When your dog is suffering from skin allergies, all you want to do is make them feel better. Watching your dog scratch, lick, and bite their skin because they’re uncomfortable is a heartbreaking experience. Sure, there are a few natural skin allergy remedies you can try, but in severe cases, these remedies don’t help much.
When the natural remedies don’t help, the next thing you should do is turn to medication. One of the most popular OTC medications for seasonal dog allergies is Zyrtec, but does Zyrtec work for skin allergies?
The simple answer is YES! Zyrtec works exceptionally well for dog skin allergies because the main ingredient is cetirizine, which is used to treat itchy skin in dogs. Best of all, Zyrtec won’t make your dog drowsy like other allergy medication.
However, make sure you DO NOT give your dog Zyrtec-D. This contains pseudoephedrine, a harmful chemical for dogs.
In this post, we are going to go into detail about why Zyrtec works so well, how to dose your dog correctly, and when dogs should not take Zyrtec. But before we dive into the details, we need to give a quick disclaimer. Zyrtec has not been approved for animals by the FDA. However, just because it hasn’t been approved (yet) doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, Zyrtec is one of the most commonly recommended drugs by vets when it comes to allergies.
Why Does Zyrtec Work For Dogs?
Zyrtec works for dogs in the same way it works for humans. When your dog has an allergic reaction, their body makes a substance called histamine. When histamine is blocked, the symptoms of the allergic reaction go away.
Zyrtec contains cetirizine, which is an antihistamine. The benefit of cetirizine is that it acts fast. When given to your dog at a proper dosage, you should see results within 20 minutes.
Common Zyrtec Mistakes Dog Owners Make
Any time you give your dog medication, there are specific guidelines to follow. Each drug has different guidelines. Here are three things to keep in mind when it comes to giving your dog Zyrtec for skin allergies.
Giving the Same Amount Humans Take
We need to remember that humans weigh much more than dogs. When it comes to medication, this means humans can typically handle a bigger dosage. Zyrtec recommends humans take one tablet every 12 hours (2 tablets per day).
The rules change a bit when it comes to dogs. Dogs over 10 pounds can safely take one tablet per day. Dogs under 10 pounds should only have half a tablet per day. Of course, it’s always best to consult with a vet before giving your dog medication.
If you’re going to give your dog Zyrtec, make sure IT’S NOT Zyrtec-D! We can’t stress this enough. Zyrtec-D contains pseudoephedrine, which is extremely harmful to dogs. Just 30 milligrams of pseudoephedrine is enough to do damage on a small dog. One tablet of Zyrtec-D contains 120 milligrams of pseudoephedrine. This is four times the amount that can be harmful to a small dog.
Assuming it Will Work
Just like humans, not all dogs respond the same to medication. One type of medication might work wonders on your neighbor’s dog but do nothing for your dog. Although Zyrtec does have a high success rate when it comes to dog skin allergies, there’s no guarantee that it will work. If you don’t see results after a week, talk to your vet about other options.
Will Zyrtec Make My Dog Sleepy?
The reason why more and more vets are starting to recommend Zyrtec over Benadryl is that Zyrtec will not make your dog drowsy. If you do want to make your dog drowsy for some reason (maybe you’re going on a long car ride), Benadryl would be the better option.
When to NOT Give Your Dog Zyrtec
When it comes to medication, you need to be strategic. There are times when medication such as Zyrtec can be hugely beneficial for your dog, but there are also times where it can be detrimental.
You should avoid giving your dog Zyrtec, or any other antihistamine for that matter, if one of the following applies:
Avoid If Pregnant or Nursing
If a dog is pregnant or nursing, whatever medication you give her, you’ll also be passing onto the puppies. Even though Zyrtec is unlikely to cause damage to puppies at such a small dosage, it’s still better to play it safe than sorry. Talk to your vet to see what they recommend, but we typically recommend going to the natural route for pregnant or nursing dogs.
Kidney or Liver Problems
If your dog already suffers from kidney or liver problems, it might be best to avoid cetirizine. Cetirizine is eliminated by the kidney and metabolized by the liver. When the kidney and/or liver are not functioning correctly, the body might have trouble metabolizing the drug.
Symptoms Are Getting Worse
On rare occasions, you might notice the symptoms getting worse. The reason this might happen is that some dogs are allergic to antihistamines. Kind of ironic that a dog would have an allergic reaction to allergy medicine, isn’t it? But it does happen from time to time. If you notice your dog reacts Zyrtec, you can try Benadryl instead. Just be aware that Benadryl will make your dog sleepy.
If Dog is On Other Medication
Most medication won’t interact with Zyrtec, but if your dog is currently on other medication, it’s a good idea to talk to your vet before giving your dog Zyrtec. Combining two medications that interact with each other can be a recipe for disaster.
If Your Dog Has Seizures
Unfortunately, seizure disorders are common in some dog breeds. If your dog gets seizures consistently, cetirizine can make it worse by increasing the frequency of seizures. So if your dog suffers from seizures, Zyrtec should be avoided.
Antihistamines Like Zyrtec Don’t Always Work For Dogs
When it comes to skin allergies, Zyrtec can do miracles for some dogs. For other dogs, it may not make any difference. A recent study has shown that 30% of dogs do not respond to antihistamines. Of course, like most studies, this one had plenty of flaws. The correct number probably isn’t as high as 30%. But there are still a handful of dogs that won’t have any response to Zyrtec or any other Antihistamine.
In these cases, you should do two things.
- Use natural remedies for skin allergies
- Get to the root of the issue and figure out what’s causing the skin allergies
Remember, the best medication is prevention!
It Can Take Time
Just because you don’t see immediate results doesn’t mean the medication isn’t working. Typically, Zyrtec has a fast response time. Most dogs should get relief from their itchy skin within 20-30 minutes. However, some dogs can take up to a week to respond to the medication.
Before deciding it doesn’t work, give it at least one week. If a week goes by and you don’t notice any difference, either something else is wrong, or your dog is part of the minority that doesn’t respond to antihistamines.
Zyrtec Can Cause Side Effects
The good news is that most dogs won’t have any adverse side effects on Zyrtec. But just because side effects are rare doesn’t mean they won’t happen. Even though Zyrtec is advertised as “non-drowsy,” the most common side effect for dogs is drowsiness. Again, the majority of dogs WILL NOT experience this side effect, but a small percentage will.
Other side effects include:
- Urine retention – which is another reason dogs with kidney issues should not take Zyrtec.
If your dog experiences drowsiness, that should only happen the first week on the medication. After the first week, the drowsiness should go away.
Can My Dog Overdose on Zyrtec?
Follow what your vet recommends, but it’s unlikely your dog can overdose on Zyrtec. One study gave animals over 200x what is recommended for humans and the animals handled it perfectly fine. That’s not to say you should replicate the study on your dog, just know that if you accidentally give your dog too much, they’ll likely be ok.
Zyrtec Is Not a Long Term Solution
Skin allergies are common in dogs, and Zyrtec does a great job of masking the symptoms and providing temporary comfort. But the keyword there is “temporary.” Zyrtec is not a long term fix. It should be used while you figure out what the long term fix is.
There are a variety of things that can cause skin allergies for a dog. The most common is the type of protein they are eating. If your dog is eating turkey as the primary protein source, try fish or chicken. If they’re eating chicken, try turkey or fish. We’ve often seen that merely changing the type of protein is enough to fix the issue.
Zyrtec does work for dog skin allergies, but make sure you are smart with it. The most important thing is NOT to purchase Zyrtec-D, as that can be toxic. Dogs over 10 pounds can take one tablet per day; dogs under 10 pounds should take half a tablet per day. If you notice any adverse side effects, talk to your vet and see if they still recommend Zyrtec.
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