Claritin has become a very popular and effective over the counter antihistamine medication for humans battling various allergies. From hay fever, to an unwanted reaction to pet hairs, Claritin tends to calm the immune system and provide welcome relief for sufferers. But what about if your canine companion is suffering from allergies himself. While a sneezing dog can look adorable the first time, it is not a fun experience for the dog. So what about Claritin for dogs? Is it safe for them and is it effective in providing relief?
How it Works
Firstly, is important to know exactly what Claritin is, and then how the drug will work within the dog’s system. Claritin is the brand name for the active drug called Loratadine. As the name suggests, the drug combats histamine, a natural chemical in the body. It is the histamine that produces the unwelcome symptoms we know as an allergic reaction, including sneezing, watery eyes, runny nose and itchiness. For human adults it is usually taken as a tablet of 10 mg once a day. It is a popular choice because of its non-sedating qualities.
As will become clear later, it is important to recognize that there is a second version, which contains Loratadine, but also has the added ingredient pseudoephedrine, which is a decongestant. This version is often referred to as Claritin-D.
Loratadine was first discovered in 1981, and first became commercially available in 1993. Its success is highlighted by the fact that it is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines.
While there are instances of some people having a natural allergy to Loratadine, it is clear that it is a very effective drug, but can dogs safely take this medication?
Is Claritin Safe For Dogs?
The answer is a general yes but with some very big caveats and it is important to fully understand the risks before giving this drug to your four legged furry friend. Loratadine itself, as an active ingredient, should not be a problem for your dog to ingest.
With all medicines, it is strongly advised to consult your veterinarian before even considering administering the medication to your canine companion.
While the regular or children’s mix is generally safe, the Claritin-D version containing pseudoephedrine is not safe for dogs. For smaller dogs this can be lethal, and for larger dogs it can cause unwanted stimulant effects. You should contact your nearest veterinarian as soon as possible if you have given your dog Claritin-D.
So the good news. Claritin can be effective to treat dogs suffering from an irritation on the skin, help to reduce any side effects of vaccinations and help relieve the inflammation that can occur if the dog is suffering from mast cell tumors.
The dosage of Claritin recommended to be given to the dog depends upon the size of the dog. As a rough rule of thumb, if you divide the weight of the dog (in pounds) by five, that will give you the ideal dosage (in milligrams) of Loratadine. So if a dog is 50 lbs, 10 mgs of Loratadine will be about right. (Remember that adult tablets are usually 10 mg and the children’s version is usually 5 mgs.)
There is no firm evidence either way regarding Claritin and pregnant dogs, which means it is usually best to err on the side of caution and not give this drug to your dog if she is expecting puppies. There are other antihistamines that have been shown to be perfectly safe for pregnant dogs so in the case it is safer to give another antihistamine chemical, Cetirizine (sold under the brand name Zyrtec).
It is worth noting that originally Claritin required a prescription so don’t underestimate the punch that is packed into the tiny white tablets. Like humans, some dogs may just not agree with the active ingredients. If there is a problem, it will usually manifest itself through an upset stomach, increased thirst levels and problems urinating. At the more extreme end, it is possible you may see behavioral changes, drowsiness, fevers and in really serious instances maybe even seizures.
Although, as discussed, it is generally safe to give Claritin (or the active drug Loratadine) to your dog, there are alternatives that may be a safer and more suitable for your dog. One such example is Derma-lonx, which is targeted as relief for skin irritation and itchiness but should work just as well as Claritin without the possible side effects of diarrhea and vomiting that may occur through Claritin usage.
Another alternative is Apoquel. This will require a prescription from your veterinarian but is an effective and safer alternative, that was specially designed to combat pruritis. Be prepared to pay more for this than other over the counter antihistamines though.
If your dog is taking other antihistamine medication then do not ‘double up’ with Claritin, this will not increase the effectiveness and may lead to severe drowsiness. Also, if your dog is suffering from liver problems, it is not advisable to administer Claritin as their body will be unable to process the drug properly.
It is also worth noting that antihistamines are only treating the symptoms and not the cause. Even if they are effective, there is still something that has caused the problem and unless you plan on giving antihistamine treatment for an extended period of time, it may be better trying to find the root problem. Trying to understand what the dog may be allergic to, and then removing that from their environment is a safer, cheaper and an all-round far superior option.
In conclusion, it is probably safe for you to give your dog Claritin. It is often found in drug cabinets around the country and can be a very effective tool in combating any allergy that your dog may be suffering, be it caused by pollen, house dust or an insect bite. With any drug, it is always better and safer to speak to your veterinarian first to get the all clear. Be sure to avoid Claritin-D, as this version with added pseudoephedrine is not suitable for dogs.