Is Benadryl safe for cats and dogs?


Benadryl is the brand name for a drug called diphenhydramine hydrochloride. Benadryl is an over-the-counter antihistamine medication, so it does not require a prescription. This antihistamine can be purchased as tablets, capsules, liquid gels and even liquid in multiple strengths or milligrams depending on your needs. Benadryl is sometimes combined with other medications that can be dangerous to a cat. Because of this, you will need to be sure to read the package carefully when purchasing the drug to ensure that diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl, is the only drug in the product you are purchasing for your cat. Generic diphenhydramine is also available, as well as a faster acting injectable form that your veterinarian will have available.

Since it is an antihistamine, Benadryl blocks histamine and acetylcholine from being released into the body. These chemicals are released in the body in response to an allergic reaction not only in cats, but also people, dogs, and other animals. Benadryl addresses the symptoms of an allergic response or allergies by drying up watery eyes and runny noses and decreases swelling, sneezing, itching, and more.

Cats that may need Benadryl are typically ones that have allergies to vaccines or are travelling in a car or airplane, but there are other reasons why your cat may be recommended to take it. Some specific examples of when Benadryl may be used are:

  • When a cat is bit by a venomous reptile, such as a snake.
  • When a cat is itching or scratching from environmental or food allergies. Flea allergy dermatitis is a common problem in cats and Benadryl is often recommended.
  • When a cat is traveling and may experience motion sickness. This will help prevent your cat from vomiting.
  • When a cat is in need of something to make it a little sleepy, such as during travel, so that it doesn’t get impatient, bored, or cry when it needs to be calm and quiet
  • When pre-treatment of an antihistamine is needed prior to a vaccination that is known to cause an allergic reaction in that cat. Vaccine reactions are not common but if they do occur or have occurred in your cat in the past, Benadryl will be given.
Some allergic responses can be deadly, though. Some cats react so severely to insects or venomous reptiles that they cannot breathe without antihistamines, such as Benadryl, and immediate veterinary attention is necessary. This is especially true for brachycephalic or “smush face” breeds, like Persians, that already naturally have compromised airways without the added airway constriction that an allergic reaction can cause.



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