Some human drugs are dangerous and can even be fatal when given to dogs. When a dog develops a health problem at home such as vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing, many pet owners want to know what they can safely give their dogs at home before taking their dog to the veterinarian.
Not only is important to know which medications are safe but also which medications are available to you without a prescription. Drugs you may obtain without a prescription are referred to as “OTC” drugs which means over-the-counter. OTC drugs are available at most pharmacies such as Wal-Mart®, Walgreens®, CVS®, Target®, and/or online pharmacies and drug stores.
Below we will give you information about 30 over-the-counter medications (OTC) that are commonly used humans and can be used safely in most dogs.
We will include information about stomach medications which can be used in dogs with sensitive stomach or vomiting, drugs to treat diarrhea, pain medications, drugs for coughing, drugs that can be used to treat dogs that have allergies and are showing symptoms such as itching, medications to use on dogs that get car sick, and a safe eye product.
It is recommended that you work with your family veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog.
Human OTC Stomach Medications Used in Dogs
Famotidine, commonly known by the brand name Pepcid® among others, is a histamine H2 receptor antagonist that decreases the production of acid in the stomach. It is frequently used to treat stomach problems such ulcerations and for pets with nausea or are prone to vomiting.
Famotidine is the most commonly used in this class due to its improved mechanism of action and length of action. Famotidine has largely replaced previous generation drugs, such as Cimetidine and Ranitidine. We will discuss these medications more below.
Famotidine is available in both injectable and oral tablet sizes. Common oral sizes include 10 mg, 20 mg, and 40 mg. A common OTC size is 10 mg. A common dosage is 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg/pound once to twice a day.
For example, a 10-pound dog would get 2.5 mg to 5 mg total dose or ¼ to ½ of a 10 mg tablet. A 20-pound dog would get 5 mg to 10 mg per dose which would be ½ to 1 10 mg tablet.
Here is more information on how to safely dose and use Famotidine in dogs.
Ranitidine, commonly known by the brand name Zantac among others, is a histamine H2 receptor antagonist that decreases the production of acid in the stomach. Like Famotidine listed above is commonly used to treat stomach problems such ulcerations.
Ranitidine is available in both injectable and oral tablet sizes. Common oral sizes include 75 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg. Here is an article on how to correctly dose and use Ranitidine in dogs.
Cimetidine, commonly known by the brand name Tagamet® among others, is the oldest common histamine H2 receptor antagonist drug that decreases the production of acid in the stomach. Cimetidine is less commonly used due to the development of new and better drugs in the class of histamine H2 receptor antagonist.
However, in a pinch, some pet owners have this medication in their homes and can use Cimetidine. Famotidine (also known as Pepcid and discussed above) and Ranitidine are known as Zantac and discussed above) both have fewer drug interactions with longer activity.
The risks associated with Cimetidine mostly evolves around its interaction with other drugs. If your dog or cat is on other medications, it is better to choose a newer generation histamine H2 receptor antagonist such as famotidine (Pepcid) discussed above that does not have those same possible adverse effects from drug interactions.
Learn more about how to safely dose Cimetidine in dogs and drug interactions that you should know about.
Calcium Carbonate (Tums®)
Calcium carbonate, commonly known as Tums®, is an antacid and oral phosphate binder. It is commonly used as a calcium supplement in dogs with chronic hypocalcemia and to treat hyperphosphatemia associated with chronic renal (kidney) failure. Calcium carbonate can also be used as an oral antacid and for conditions such as esophagitis and/or gastroduodenal ulcerations. However, calcium carbonate is uncommonly prescribed as an antacid as there are stronger and more effective antacids.
There are many oral calcium carbonate products available in chewable and regular tablets in common sizes are 500 mg, 750 mg, and 1000mg. There is also oral suspensions 1250 mg/5mL.
The dose most commonly used in dogs as an antacid is 0.5 grams and up to 5 grams total dose orally every 4 hours as needed. Small dogs can receive 500 mg, medium sized dogs 750 to 1000 mg and larger dogs 2000 mg.
Learn more about how to safely dose Calcium Carbonate (Tums®) in Dogs and Cats.
Omeprazole, commonly known by the brand name Prilosec®, is used in the treatment and prevention of stomach (gastric) and intestinal ulcers in dogs and cats. Omeprazole belongs to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors and lasts about 24 hours.
The dose most commonly used in dogs is 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg per pound once daily (ever 24 hours). Common OTC dosage sizes 10 and 20 mg pill sizes.
Therefore, the dose for a 10-pound dog would be 2.5 to 5 mg (1/4 to ½ of a 10 mg tablet). The dose for a 50-pound dog would be approximately 12.5 to 25 mg total dose. It would be safe to give this dog 10 mg to 25 mg (1 to 2 ½ of the 10 mg tablets). Remember, you could give one 20 mg tablet as well if you purchase that size tablet.
Learn more about how to safely use omeprazole in your dog.
Esomeprazole, commonly known by the brand name NexIUM®, is used in the treatment and prevention of stomach (gastric) and intestinal ulcers in dogs and cats. It is less commonly used then omeprazole (Prilosec) discussed above.
Learn more how to safely use esomeprazole in your dog. Esomeprazole (NEXIUM) for Dogs and Cats.
Human OTC Bowel Medications Used in Dogs
Loperamide, commonly known as Imodium®, is a synthetic piperidine derivative, that is used to treat diarrhea in dogs. It works primarily by slowing the movement of the intestines and may also decrease intestinal secretions, and enhance mucosal absorption.
It is best to use this over-the-counter medication under the guidance of your veterinarian. If your dog is showing concurrent vomiting, lethargy or weakness, it is best to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian.
Learn more about how to safely dose Imodium in dogs and drug interactions that you should know about.
Psyllium is a bulk-forming laxative, commonly known by the brand name Metamucil® as well as many other generic names. It can be used in dogs with constipation and sometimes in dogs with chronic watery diarrhea.
Diarrhea in dogs is often treated with a bland diet as well. Please see more about Home Care of Diarrhea in Dogs. Learn more about how to safely dose Metamucil in dogs. Please make sure your dog always has plenty of water to drink when giving Metamucil.
Simethicone, commonly known as Gas-X, is an anti-foaming and anti-flatulence agent used to treat discomfort, pain, bloating, burping, and flatulence caused by excessive intestinal gas. It is generally safe for dogs of all ages.
Learn more about how to safely dose Simethicone in dogs: Simethicone (Gas-X) for Dogs and Cats
Also- here is an article that might be useful that discusses causes and treatment options for flatulence in dogs.
Polyethylene Glycol 3350 (Miralax®)
Polyethylene glycol 3350, commonly known as MiraLAX®, is used as a laxative to treat canine and feline constipation. It commonly comes as a power you can mix with water or sprinkle on your pet’s food. MiraLAX® is also used to empty the intestines prior to diagnostic procedures such as a colonoscopy or intestinal surgery in both pets and humans. MiraLAX® is available without a prescription at most pharmacies. Learn more about how safely use MiraLAX in your pet. Learn more about how to safely give Miralax to your dog.
11. Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol®, Kaopectate®)
Bismuth subsalicylate, better known as Pepto-Bismol, is used to treat diarrhea and minor stomach problems, such as stomach inflammation. New formulations of Kaopectate® contains salicylate. This is important because two tablespoons of Pepto-Bismol contain almost as much salicylate as one aspirin tablet. Some dogs are sensitive to aspirin and should not be given with other medications including steroids (such as Prednisone, Dexamethasone) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs (such as Rimadyl, Novox, Meloxicam, Deramaxx and many more). Please use only under the advice of your veterinarian. Learn more about how to use bismuth subsalicylate in dogs.
IMPORTANT WARNING: Bismuth Subsalicylate should never be used in cats.
Culturelle is a probiotic recommended in dogs with diarrhea, constipation, or dog that have excessive “gas”. Probiotics are substances that stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestinal flora. They are generally live bacteria and yeasts.
The intestinal tract is normally full of bacteria, both good and bad, and in the healthy body has the right balance. In illness or while taking certain medications such as antibiotics, the bad bacteria can take over. Probiotics can help restore the good bacteria and reestablish the right balance. There are many types of probiotics and one that is commonly used in dogs and cats is called “Culturelle”. Learn more about probiotics and prebiotics.
Culturelle is a human over-the-counter product. It is available in capsules and in sachet’s (little packets like sweeter). The dose of the packet is generally easy as you sprinkle it on the food. The dose is 1/10 of a packet per 10 pounds of body weight daily. A 50-pound dog would get ½ packet once a day. ADD LINK AFTER ADD ARTICLE
Bisacodyl is commonly known as Dulcolax® and is used as a laxative to treat constipation for dogs and cats. Bisacodyl is available in 5 mg tablets, 5 mg and 10 mg rectal suppositories and 10 mg/30 ml enema bottles. For dogs, the dose varies between 1 to 4 tablets once daily. If you believe your dog is constipated, we recommend that you see your veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. Some dogs will strain and appear to be constipated and actually have a urinary obstruction or colitis.
Docusate Sodium (Colace®)
Docusate sodium is commonly known as Colace® and is used as a laxative to treat constipation in dogs and cats. It can also be used to clean out the intestinal tract in dogs before diagnostic procedures and surgery.
As mentioned above under Dulcolax, some dogs will strain and appear to be constipated but actually may be a life-threatening urinary obstruction or colitis. See your veterinarian if you have concerns.
Diphenhydramine, commonly known by the brand name Benadryl® among others, belongs to a class or drugs known as antihistamines. Diphenhydramine is routinely used for dogs for treatment of symptoms associated with allergies or allergic reactions. Signs of allergies in dogs often include excessive itching and licking of the skin. Dogs with acute allergic reactions can have swollen faces (especially around the muzzle and eyes) and hives. Dogs with chronic allergies often have secondary skin infections and Diphenhydramine can be used in conjunction with antibiotics and steroid medications to control clinical signs.
Although diphenhydramine is relatively safe, side effects may include sedation, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and lack of appetite.
The most common dose used in dogs for diphenhydramine is 1 mg per pound. Therefore a 25-pound dog would get one 25 mg tablet and a 50 pound would get two 25 mg tablets. When buying diphenhydramine, make sure “diphenhydramine” is the only ingredient. It also comes in a liquid formulation made for children which makes it easier to dose in smaller dogs.
For more information, learn about how to safely give your dog Diphenhydramine.
For 15 more over-the-counter medications (OTC) that are commonly used in humans and can be used safely in most dogs, please visit this article: 15 MORE Human Over-the-Counter Drugs Safe for Dogs.