A number of different substances can cause dogs to suffer allergic reactions. And although dogs tend to get itchy skin rather than red eyes and runny noses, allergies are just as maddening for them as they are for us.
Some dogs are allergic to things in their diet, but the majority of allergies result from pollen, dander, smoke or other things in the environment. And while dietary allergies can often be eliminated by switching foods, it is rarely possible to shield your dog from environmental triggers.
Accordingly, most vets and owners must settle for treating the symptoms caused by the offending substance, rather than directly preventing the allergic reaction itself.
Fortunately, there are a number of medications – including loratadine (brand name Claritin) – that can provide relief to dogs suffering from allergies.
But before you go rummaging through your medicine cabinet, you’ll want to contact your vet and solicit his or her approval first. Also, it is important to familiarize yourself with the facts about Claritin, as well as the basics of allergic reactions.
We’ll help you do exactly that below.
Key Takeaways: Can I Give My Dog Claritin?
- Claritin is a medication used to treat allergic reactions in humans, and some vets also prescribe it for dogs. Claritin is a “second-generation” antihistamine, so it doesn’t usually cause drowsiness, like “first-generation” antihistamines do.
- However, you should never give your dog Claritin without first consulting your vet. Claritin is largely considered safe, but there’s simply no reason you shouldn’t check with your vet first. Also, it is important to avoid some forms of the medication, which may contain other drugs that are dangerous.
- In addition to Claritin, there are other medications and strategies you can use to treat dog allergies. This includes management strategies to reduce your pet’s exposure to the allergen, trying different antihistamines, and increasing your pet’s daily intake of Omega-3 fatty acids.
How Do Allergic Reactions Work?
Allergic reactions occur when your dog’s immune system overreacts to a normally harmless substance called an allergen. To help fight off the perceived invader, the body releases histamines, which can cause symptoms such as swelling, redness, and itchiness.
A variety of medications may help treat the symptoms caused by allergic reactions, but antihistamines – medicines that block the release of histamines – are typically the first tools veterinarians try to use. Benadryl and Claritin are two of the most popular antihistamines, and both are available without a prescription. Other common medicines used to treat allergies include steroids and immunosuppressants, which we’ll also discuss in a moment.
Note that while most typical environmental allergies cause relatively minor symptoms, allergic reactions can occasionally be life-threatening. If you ever notice swelling of your dog’s mouth or throat, or your dog appears to be having trouble breathing, seek immediate veterinary assistance.
What Is Loratadine (Claritin)?
First sold in 1993, loratadine is a highly effective antihistamine that was initially used to treat allergic reactions in humans. Veterinarians soon began using it to treat dogs and found it to be effective and relatively safe.
Loratadine belongs to a class of drugs known as second-generation histamine antagonists. In fact, it is the strongest medication in the class, which has made it the go-to choice for doctors and veterinarians. Unlike Benadryl and other first-generation antihistamines that cause severe drowsiness, Claritin and other second-generation antihistamines rarely make dogs (or people) feel sleepy.
Claritin is used to treat symptoms like runny noses and hives in humans, but it is primarily used to address itchy skin in dogs. It is not, however, appropriate for emergency use, such as during a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Claritin can also be used to treat several other health conditions, including:
- The inflammation associated with mast cell tumors
- Urinary incontinence
- Vaccination reactions
- Reactions caused by blood transfusions
Claritin For Dogs Dosage: Typical Regimen
Only your veterinarian can determine the proper Claritin dosage for your pet, but the typical dosage is as follows:
|Dog Body Weight
|1 to 14 pounds
|15 to 39 pounds
|40 pounds or more
Note that Claritin is often formulated in conjunction with other medications. For example, some versions (Claritin D) are made with pseudoephedrine – a decongestant that often helps alleviate stuffy noses. Pseudoephedrine can be extremely toxic to dogs, so you’ll want to be careful to avoid such formulations. Claritin also comes in a quick-dissolve form, but that may contain xylitol, which is very poisonous for your dog.
Just stick with the original Claritin product (the regular children’s formula is also safe – just adjust the dosage accordingly).
Standard Claritin tablets contain 10 milligrams of loratadine, so you’ll need to break them in half when treating small dogs or switch to the children’s formula, which contains 2.5 milligrams of Loratadine per tablet. You may also need to use peanut butter, pill pockets or some other trick to get your dog to take the tablets, as they are a bit bitter.
Claritin Side Effects and Contraindications
Claritin doesn’t cause many negative side effects, but some dogs may experience one or more of the following:
- Urinary retention
- May make seizures more likely
Additionally, while it isn’t clear if these side effects can occur in dogs, some people complain of headaches, hyperactivity, depression, dry eyes or rapid heart rates after taking Claritin.
Contact your vet if you notice your pet displaying any of these symptoms. They typically aren’t very serious, but your vet may be able to adjust the dosage or prescribe other medications to help alleviate these side effects. For example, some dog-safe eye drops can help with the dry eyes issue. Claritin may cause drowsiness when administered along with some antibiotics and antifungal medications, so be sure that your vet knows about all of the medicines your dog is taking.
Claritin is largely considered safe, but its use requires caution in some cases. For example, it should be used carefully in dogs who’re already suffering from urinary retention, some types of glaucoma, or gastrointestinal obstructions.
Also, it hasn’t been well-studied in pregnant or lactating animals, so be sure to check with your vet before administering it to reproductively active females. Similarly, your vet may not recommend giving the medication to young puppies.
Alternative Strategies for Treating Allergies
Claritin is very helpful for treating dogs with allergies, but it isn’t the only game in town. Some dogs respond better to other treatment strategies, including the following:
There are a number of other antihistamines, such as
Dogs exhibit varying reactions to different antihistamines, so a bit of trial-and-error is often necessary to find the best one.
Corticosteroids are often the most effective medications for treating allergic reactions, but they can cause serious health problems when used on a long-term basis. Accordingly, they’re most commonly used to treat short-term environmental allergies.
For example, dogs allergic to
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, and they often help resolve skin and coat issues. You can find commercial foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids or you can use a standalone fish oil supplement to increase the amount in your dog’s diet.
Sensitivity treatments involve a series of injections that contain a minute quantity of an allergic trigger.
By exposing your dog’s body to tiny amounts of an allergen, his body will often adjust and stop viewing the allergen as a dangerous substance. However, sensitivity treatments are a bit hit-or-miss, and they don’t always work.
Immunosuppressive Drugs (Cyclosporine)
Allergic reactions are triggered by the body’s immune system, so it is occasionally helpful to administer immune-suppressing drugs to help dampen the body’s immune response.
Cyclosporine is often very effective, but it can cause vomiting and reduce your dog’s appetite. It is also an expensive treatment, especially for large dogs.
Have you used Claritin to treat your dog’s itchy skin? How did it work out? Did your pup suffer from any side effects? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.