Claritin (Loratadine) is a human drug. However, it is sometimes recommended for dogs with allergies as well. The question is how much Claritin for dogs is considered safe and effective to combat the symptoms of allergies your dog is presenting?
Talking about allergies, allergies in dogs are usually triggered by a number of different things from their diet to their environment. But mostly their environment though. What you might consider simple such as switching your dog’s food, or the more common cause — a change in weather can trigger a fairly serious allergic reaction in your dog.
While humans would typically come down with runny noses and red eyes when suffering from allergies, dogs would usually come down with itchy skin.
From the look of things, it is somewhat impossible to completely protect your dog from allergy triggers in the environment. This is why, for the most part, vets and dog owners have had to settle with taking care of the symptoms rather than the offending substance itself. The good news is that, thanks to science, there are a number of medications such as Claritin (Loratadine) that can be used to help relieve dogs that suffer allergies.
Much as we know Claritin to be generally safe for dogs, it’s still important to seek your vet’s approval first before administering Claritin to your dog. It’s also important as your pet’s advocate, to find out what you can about Claritin for dogs as well as what allergies in dogs are like.
What Is Loratadine (Claritin)
Loratadine was first sold in 1993. It is an antihistamine that was developed to help treat allergies in humans, and over the years, has proven to be very effective. Vets began to use the drug to treat pets when they found it to be truly effective as well as relatively safe.
Loratadine is in a class of drugs called the second-generation histamine antagonists. Right now, Loratadine is the strongest drug you can find its class. So, for this reason, most doctors and vets have made Loratadine their go-to when recommending anti-histamines
Unlike anti-histamines in the first generation like Benadryl, Claritin and other anti-histamines in the second generation rarely ever make dogs or people who take them feel drowsy.
In humans, Claritin is usually prescribed for symptoms such as hives and runny nose. For dogs, though, it’s primarily prescribed for itchy skin. Nevertheless, Claritin shouldn’t be administered if the situation is a life-threatening one. If the situation looks life-threatening, then consider it an emergency and consult your vet immediately.
In fact, never self-medicate for your pet, emergency or not.
How Claritin Works
Histamines are the substances in the body that trigger an allergic reaction in dogs. What happens is that they attach to the H-1 receptors found on the small blood vessels on the smooth muscles. Once they bind, they trigger an allergic reaction which could range from irritated and watery eyes, to sneezing, to itching, and to runny nose.
Drugs like Claritin are called anti-histamines. That is, they hinder the work of histamines so they don’t trigger reactions. They do this by preventing histamines from binding to H-1 receptors. When this happens, an allergic reaction is averted.
What Claritin Is Used To Treat
Dogs, like people, also suffer all kinds of symptoms from allergies such as red eyes, runny noses, but especially itchy skin. This often leads to extreme scratching and discomfort. With prolonged itching, scratching, and biting, the dog might begin to develop skin issues. For instance, wounds and cuts from the prolonged scratching and biting could be a harbinger for bacterial infections. It could also cause some deep scarring as well.
To relieve dogs from this nightmare, veterinarians would usually prescribe Claritin so that the allergies do not make the dog cause more damage to his skin.
2. Canine Atopic Dermatitis
Another issue for which Claritin is usually prescribed is in the case of canine atopic dermatitis.
Canine atopic dermatitis is a chronic inflammation of the skin which usually occurs as a result of hypersensitivity to everyday environmental elements such as dust.
Dogs who are affected by canine atopic dermatitis are usually extremely itchy and are, as a result, constantly biting and licking themselves to relieve themselves of the allergy symptoms.
If not treated promptly, canine atopic dermatitis can cause your dog to develop hot spots as well as bacterial infections.
How Much Claritin For Dogs? — Claritin Dosage
How much Claritin you give your dog will depend on a number of factors. However the two most important factors, naturally, would be your dog’s body weight as well as the severity of the allergy.
Usually, what is recommended is 0.2 milligram of Claritin per pound of body weight. Here’s a more detailed dosage you can follow.
According to Valley Veterinary Hospital, here’s how much Claritin for dogs according to their weight.
From 1 to 14 pounds, administer 5 milligrams of Claritin.
Dogs between 15 and 39 pounds should get 10 milligrams of Claritin. However, it should be administered as 5-milligram doses twice daily.
Dogs above 40 pounds would require a 20-milligram dose administered as 10-milligram doses twice daily.
Now, the thing about Claritin is that it usually contains other medications in its formula. For example, you might a version called Claritin D. This version contains pseudoephedrine. This substance is a decongestant that helps to relieve stuffy noses. However, while it is safe for humans, pseudoephedrine is highly toxic to dogs. So, avoid any such formulation containing pseudoephedrine.
Make sure the Claritin you’re getting is just Claritin not Claritin-D.
Also, you want to avoid the quick-dissolving Claritin. Those kinds usually contain xylitol and as listed in our article, 197 foods dogs can’t eat (click here to read it), xylitol is toxic to dogs.
It’s best to stick with the regular Claritin and avoid the variations. The children’s formulation, though, is safe. Just make sure to adjust the dosage accordingly.
A regular Claritin tablet contains about 10 milligrams of Loratadine. So, for most small dogs, you’d have to break the tablet into two and give them half the tablet.
The children’s formula, on the other hand, contains much less Loratadine at about 2.5 milligrams per tablet. So, for a small dog, you’d have to give two of these tablets.
Now, Claritin is somewhat bitter so your dog might not exactly be excited about taking it a first. To make it easier for your dog, you could decide to coat the pill in peanut butter, use pill pockets, or use other tricks to get your dog to swallow the pill.
How Much Claritin For Dogs? — Claritin Side Effects And Contraindications
There aren’t many side effects of Claritin in dogs. However, in rare cases, dogs might experience one of the following side effects:
- Urinary retention.
- Drowsiness (on very rare occasions).
If you notice your dog exhibiting any of the symptoms above, then it might be time to see your vet. Usually, these symptoms are not very serious. But your vet might adjust the dosage a little bit to resolve the side effects.
Note that if administered with antifungals or antibiotics, Claritin could cause drowsiness in the patient. So, when talking to your vet, be sure to inform them of all the drugs your vet is currently taking.
For pregnant and lactating animals, it is assumed that Claritin is largely safe. However, please note that there haven’t been any comprehensive studies done on this. So, before you administer this to a reproductively active female dog, ensure to confirm with your vet first.
For puppies, the general recommendation is that they don’t take Claritin.
How Much Claritin For Dogs — Claritin Overdose
Claritin overdose is not common in dogs as long as the dosage is administered correctly by the dog owner. Nevertheless, Claritin overdose, if it does occur can be highly dangerous. This is why it is important to stick to the dose as advised by your vet.
Fortunately, large doses of Claritin are highly unlikely to be lethal. Nevertheless, they can produce a couple of nasty side effects. If you suspect that your dog has taken an overdose of the drug, then contact your vet as soon as you find out.
Also, watch for the following signs: seizures, drowsiness, changes in body temperature and behavior, as well as gum discoloration.
Precautions For Giving Claritin To Dogs
Your vet will usually ask about your dog’s health condition before prescribing Claritin. They’d want to know about pre-existing health issues in your dog as well as any history of allergies to medication.
For instance, dogs who have an allergy to desloratadine (Clarinex) should not have Claritin. Dogs who have shown an adverse reaction to loratadine (Claritin) as well should, obviously, not be prescribed Claritin.
Plus, dogs who have either a kidney or a liver disease should be really closely monitored if administered Claritin.
Remember that your dog is never to consume Claritin-D. It contains pseudoephedrine which is lethal in dogs even in the tiniest amount.
If you suspect your dog has consumed Claritin-D, call the Pet Poison Helpline on (888) 426-4435.
Allergies – Clinical Signs
Now that you know what dose of Claritin to give your dog, here are some things to know about allergies in dogs.
As a dog owner, you should be able to recognize the signs of an allergy in your pet and the level of severity they suggest. Here are some clinical signs of allergies in dogs.
Sneezing is an obvious sign of allergies in humans as well as in dogs. Oftentimes, this is as a result of allergens in the environment such as pollen. Sure, your dog is bound to sneeze once in a while and might not necessarily be experiencing an allergic reaction.
However, if the sneezing becomes persistent, especially if it is consistently preceded by an event (spraying of perfume or opening of windows), then you might be dealing with an allergic reaction.
In such sneezing, sometimes, a nasal discharge follows. Nasal discharge that companies an allergic sneeze is usually clear in color. If your dog is having green or yellow discharge coming out of his nose when he sneezes, then it’s not an allergic reaction. It’s most likely an infection and it needs to be treated.
Wheezing could also be as a result of allergens in the environment. It becomes worse if your dog already had pre-existing breathing issues.
Now, if your dog is wheezing, don’t be in a hurry to administer Claritin. Sometimes, it’s not an allergy. Consult with your vet first to confirm whether or not you’re dealing with an allergic reaction. Sometimes, it could even be bacterial pneumonia.
A dog with a pre-existing medical condition affecting their breathing will usually cough when faced with allergies. Again, as with wheezing, confirm from your vet, first of all, that your dog isn’t experiencing other serious health issues like heart failure.
When allergic reactions narrow the airways, the affected dog will, usually, snore.
5. Chronic Ear Infections
You might be shocked to find out that one of the telltale signs of allergies in dogs is chronic ear infections. So, if you find that your dog is always pawing at his ears or there seems to always be wax buildup within his ear canal, then you might want to check with your vet to find out if your dog is battling allergies.
6. Itchy, Irritated Skin
This is one of the most common signs of allergies in dogs. Oftentimes, owners mistake this for bug bites but it is not always so. For dogs, almost any allergy can trigger itchy and irritated skin.
If your dog seems to be having itchy skin particularly around the back and base of the tail, then it might be flea allergies. But if the itchiness and irritation appear to be around the ears and paw, then it might be a food allergy.
7. Red, Itchy Eyes
Sometimes, dog get red and itchy eyes just like humans when suffering an allergic reaction. In other cases when it’s not allergies, it could also be a bacterial infection.
So, if your dog usually has red and itchy eyes, do not assume it’s allergies just yet. Consult with your vet first to see if it’s a bacterial infection.
8. Swollen And Itchy Paws
A final sign that your dog is having allergies is when your dog’s paws begin to swell or itch. If your dog is having to lick or bite his paws constantly, soon his paws will eventually begin to swell and get tender.
Now, you must be very careful with allergies and their symptoms. Usually, this is little more than a slight annoyance. However, with time, these allergies could graduate into a medical emergency in some cases. This, in turn, might graduate into anaphylactic shock which can be fatal if it is not treated immediately.
Signs of anaphylactic shock include:
- Trouble with breathing.
- Excessive lethargy.
- Excessive vomiting.
- Uncontrollable bowel movements.
- Uncontrollable urination.
If you see any of the above symptoms, your dog is having anaphylactic shock and you need to see your vet immediately.
Listen to Dr. Karen Becker of Mercola Healthy Pets educate dog owners on how to treat and recognize allergy symptoms in their pets in the video below.
Allergies In Dogs — Causes
We’ve talked about allergies in dogs and their symptoms. Now we are going to consider allergies in dogs and their causes.
Typically, many factors could cause allergies in dogs, and because they are quite difficult to pinpoint, it can be somewhat tricky to pinpoint and prevent allergy causes in dogs.
Generally, allergy triggers in dogs fall into four categories which are food, environmental, flea/tick, as well as medication.
1. Environmental Allergies
Most times when vets prescribe Claritin for allergies in dogs, it’s usually as a result of environmental allergies. They are, typically, also the most difficult to avoid as you can’t possibly protect your dog from every single one of the environmental triggers.
Environmental allergens which can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs include dust, smoke, pollen, perfume, dander, household cleaners, laundry detergents, trees, plants, and grass.
From the examples above, you can see that almost anything in the environment can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs. For such allergies, vets would usually recommend Claritin.
2. Food Allergies
Another cause of allergies in dogs is food usually symptomized by an upset in the gastrointestinal tract either by vomiting or diarrhea.
Identifying the specific food allergen triggering a reaction in your dog can be quite strenuous. Oftentimes, you’d have to do that via an elimination diet. So, you begin by feeding your dog only a hypoallergenic diet (click here to learn more about hypoallergenic diets in our article: Hypoallergenic Dog Food). While doing this, you can’t allow your dog eat any other food, definitely not human food or treats.
After doing this for a short time, you’d then have to slowly integrate some specific foods back into the diet to see if that’s what is causing the reactions.
This process is quite tedious, obviously. However, working with your vet to find and eliminate the offending food can truly rewarding when you finally identify the allergen.
Just like in humans, there are dogs that react to certain medication, and these reactions usually vary in their intensity. Sometimes, these allergies are mild and Claritin is enough to help your dog get some relief from the symptoms.
There are, however, some other cases where the reactions are severe. In such cases, Claritin isn’t usually enough and your dog would need medical intervention.
As a dog owner, you must be careful to keep your eye out for your dog whenever he is introduced to new medication. Some dogs react really seriously to certain medications, and that’s why, in some cases, your watchfulness might be the dividing line between life and death.
4. Fleas And Ticks
Allergies to fleas and ticks are really common in dogs. For some dogs, just one flea bite is enough to have him scratching for weeks unending.
Thankfully, this is an allergy that can be easily prevented in dogs. You can read our article on Dog Flea and Tick Control to learn how to do this (click here to read it).
There are a number of preventative measures available including flea medications, the more conventional method. You can also choose to go the all-natural route as well.
Alternative Treatments For Allergies In Dogs Besides Claritin
Claritin might be highly effective at treating allergies in dogs. However, it is not the only option you have. Here are other options available to the dog owner wishing to treat their dogs suffering from allergies.
1. Other Antihistamines
There are several other antihistamines besides Claritin which do a good job ridding your dog’s body of the allergic symptoms. These antihistamines may come in all kinds of forms from chewable to dissolvable, to liquid as well.
Please note that there are certain antihistamines that come with artificial sweeteners like xylitol. These artificial sweeteners are toxic could be fatal.
Find out other dangerous foods that could kill your dog in our article: 197 Foods Dogs Can’t Eat — click here to read it.
The top three antihistamines used for dogs include: Loratadine (Claritin). Diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and Cetirizine (Zyrtec). We have an article on Zyrtec for dogs, you can click here to read How Much Zyrtec For Dogs.
Benadryl is probably the most common over-the-counter human drug prescribed for dogs. It works just like Claritin and is used to manage allergic reactions.
Unlike Claritin though, Benadryl can also be used as a mild sedative. It is also commonly used to manage dog anxiety especially when the dog has to travel. Benadryl can also be used to manage motion sickness in dogs.
Secondly, we have Zyrtec for dogs. It treats allergic reactions, atopic dermatitis, as well as contact dermatitis. For symptoms such as hives, itching, swelling, and inflammation, Zyrtec makes a great solution.
2. Cortisone (Steroids)
Corticosteroids are some of the most effective drugs for treating allergies, especially cortisone. The problem, though, is that they have the tendency to cause severe health challenges if used for a long time. As a result, therefore, they are only used to treat environmental allergies short-term.
So, if, for instance, your dog is allergic to pollen, he’ll generally only need treatment for a maximum of a couple of months each year. For such allergies, therefore, cortisone or prednisone treatment can be prescribed.
Dogs whose allergies are triggered by other substances that are usually present all year-long like smoke or dander won’t be prescribed cortisone.
3. Omega-3 Supplementation
Omega-3 fatty acids are great at reducing inflammation on skin. They also help to relieve other skin and coat issues as well. Feeding your dog with commercial dog foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help your dog deal with allergies. You could also use a fish oil supplement as well to increase how much omega-3 fatty acids your dog is consuming with his diet.
4. Sensitivity Treatment
This usually involves administering a series of injections to your dog. The injections will usually contain just a tiny quantity of an allergen.
As your dog’s body gets exposed to the small quantities of allergens gradually, over time, his body will learn to stop viewing the allergen as a threat. Consequently, the body should stop reacting whenever they encounter said allergen.
However, here’s the thing with sensitivity treatments. They don’t always work. So, it’s kinda hit-or-miss when it comes to this method.
5. Immunosuppressive Drugs (Cyclosporine)
Reactions to an allergy are brought on by the immune system. So, sometimes, the route to go might be to suppress the immune system so it doesn’t react so “violently.” this is where immunosuppressive drugs come in.
Of the immunosuppressive drugs, cyclosporine is a very effective option. It does tend to cause a loss of appetite as well as vomiting in dogs, though. So, expect that. Plus, using this drug can quickly become an expensive venture especially if your dog is a large breed.
Other Uses Of Claritin For Dogs
Claritin is not only prescribed for allergies. Here are other reasons your dog might prescribe Claritin for a dog.
1. Mast Cell Tumors
Your vet might prescribe Claritin to treat inflammation that results from mast cell tumors.
Mast cells are typically full of histamine and when they become cancerous, they release this histamine in massive amounts into the system. This process is referred to as degranulation
As a result of this, many times, symptoms of mast cell tumor closely resemble those of an allergic reaction. For this case, Claritin can be used to treat resulting symptoms. Emphasis on the word “symptoms.” Claritin does not cure mast cell tumors, it only helps to relieve symptoms in affected dogs.
2. Vaccine Side Effects
There are dogs that come down with allergic reactions when they are vaccinated. In such cases, vets might prescribe Claritin to prevent the occurrence of these vaccine-related reactions, especially if your dog has shown a reaction to vaccines in the past.