Irritated eyes. Runny noses. Constant itching. Allergies plague millions of people every year. Unfortunately for our four-legged friends, allergies don't discriminate. Dog allergies can be a constant nuisance that can cause quite a bit of agitation and distress, particularly during certain months. Knowing that (wo)man's best friend is suffering just as much as we are leads pet owners to wonder what they can do to help.
Recently, many pet owners have begun questioning whether the same human-made allergy medications might also be safe and effective for their dogs. In this article, we will cover all there is to know about Claritin for dogs. While it is among the most popular allergy medications for human consumption, there are several important things that pet owners must recognize before administering it to their dog.
What is Claritin for Dogs
Claritin is a commonly prescribed human medication used to alleviate the associated side effects of allergies as well as mild to moderate allergic reactions that often result in hives. In many cases, Claritin has been approved by veterinarians for the same use of the drug for dogs.
It is important for pet owners to understand that Claritin does not "cure" allergies. Your dog will still suffer from the unpleasant symptoms when not taking the medication. However, Claritin works to temporarily relieve the symptoms and helps the seasonal changes be more bearable for Fido.
How Does Claritin (Loratadine) Work
When histamines attach to the H-1 receptors on the smooth muscles and small blood vessels, it triggers a response of sneezing, itching, irritated, watery eyes, and a runny nose (also known as an allergic reaction). Claritin is an antihistamine. Antihistamines prevent the histamines from attaching to the H-1 receptors and therefore prevents an allergic reaction from occurring.
What is Claritin Used For
In regards to its use for dogs, veterinarians typically prescribe Claritin as an allergy relief. Just like people, dogs suffer from itchy, red eyes and runny noses. However, dogs also suffer from extremely irritated and itchy skin which can cause uncontrollable fits of scratching in efforts to relieve the agitation. This can present more problems than you may imagine. Constant itching, biting, and scratching can lead to a slew of issues including permanent damage to the skin as well as the development of bacterial infections from open wounds. When dog allergies are at a high, veterinarians may recommend using Claritin to lessen the symptoms and therefore prevent more harm from being done.
Atopic Canine Dermatitis
Additionally, Claritin can help alleviate symptoms of atopic canine dermatitis. Atopic canine dermatitis is a severe skin irritation resulting from constant itching, licking, and biting in an attempt to relieve allergy symptoms. If atopic dermatitis is not treated in a timely manner, it can quickly lead to the development of hot spots and bacterial infections. In these cases, vets often recommend Claritin.
Clinical Signs of Allergies
Before considering whether Claritin can help your dog, pet owners must be able to recognize the associated symptoms. Dog owners must also understand that allergies and allergic reactions come in varying degrees of severity. Even if your dog's symptoms are relatively mild, they may still find relief from an allergy medication.
One of the most obvious signs of allergies in both people and animals is sneezing. Sneezing often occurs when an environmental allergen is affecting the dog. Of course, isolated sneezing from time to time is considered normal. However, if the sneezing is persistent, particularly if it occurs simultaneously with an event (i.e. every time you open the windows or spray perfume), it is likely allergy-related.
However, it is important to take note of any nasal discharge resulting from the sneezing. When sneezing results from allergies, the discharge is typically clear. If you find yellow or green discharge, it is more likely that an infection has developed that will require medical treatment.
Wheezing may also occur due to certain environmental allergens, particularly if the dog has any pre-existing breathing issues. Again, it is important for your veterinarian to make an accurate diagnosis for the wheezing and rule out a more serious condition such as bacterial pneumonia.
Another allergy symptom is coughing, especially if your dog has a medical condition that affects their breathing (i.e. asthma). Once again, having your vet rule out any serious health issues is paramount as coughing is a non-specific symptom. In other words, while it is a symptom of allergies, it is also a symptom of a number of other ailments.
If allergens have caused the dog's throat to become inflamed, snoring will often ensue as the inflammation leads to restriction of the breathing passage.
Chronic Ear Infections
It may surprise readers to learn that chronic (or recurring) ear infections are also a telltale sign that your dog may be suffering from allergies. If your dog is constantly pawing at their ears or has persistent build up within the ear canal, ask your vet whether allergies may be to blame.
Itchy, Irritated Skin
Next, itchy, irritated skin. This unpleasant symptom is one of the most common amongst both dogs and cats suffering from allergies. While people often associate itching with bug bites, dogs can experience itchy skin from just about any allergen imaginable. However, typically, itchy skin on the back and base of the tail is a sign of flea allergies. Itchy, irritated skin on the head and neck are often associated with food allergies.
Red, Itchy Eyes
Additionally, like people, dogs will often experience red, itchy eyes associated with allergies. It is important for pet owners to recognize that while eye discharge is a symptom of allergies, it may also be a sign of something more severe such as a bacterial infection. If your dog has eye irritation, do not jump to the conclusion that it is merely allergies as it may be something that requires antibiotic treatment.
Allergy symptoms in dogs also include gastrointestinal problems, particularly if the dog is experiencing a food allergy. Both diarrhea and vomiting often occur if a new food doesn't agree with Fido's digestive tract.
Swollen Itchy Paws
Finally, the last common sign of allergies is swollen, itchy paws. If your dog is constantly biting or licking their paws, swollenness and tenderness will often follow. All of these changes are signs of dog allergies.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
While mild allergies here and there tend to be more of an annoyance than anything else, sometimes severe allergic reactions may develop which must be taken as a medical emergency as anaphylaxis can quickly follow.
Anaphylaxis is a type of shock reaction that can lead to irreversible harm if not treated straight away.
Clinical signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Excessive vomiting
- Trouble breathing
- Excessive lethargy
- Uncontrollable bowel movements
- Uncontrollable urination
If for any reason you believe your dog is having a severe allergic reaction is it imperative that you see a veterinary immediately.
What Causes Allergies in Dogs
Now, we briefly touched on how certain allergens tend to cause specific symptoms. However, it is important for pet owners to understand that there are a number of factors that can lead to dog allergies which may be trickier to pinpoint and therefore more difficult to prevent. With that said, most allergen triggers fall into one of four categories: environmental, food, medicational or flea/tick related.
The most common reason that your veterinarian may recommend Claritin for dogs is to alleviate environmental allergies. Environmental allergies are also the toughest to avoid as it is nearly impossible to completely prevent every single environmental trigger.
Examples of environmental allergies greatly vary but include:
- Various trees, grass, and plants
- Laundry detergents
- Household cleaners
- (And many more)
As you can see, it is often challenging to determine exactly what is causing your dog's environmental allergies, particularly seasonal allergies when different trees and plants are always in bloom. In these cases, Claritin may be recommended.
In some cases, your dog may have a food allergy that is causing gastrointestinal upset as well as a number of other clinical signs of allergies, often resulting in diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Unfortunately, getting to the bottom of what specific food your dog is allergic to can be quite a challenge and will likely involve an elimination diet in which all food is removed and an extremely bland diet is introduced. Then, slowly, specific food will be integrated back into the dog's diet in order to see what is causing the reaction. While it is a process, it'll make a world of difference in the long run.
Allergies to Medications
Additionally, many dogs have allergies to medications, ranging in severity. In some cases, the allergic reaction may be mild and Claritin may be all that's necessary to relieve the symptoms. However, in other cases, severe reactions to new medications may occur. In these cases, Claritin will not be enough to reverse the reaction and medical intervention will be necessary.
For this reason (among many others), it is always imperative for pet owners to keep an eye on their dog whenever a new medication is introduced. It may very well be the difference between life and death for your dog.
Allergies to Fleas and Ticks
Finally, it is very common for both dogs and cats to experience allergies to flea and tick bites. A single flea bite can leave Fido itching for weeks. Luckily, dog owners can take preventative measure in order to avoid this type of allergic reaction. Whether you choose a conventional flea medication or an all natural alternative, providing your dog protection against fleas and ticks is incredibly important.
Other Uses of Claritin for Dogs
While the treatment of allergies is the primary reason why your vet may prescribe Claritin for dogs, it isn't the only one.
Mast Cell Tumors
Your veterinarian may prescribe Claritin to treat inflammation associated with mast cell tumors. Many symptoms of mast cell tumors closely resemble those of an allergic reaction. Therefore, Claritin can help with relief. With that being said, once again, Claritin is by no means a "cure" for a mast cell tumor diagnosis. It merely reduces the associated symptoms.
Vaccine Side Effects
When the time comes for yearly vaccinations, Claritin may be recommended to prevent side effects commonly associated with the shots, particularly if your dog has had adverse reactions in the past.
Claritin Side Effects
As with all other conventional antihistamines for dogs, Claritin has potential adverse reactions that pet owners should be aware of before administering the medication.
While Claritin may help ease and prevent symptoms of allergies, it may also cause the following adverse reactions:
- Excessively dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Behavioral changes
- Increased thirst
- Changes in bowel movement consistency and regularity
- Urinary retention
Dog owners may find themselves wondering whether or not the aforementioned potential adverse reactions are worth easing mild allergy symptoms. It truly comes down to each pet owner's individual decision. However, it is important to recognize that while you very well may be easing symptoms of one ailment, you may inadvertently cause symptoms of another.
It is always important for your veterinarian to be implicitly aware of any pre-existing health issues and allergies to medication that your dog has. For instance, if your dog has an allergy to loratadine or to desloratadine (Clarinex), they should not take Claritin. Additionally, dogs with liver and/or kidney disease should be closely monitored even if Claritin is deemed safe by your vet.
The exact dosage of Claritin will ultimately depend on several factors, primarily the size of your dog and the severity of their reaction. On average, vets typically recommend 0.2 mg of Claritin for each pound of body weight. With that being said, all dogs are different and it is important to follow the suggested dose that your veterinarian prescribes.
Which Claritin Formula is Safe?
For people, there are a number of Claritin variations available. However, it is extremely important for dog owners to understand that not all are safe for Fido.
Plain Claritin or Children's Claritin
The only version of Claritin deemed safe for dogs is plain Claritin or Children's Claritin. Additionally, stick to the tablet form of Claritin. This will ensure that the active ingredient is solely antihistamine.
*IMPORTANT* NEVER, EVER GIVE YOUR DOG CLARITIN-D. Claritin-D contains an ingredient called pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine can be lethal in dogs, even in the smallest amount. If for any reason you believe your dog has ingested pseudoephedrine, call the ASPCA pet poison hotline at (888) 426-4435.
Claritin Overdose in Dogs
If you make sure to give your dog the right form and the correct dose of Claritin, overdoses are very uncommon. However, when they do occur, they can be extremely dangerous. For this reason, it is imperative that dog owners ensure that they are administering the medication appropriately.
Additional Allergy Medicine for Dogs
When it comes to choosing an antihistamine for dogs, several factors should be considered. Many antihistamines come in varying chewable, dissolvable, and liquid forms. However, many of these contain artificial sweeteners (including Xylitol) which can be incredibly toxic and even fatal when consumed.
The top three options when it comes to antihistamines for dogs are:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- Loratadine (Claritin)
Benadryl for Dogs (Diphenhydramine)
The most commonly prescribed over-the-counter human medication for dog consumption is Benadryl. Also an antihistamine, Benadryl treats allergies and allergic reactions just like Claritin. However, one of the major differences is Benadryl's sedative properties. Unlike Claritin, Benadryl is also used as a mild sedative and is often recommended to manage anxiety in dogs, particularly while traveling. Veterinarians may also prescribe Benadryl as a way to alleviate motion sickness in dogs.
Zyrtec for Dogs (Cetirizine)
Another commonly prescribed antihistamine for dogs is Zyrtec. Zyrtec is often recommended for dogs suffering from allergic reactions associated with allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. The antihistamine aims to relieve symptoms such as inflammation, hives, itching, and swelling.
Read the Label! Ask Your Vet!
As with all medications, it is imperative that you read the label. Some antihistamines contain additional medications that help to relieve cold and flu symptoms. These additional medications can prove to cause a great deal of harm to your dog.
Why Choose All Natural Alternatives
In addition to the unpleasant potential reactions associated with conventional human antihistamine medications for dogs, there's another large issue that isn't always discussed. Studies show that these medications only work in approximately 30% of dogs. That means that the other 70% of dogs are still suffering without relief and may also be experiencing adverse reactions.
Luckily, there are all natural remedies that pet owners have found to be both highly effective and safe.
Claritin for Dogs: The Bottom Line
Our pets mean the world to us and we would do anything in our power to ensure their happiness and wellbeing. When it comes to treating and preventing seasonal allergies, a medication like Claritin may prove to be an effective way to get your dog the relief they deserve. However, in other cases, conventional antihistamines for dogs may not provide the support that you were hoping for. In fact, many dogs only deal with additional adverse reactions and very limited amounts of allergy relief.
As a responsible pet owner, it is imperative that you know all there is to know about a new medication prior to administering it. Knowledge is power. The more you know about a drug, as well as potential alternatives, the better inclined you will be to make a decision based on your dog's wellbeing.