When you’re a parent, you quickly learn that not every medical issue is big enough to see a pediatrician. In the area of over the counter medications, problems like indigestion and small allergic reactions are easily treatable within the home. What many pet parents don’t know is that the same can be true with pets. With pets as with humans, there are times where you can treat medical problems at home with over the counter and home remedies, just be sure to get your veterinarian’s approval first.

One home remedy that is widely considered safe within the veterinary community is diphenhydramine, or as you know it: Benadryl. Antihistamines have an incredibly large margin of dosage safety and a very low risk of side effects. If your pet is showing signs of an allergic reaction, such as red skin or excessive scratching, you can call your veterinarian. Often they’ll recommend you administer an antihistamine to your pet, and will advise you on a safe dosage for you dog or cat’s breed, age, and size.

If your pet is showing signs of an upset stomach, such as refusing to eat, loose stool, or vomiting, oral digestive products like Pepto Bismol are safe to use with most pets. Of course, before treating your pet, you should be sure to consult with your veterinarian to make sure there isn’t a larger problem, and that you aren’t giving them too much!

Of course, pets and humans are physiologically very different, and anything you use to treat your pet needs a much different dose than you would give to a human. Pet’s metabolize at a different rate, and all over the counter remedies are made for human consumption. Before giving your pet any medical remedies, make sure to contact your vet for a recommended dose based on their weight and breed.

Outside of indigestion and allergies, there are a lot of things that you should not do at home to treat your pet at home. If your pet is showing signs that they are in pain, do NOT give them anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil. Anti-inflammatories are not available at drug stores in dosages that are safe for animal consumption, and can be incredibly harmful if ingested. Beware of anything advertised as Doggy Aspirin, in my experience these products are not safe and are chemically no different from regular aspirin.

On that same note, never give your pet any prescription medication that you did not receive from your veterinarian. When a pet seems mysteriously ill, the lab results often come back showing prescription drug toxicity. Sometimes this is accidental: pets are tenacious and curious, and can sometimes get into human medications and injest them. Other times it happens when a pet parent believes giving a prescription drug to their pet will help. The best way to keep a sick pet safe is to talk to your veterinarian before administering any drugs.

In most cases vitamin supplementations are not needed for your pet because of how well balanced pet food has become. Do not give your pet any human vitamins. Vitamins created for humans are usually not absorbed by your pet and can potentially even be harmful because pets have different vitamin balances than humans.

When it comes to injuries do not treat wounds with home remedies without consultation.  Even common products like hydrogen peroxide can delay healing of a wound/injury.  Hydrogen peroxide is useful in inducing vomiting, if your pet gets into something bad, but do not administer it without talking to poison control or your veterinarian.  

When it comes to treating your pet at home, the most important thing is to check with your veterinarian to make sure what you’re doing is keeping your pet happy and healthy! My rule of thumb is when in doubt, call your veterinarian.