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Dr. K
Dr. K, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 7544
Experience:  13 years experience as Veterinarian
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Can I use Zyrtec to treat my dog for allergies. He is an 80

Customer Question

Can I use Zyrtec to treat my dog for allergies. He is an 80 lb 5 year old German Shepherd in good health otherwise. He tolerates Benadryl well I am wondering if Zyrtec would be better. This is his rough time of year. He's wheezing and congested in his nose.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. K replied 8 years ago.
Wheezing and congestion is actually not a sign of allergies in dogs, but rather of some type of respiratory illness. Allergies in dogs cause itchiness, as opposed to the type of hay fever that we typically see in people with seasonal allergies.

If your dog is showing these respiratory signs, then I would not recommend using any antihistamines on him. I would take him to the vet ASAP for an examination to make sure that he is not having some type of infectious bronchitis. If this is ruled out, then the doctor can determine if your dog may have a condition called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). This is not treated with antihistamines, but rather with bronchodilators and sometimes steroids.

I am attaching a client information handout that I use in my practice that discusses COPD in greater detail. I hope that you find it useful.

Click Here

I hope that this information is of help to you, and I iwsh you the best of luck with your dog. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Dr. K

P.S.--Zyrtec is not widely used in veterinary medicine, and because of the limited clinical experience with it, there is very little information on how well tolerated it is in dogs. There are some dosage recommendations for it for treating atopic dermatitis in dogs, but not for treating rhinosinusitis. For this reason, I would not recommending using this on your dog.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thank You. I've been through this every year with him. It's his allergies. I just dosed him with 100 mg. of benadryl and he is much better. When I take him to the vet, he just gets a shot of prednisone which I can't afford to do right now, so I'll stick with the benadryl but if he doesn't get better or gets worse I will take him in. I will not use the Zyrtec. ALso, I've used Mini Noses nasal spray, kid stuff, and that lasts about four hours. It helps.

Expert:  Dr. K replied 8 years ago.
You are welcome. You should also know that there is no reason why your dog should get shots of steroids. You can control his allergies very well with oral medications that are much less expensive. Most of my atopy patients are well-controlled on a drug called Temaril-P, which is a combination of an antihistamine with a small amount of prednisone.
There are other treatment options that do not involve chronic use of steroids. One that is easy to try is a straight course of antihistamines. Different dogs will respond differently to different drugs, so it may be the case that several antihistamines must be tried before the right one is found. The most common ones used are benadryl (diphenhydramine) and chlorpheniramine. Many dogs will not respond to antihistamines alone, and another modality must be added. The most common is to use a special shampoo designed for allergic dogs. Because allergens that affect dogs do so by landing on the dog's skin (instead of being inhaled, as they do in people), the allergies can be decreased with frequent shampooing with an appropriate product, such as Histacalm. Your vet can recommend an appropriate product for you.
Another option is allergy testing, either using a blood profile or intradermal skin testing. With either of these tests, the dog can be evaluated for sensitivity to specific allergens, and then a unique "vaccine" is made for the dog to treat these. The animal is usually given gradually increasing amounts of the allergy serum over the course of many weeks to months. This is called hyposensitization therapy, and has the least side effects of any allergy treatment. This works in about 67% of dogs.
There is a new drug available now for allergic dogs called Atopica. This is designed specifically for veterinary use. It can be very effective, and does not have the negative side effects of using long-term steroids, however, it is also quite expensive. If you are interested in trying this, you should talk to your veterinarian about ordering you some.
I hope that this information has been of some help to you, and better equips you to ask appropriate questions of your vet. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Dr. K