Let’s face it, allergies are no fun, and we all have to deal with them to some degree. It may surprise some pet owners to learn that the itchy-eyed, irritated skin, sneezing symptoms of allergies do not only affect humans but our furry companions as well.
While they often display themselves in different ways, allergies can affect our dogs just as much as they can affect us. However, we aren’t exactly able to communicate with our dogs about what’s going on.
So as a dog owner, what do you do?
What is Zyrtec?
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you've likely heard of the over-the-counter antihistamine, Zyrtec.
The conventional medication is one of several second-generation antihistamines that is often prescribed for human use to combat environmental changes that often leave us with stuffy noses and red, itchy eyes.
One of Zyrtec's most appealing features is that it does not make its user feel drowsy like other antihistamines such as Benadryl.
While the FDA does not approve it for animals, more and more vets are prescribing the drug for our dogs to reduce itching and other clinical signs of allergic reactions.
What is Cetirizine
Cetirizine is an antihistamine and is the active ingredient in Zyrtec and several other allergy medications including Zyrtec Allergy, Children's Zyrtec Allergy, Children's Zyrtec Hives Relief, PediaCare Children's 24 Hour Allergy, Aller-Tec, and Wal-Zyr.
Cetirizine works by blocking a specific natural substance (histamine) that your body makes when you experience an allergic reaction.
Because of the fact that it blocks histamine, it is referred to as a class of medications called antihistamines.
Zyrtec Uses in Dogs
If Fido is suffering from a variety of different allergic reactions, your veterinarian may recommend using Zyrtec.
These allergic reactions are typically associated with allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.
Both contact dermatitis, as well as atopic dermatitis, will trigger allergic reactions such as inflammation, hives, itching, and swelling.
Allergy Symptoms and Signs
Just like in humans, dogs can also be allergic to nearly anything you can think of. Also similarly to humans, certain allergens have more of an effect on dogs than others.
What Causes Dog Allergies
Common allergies seen in dogs include fleas (particularly saliva from fleas and flea bites), environmental allergens such as weeds, grass, pollen, and dust mites, as well as food allergies (including the food itself but more specifically food additives).
Symptoms of Allergies in Dogs
While we may think of allergies in the form of a runny nose and watery eyes, dogs show signs of allergies in those ways as well as others.
If your pup is suffering from allergies and/or having an allergic reaction, you'll likely find the following symptoms.
- Skin redness
- Skin irritation
- Excessive itching
- Rubbing their face and muzzle repeatedly
- Biting their paws or legs
If dog allergies are left untreated, hair loss and skin infections including bacterial infections and yeast infections as well as hot spots may develop.
Additionally, a severe allergic reaction can lead to your dog developing hives and in extreme cases, cause anaphylactic shock.
If you believe that your dog is experiencing anaphylactic shock symptoms, it is imperative that you seek veterinary intervention straight away as anaphylactic shock can be life-threatening.
Zyrtec Dosage for Dogs
Generally, a typical dose of Zyrtec is determined based on the dog's size. Your veterinarian will likely prescribe Zyrtec to be given once a day, orally.
However, this is a general rule of thumb and not an exact science. For this reason, it is vital that you see your vet for an accurate dosage.
Furthermore, The dosage of Zyrtec will also vary based on what you were treating. For instance, the dose to treat itchy skin will be different than the dose to treat an allergic reaction such as a bee sting.
Zyrtec-D Warnings: What Pet Owners Should Know
Perhaps the most important thing for pet owners to know if choosing to use Zyrtec is never, never use Zyrtec-D.
Zyrtec-D has the active ingredient Pseudoephedrine which can be incredibly harmful to dogs and can cause high blood pressure, seizures, and even death.
Standard Zyrtec and generic Zyrtec have the active ingredient cetirizine which veterinarians deem safe when administered appropriately.
Zyrtec Side Effects
Typically, Zyrtec doesn’t present many adverse side effects that are too troublesome for pet owners, especially when you are familiar with the potential side effects of other conventional medications.
However, there is a bit of concern associated with Zyrtec. Research shows that antihistamines only work in approximately 30% of dogs. The worrisome part is that up to 25% of those dogs will experience adverse reactions.
Additionally, antihistamines are not a cure, more so like a band-aid. While antihistamines will treat the symptoms, they will not cure the underlying problem which may be something more severe than a simple seasonal allergy.
The most common side effect of Zyrtec is sleepiness.
However, other side effects include:
- Urine retention
- Impulsive responses
- Excessive salivation
Furthermore, even scarier is that fact that Zyrtec can cause additional issues for dogs with kidney problems and liver problems.
While your dog may no longer have symptoms of allergies, it is entirely possible that Zyrtec may exacerbate other issues much worse than itchy skin.
One of the potential side effects of using Zyrtec in dogs is urine retention. Urine retention presents serious problems when giving the drug to dogs with kidney problems as it can make their pre-existing conditions much worse.
The same potential harm exists for dogs with liver issues. Zyrtec can lead to further liver conditions and make their current situation worse off.
Furthermore, there haven’t been enough studies to determine whether or not the drug is safe for pregnant dogs. For that reason, we advise pet owners to steer clear from Zyrtec if their dog is pregnant.
Additionally, nursing dogs should not be given Zyrtec as the medication can be passed onto puppies through their mother's milk. Nursing puppies are far too young to be given conventional drugs such as Zyrtec.
Lastly, your vet should always be implicitly aware of any other medicines that your dog is currently on. This goes for when prescribing a drug like Zyrtec or any other medication.
It’s important for your veterinarian to know everything that your dog is taking so that they can prescribe a drug that will not have adverse effects when mixed with their current medical treatment.
Dog Allergy Home Remedies
Thankfully, as a pet owner, you have options! There are some extremely effective and safe alternatives to Zyrtec that may support skin health and other ailments.
In fact, the options we are about to list come with virtually no side effects.
Take a look!
Interestingly enough, oatmeal can serve as a soothing home remedy for irritated, itchy skin.
All you have to do is add water to the oatmeal and apply to irritated skin. Or you can fill the tub (we recommend using our Bath Assistant if your dog doesn't love the bath) and pour the oatmeal into the water.
Ease your pup's irritated skin by letting them soak for up to 10 minutes.
Coconut oil can soothe irritation and even fight parasites. Coconut oil that is high in lauric acid is preferable as it is more effective. To use it, apply it to directly to their coat and/or simply feed it to them.
Colie Andux says...
"...thanks to Honest Paws CBD-infused coconut oil she is a lot calmer and more at ease with being alone! ... She also suffers from awful skin allergies, she has since she was a little pup, and scratches her ears almost until they bleed. I rub the coconut oil directly on her ears and I can immediately sense it brings her relief. The coconut oil is such a good price and value I don’t think we will ever be without it!"
Zyrtec for Dogs: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, we know you want what’s best for your dog. They are an important, furry member of your family. So when Fido isn’t quite feeling like themselves, it can cause some grief for you, the pet owner.
Zyrtec for dogs may be safe in the appropriate dose for the appropriate dog. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Pet owners should do all that they can to make sure that they know as much about the medication they’re giving their dog as possible.
Furthermore, always consult with your vet before giving your dog a new medication. At the end of the day, allergies are no fun. However, it’s comforting to know that we have other options other than the conventional medications available.
We hope your dog feels better soon!