Veterinarians may order prescription medications or over-the-counter (OTC) medications for your pet. It is important to read the label carefully, to make sure you are giving the product safely and effectively, while storing it in a safe area to minimize inadvertent harmful ingestion.
You should follow all label precautions, warnings and directions on how to administer the product correctly. It is also important to keep products in their original containers, and not in food or beverage containers, ensuring tight fitting lids that cannot be easily spilled.
Although OTC medications do not require a prescription, they should never be given to a pet, unless your veterinarian has indicated that it is appropriate. Even common medications used in humans, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may be toxic or even fatal to your dog’s health.
Here are some examples of OTC medications that your veterinarian may ask you to purchase from your local pharmacy. Ask your pharmacist to help you select the correct product.
- Acid Reducers: Stomach medications, such as famotidine, may be given intermittently for issues such as heartburn.
- Artificial tears and eye lubricants: Ophthalmic products may be prescribed for some minor eye irritations from dust, debris, or dry eyes.
- Antihistamines: Pets may get allergy symptoms or allergic reactions, which may require an OTC antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, cetirizine, or loratadine. These are often safe but may cause drowsiness or hyperactivity. Make sure the product does not contain any other ingredients such as decongestants, which are not safe for dogs.
- Topical antibiotic ointments: Minor cuts and scrapes should be cleaned before applying the ointment and covered so your dog doesn’t lick the medication or wound.
Topical corticosteroid preparations:
OTC corticosteroids (e.g. hydrocortisone) are available in low strengths and are usually safe, provided they’re not applied to infected wounds as they can delay healing.
Topical antifungal preparations:
Fungal infections should be treated promptly since some can be transmitted from pets to humans
Note that the doses used for dogs are often very different from those used in humans, so your veterinarian should indicate the most appropriate dose for your pet, usually based on their current weight and size. Your pharmacist can then help you select the OTC product that is the most appropriate and check for drug interactions if your dog is taking other medications simultaneously.
Speak to your pharmacist if you’re having issues administering the medication, since there may be some products which may be compounded into a more acceptable form for your pet.
For more information about medications that can be toxic to pets, click .
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. Protect Your Pets.
- American Veterinary Medical Association.
- VCA. Are over-the-counter medications safe for my dog?