sickness and travel related anxiety in dogs. Dogs can experience side effects as a result of Dramamine including difficulty urinating, dry mouth, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
While it's one of the safe human meds for dogs, it’s exceptionally important to consult a veterinarian for the correct dosing of Dramamine for your dog before using it; overdosing is quite easy and very common in pets. Signs that indicate an overdose include respiratory difficulty, seizures, lethargy, and coma.
Before you even try this drug, remember that there are other alternatives to Dramamine you can use that have fewer to no side effects including herbal treatments and behavioral conditioning, as well as specific dog anxiety meds and tools like anxiety vests.
10. Gas-X (Simethicone)
Simethicone is used in humans and in dogs to treat gas; however, it should not be used over long periods and should never be used without first consulting your veterinarian.
It’s not just important to get dosing information from your vet, but it’s even more important to find out the cause of your dog’s gas. Is their diet not agreeing with them? Are they suffering from an infection? Have they eaten something they shouldn’t have? The root of your dog’s gas must be identified in order to be properly treated.
If your veterinarian approves the short-term use of simethicone for your dog make sure that you do not vary from their treatment plan. Long-term use of simethicone can alter natural pH levels in your dog’s gastrointestinal system and lead to bacterial infection.
11. Pepcid-AC (Famotidine)
Pepcid-AC or Famotidine is used by veterinarians for the treatment of gastric and intestinal ulcers in dogs. It works by suppressing the secretion of stomach acid so that the ulceration can heal. Famotidine is also used to treat reflux, to reduce stomach inflammation resulting from kidney failure, and to suppress histamine secretion in dogs with mast cell tumors. It's used often and is one of the safer human meds for dogs out there.
The dosage of Famotidine must be determined by your vet depending on what your dog is being treated for. Additionally, Famotidine is known to interact with a variety of other medications and should not be given without being cleared by your vet. Famotidine overdose is not a common occurrence, but if your dog exhibits rapid heart rate, vomiting, pale gums, restlessness, or collapses, they may have overdosed.
12. Zyrtec (Cetirizine)
Zyrtec is a very popular brand used to treat allergy symptoms in humans, but it’s also been used in dogs for the same purpose. It can also be used to treat hot spot itching. Many times, Zyrtec is used as an alternative to Benadryl in dogs that don’t tolerate Benadryl well.
Unlike many other human meds for dogs listed here, Zyrtec actually has been tested and has been shown to be quite safe for use in dogs. That said, it should never be given to dogs with compromised kidney function and should be used with care in senior dogs after you consult with a vet.
13. Claritin (Loratadine)
Claritin is another popular human allergy medication that can be used to treat dogs with allergy symptoms, relieve inflammation related to mast cell tumors, and to reduce side effects from vaccines. Before giving Claritin to your dog, talk to your vet about dosing information. Even when giving Claritin under the supervision of a vet, watch for any side effects including vomiting, diarrhea, urinary retention, and increased thirst.
Note that you should never give Claritin to your dog if they’re pregnant or if they are suffering from liver disease. Additionally, Claritin-D specificially should never be given to dogs. The “D” or decongestant in Claritin-D (pseudoephedrine) can be lethal to your dog even in small doses.
Prednisone is used in dogs to treat inflammation from arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and Addison’s disease. Prednisone must be given by prescription and it’s important for your vet to oversee any Prednisone treatment due to the side effects common to corticosteroid treatment.
Always give Prednisone exactly as directed by your vet and watch for troublesome side effects. Side effects seen with Prednisone treatment include upset stomach, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Prednisone can pose difficulties when given to dogs with liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, hypothyroidism, stomach ulcers, or diabetes.
15. Zantac (Ranitidine)
Another histamine blocker like a few of the medications on this safe human meds for dogs list, ranitidine is sometimes used in dogs to reduce stomach acid to allow ulcers to heal and to reduce stomach acid in dogs with reflux. Although it is not approved for use in dogs, ranitidine can be used under veterinary supervision in dogs, cats, and horses!
Ranitidine should never be given to dogs with kidney disease or liver disease and should not be given with food because it will reduce its effectiveness. You should also be wary of combining ranitidine with any other medications as it can cause problems.
Side effects from ranitidine are rare; however, if you notice diarrhea consult your veterinarian as this can be a side effect of ranitidine use. Furthermore, if diarrhea is accompanied by or if you notice the following symptoms do not give your dog any more ranitidine and seek emergency veterinary care immediately: symptoms of an irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing, hives, and swelling of the face/lips/tongue.