What Human Drugs Are Safe For Dogs?

Updated April 25, 2023

You’ve got a dog needing treatment and you’ve even got some of your own meds nearby. Can you use them?

The use of non-veterinary drugs is a common question from pet owners. When is it a good idea to give your dog human medications? Sometimes, surprisingly, it is. Just not that often.*

Here are the top over the counter (OTC) drugs you can give, and a few you definitely can’t! Plus some guidelines for safe and appropriate use. See full disclaimer below.

Dog Antihistamine Dose Chart

Antihistamines can be used in dogs to reduce the signs of allergy. The following antihistamines appear safe in dogs (note that Benadryl is no longer sold in Australia as diphenhydramine tablets).

AntihistamineEstimated Dose
Phenergan (promethazine)*1 mg/kg twice daily
Polaramine (dexchlorpheniramine)2-12 mg twice daily†
Benadryl (diphenhydramine)*2 mg/kg twice daily
Telfast (fexofenadine)5-10 mg/kg once daily
Claratyne (loratadine)5-20 mg once daily†
Zyrtec (cetirizine)2.5-10mg once daily†
* possible sedation   † depending on dog’s size

These doses have essentially been worked out by trial and error and often scaled down from human doses.

Bad stuff: We don’t know why, but dog allergies respond very poorly to antihistamines. Even the best (cetirizine) only helps 20% of dogs. The response may improve if combined with EFAs (see below) and it’s worth trying a few before giving up.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, Naproxen for Dogs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like these work well in humans with minimal side-effects. This means we get a lot of questions about using them in dogs.

Bad Stuff: Please don’t use these drugs at all. Human anti-inflammatory medications are almost universally toxic to dogs. A single dose of Nurofen or Voltaren can be fatal, and survivors are left with permanent organ damage. Even aspirin, although used in the past as a blood thinner, is not recommended.

The veterinary pain medications are the only safe option. Read about effective treatments for arthritis in dogs here. If your dog has taken any human anti-inflammatory, contact a vet immediately. See also paracetamol below.

Carsickness Treatments

Mild motion sickness in dogs can be treated with Phenergan or Benadryl antihistamine tablets (see doses above) which may also cause mild drowsiness. Ginger products used for people also appear safe.

Bad Stuff: Most dog owners don’t see much success. Nowadays the only good drugs for car sickness are prescribed at the vet. Dramamine was great but was taken off the market due to problems with human abuse.

Read a lot more about stopping car sickness in dogs here.

Cough Suppressants

Dextromethorphan is an ingredient found in many human dry cough treatments. We often use it to comfort dogs with kennel cough at a dose of 5, 10 or 20mg depending on the dog’s size (usual dose 0.5-1 mg/kg twice daily). Just make sure that the product you use contains no other drugs.

Bad Stuff: You need to be 100% sure that the cough can be safely suppressed. Click here for the common causes of coughs in dogs. If it is caused by lower airway infection, heart disease or a foreign body then suppressing it is very dangerous. Even when the diagnosis is confirmed to be kennel cough, antibiotics usually work faster so please see your vet first.

Diarrhoea Meds

PAW Digesticare is an OTC veterinary probiotic and prebiotic food supplement. Combined with a bland diet, it helps restore the normal gut bacterial flora and can assist with some diarrhoeas. We supply either sachets or you can purchase a whole tub.

Vets use binding products to help reduce the unpleasant symptoms of diarrhoea. These include bismuth sub-salicylate, kaolin or montmorillonite. All are fairly harmless but you might have trouble finding them as they aren’t used much in people.

Bad Stuff: Home treatment is only appropriate for bright and happy, fully vaccinated adult dogs with mild diarrhoea of no more than a few days duration. They need to also have a good appetite and no blood in the stool. Although I understand why frustrated owners may resort to it, there is no place for Imodium in canine medicine. If symptomatic treatment doesn’t work, it’s off to the vet.

Ear Drops for Dogs

Epi-otic and similar veterinary ear cleaners are an essential part of good preventive management of problem ears. Aqua ear can be used to dry the ears of frequent swimmers and prevent infection. Except for these, there isn’t much.

Bad Stuff: OTC ear drops are over-used and frequently abused.  They are only appropriate for prevention, not treatment. None will fix even the mildest problem so don’t be fooled by your dog’s ‘improvement’. They are just learning to live with the pain. Most ear drops permanently damage hearing if the eardrum is ruptured, and are always painful in diseased ears.

Read a review of over-the-counter ear cleaning solutions here.

Eye Drops for Dogs

Human artificial tears and OTC antibiotic eye ointment can be used in dogs.

Bad Stuff: The use of these products without a diagnosis masks serious disease and could lead to loss of the eye or loss of sight. Glaucoma, dry eye or corneal ulcers look the same as conjunctivitis without testing.

Glucosamine for Dogs

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for arthritis can be given to dogs with a very low risk of side effects. Doses are assumed to be similar to that of a human of the same size.

Bad Stuff: There is next to no evidence that glucosamine works in pets. Read here about the caregiver placebo effect and more effective arthritis treatments for dogs.

Laxatives for Dogs

Lactulose is a safe and effective laxative suitable for prolonged use in most dogs. It is sold as a liquid in pharmacies and given at approximately one teaspoon per 5kg body weight. The dose is then adjusted to give a faecal consistency neither firm or sloppy.

Paraffin oil can also be used at similar doses but must be mixed with food, and is much less suitable for long-term use.

Bad Stuff: For every five dogs that owners think are constipated, only one really is. Unless you’re certain (e.g. your dog always gets bound up after chewing a bone) it’s best to confirm the diagnosis first and rule out more serious problems. Severely bound up animals will need a proper enema, and I don’t mean Microlax.

Melatonin for Dogs

Melatonin is commonly advocated as a mild and safe sedative for dogs.

Bad Stuff: Evidence is sorely lacking for its efficacy, and the only ‘melatonin’ sold without prescription in Australia is homeopathic. How they can even claim it’s really melatonin is beyond me.

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids

There’s very solid evidence for the benefit of omega 3s in dogs. They are proven to reduce signs of dermatitis and may play a role in reducing cardiac arrhythmias. They are safe and often well-tolerated by dogs at a dose of 1 g fish oil per 4-5 kg bodyweight.

Bad Stuff: Although they are useful, omega 3 fatty acids do not exert a strong effect in most dogs. Don’t give up too soon though; they can take 3 weeks to show an effect. They should be avoided in dogs prone to pancreatitis.

Pain Relief for Dogs

So what can you give a dog for pain? The best of a bad lot is paracetamol, sold as Panadol, Calpol or Tylenol (called acetaminophen in the US). It is sometimes used by vets at a dose of 10 mg/kg twice daily.

Bad Stuff: My strong advice is to avoid paracetamol unless it’s impossible to get to a vet. Paracetamol is nowhere near as safe or effective as pain meds made for dogs. It is extremely toxic to cats.

Skin Creams

Hydrocortisone 0.5% cream (e.g. Dermaid) is available without prescription. It can be used for areas of minor irritation or allergy.

Many antifungals (e.g. Canesten) can be used in pets.

chlorhexidine skin wash
The magic stuff

Bad Stuff: Do not use creams on broken skin, and always be aware of how much is being swallowed by pets. You could easily reach a toxic dose by reapplying creams that are licked off. It’s best to fit an elizabethan collar if using and see your vet if there isn’t rapid improvement. Prolonged use can cause skin damage.

Fungal infections in dogs are very unlikely. If it looks like ringworm, it’s usually bacterial. The best thing for this is our magic pink chlorhexidine disinfectant scrub (available OTC).

Vomiting Suppression in Dogs

Bad Stuff: Antiemetics & antacids should never be used in dogs without veterinary advice. If your dog is vomiting, there is usually a good reason, and suppressing the vomiting is probably not the best answer. Antacids are used commonly in people but have almost no place in canine medicine.


None of these drugs has been properly tested for safety in animals so pet owners need to accept that there may be unknown and possibly serious adverse effects. Always check first with your vet if these medications are suitable for your dog and be very careful if your pet has any other health problem or is on other drugs. Doses in mg/kg are estimates only; a 20kg dog X 2 mg/kg diphenhydramine would receive 40mg.

*Why Are Vet Drugs Different?

There are four reasons why most animal drugs don’t get used in people and vice versa.

  1. Different diseases: many of the common problems of dogs or cats are rare in humans
  2. Different drugs: even when the disease is the same, another medicine may work better in animals
  3. Different metabolism: many drugs successfully used in people have a ridiculously impractical half-life or dose, or actually are toxic
  4. Different legislation: for reasons lost to me, but possibly related to points 1, 2 & 3, companies often release separate drugs onto the veterinary market than the human one

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

64 Replies to “What Human Drugs Are Safe For Dogs?”

  1. My 7 year old (mixed terrier) dog has recently been pulling up his hind leg vet said nothing structural is apparent. Also he nibbles on his front paws. I’m out of benadryl but do have 600mg of gabpention and 1 mg of melatonin. My question is how much gabapetin do I give and can those 2 meds been given at the same time?

    1. Hi Dora. It doesn’t sound like any medication is required, but your vet is the best judge of that. It sounds like he could be on the path to a cruciate ligament rupture, but that’s just a guess based on his age and breed.

    2. My maltese had the same issue. Vets couldn’t work out why in the beginning, even after xrays. The reason why he was like this is because I fed too many bones and chews. Maybe three times a week. More with chew treats. As soon as I stopped it started getting better. Now he can run, jump, playfight with his brother again. They cause havoc at times but I would much rather see him like this than sad and limping.

  2. I was reading your article on giving dogs Zyrtec.
    I states 1mg/kg so for a 20kg dog this would be 20mg. The packaging of Zyrtec states 1 tablet is 10mg of active Certirizine. Therefore based on this I’d give my 20kg dog two tablets.
    The stated does for a human, say 100kg male is 1 tablet/day. Why is the dog getting a double dose?

    1. Hi Andy. This dose has always troubled me as well. In fact, I’m going to change it back to how most vets actually use the drug. I acquired this dose from a veterinary dermatology specialist but it still feels unusually high.

      1. I’d appreciate a reply on this too… i have the same question… I’m too scared to try my dog on more incase its too much for her (she’s 25 kg) but one tablet doesn’t seem to be. Helping too much either, would love to try two if it’s appropriate before i head to the vet again… my lovely bull terrier keeps reacting to something in our garden, this reactions not so severe but her head is inflamed and she looks down…. appreciate a response and thank you!
        Andrew: I would not exceed a single tablet. Remember it’s a very mild treatment and generally won’t work on problems like yours.

    2. Hi Andy I have a amstaff with very bad skin ,I was wondering if I could us bedadine water down ,it looks like bites but she also has rash on her belly ,we have mostly sand were we live thank you if you can help

      1. Hi Mandy. It might help a little bit, but I think she’ll probably need stronger medicine than that.

      2. Hi I have a bitch with a pretty bad phantom and a lady who has had daxis for many years recommended I try giving her a small amount of Andrews salts in her water as this will help dry up the milk and hopefully reduce symptoms but I’m nervous about giving this to her?

      3. Hi Nikki. That’s interesting – I’ve never heard this and looking at the active ingredients there is no logical way it could work. Also, as you say it’s probably not safe so please don’t do this.

  3. Hi Andrew
    Thank you for your response. I took Angus to the vet and they diagnosed home with kennel cough and gave him some cough syrup which worked for the 5 days they prescribed but the cough has returned. They once again have said kennel cough.
    I just have no idea

  4. Hi
    My almost 13 year old Maltese miniature poodle who does not interact with other dogs has started having coughing fit during short bursts of exercise and during the night when he sleeps on his back. He coughs up thick white mucus and wheezes afterwards. He also has really stinky farts.
    Could this be from acid and gas build up.
    Is there something I can try that’s over the counter.

    1. Hi Renae. That doesn’t sound anything like acid or gas and I’m sure your vet will give you the right diagnosis very quickly if you give them an opportunity. A good example would be heart disease, which has a good prognosis if treated by a vet.

  5. Hello,

    I am wondering if it is safe to give my 90 pound King Shepherd Rupall instead of Apoquel?

    1. Hi Tanya. The two drugs are in no way equivalent. Antihistamines have a very limited effect on canine atopy and this particular drug I certainly would not be using.

      1. Christine, speaking as someone who has prescribed Apoquel thousands of times, the only risk I have seen to dogs is that they might do something naughty instead of scratching themselves all day! The most accurate information comes from the people who use it, not from the scaremongers.

  6. Can give my dog cannibis instead of synthetic drugs…for pain relief..asking for a friend

  7. Hi Andrew
    Thankyou for your clear and sensible advice and doses of antihistamine tabs.
    Our poor groodle still has severe carsickness with vomiting at 9/12 and we have a longish trip so I want to try him on sedating antihistamine.
    Many thanks

  8. My cairn Terrier is 16 years old and is 10kg.
    She has been on 120 mg Frusemide, 3 times daily.
    I feel that this is quite high, she is in stage 3 of heart failure and also on Endrapil 5mg x2 daily.
    She has a healthy appetite and is very responsive,but I have noticed that she is getting much slower and doesn’t seem to be able to balance on the tiles anymore.
    She drinks a lot of water each day.
    I was wondering if I could drop the Frusemide back to 2x40mg daily being 8 hours apart.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Helen. That is indeed a very high dose but it’s possible that your vet considers it necessary. Therefore, I would only reduce the dose with support of your veterinarian. They might also add a second dose-sparing diuretic, spironolactone. I’m also interested why pimobendan is not being used.

  9. I’m just wondering how best to help my small dog. He is 11 years about 5kgs, grooming & washing are his worst. He gets aggressive with me and my hubby and he is getting over fluffy. I’ve tried professional groomers, which he bite one. Asked our local vets for help and advice and they all say they aren’t groomers but with not advice. He is physically healthy just a grumpy old boy. Can I sedate him at home so I can groom him enough so he feels better and maybe less angry. And if so what can I use over the counter? I have bought a cone to put around his neck which he didn’t like a tried to nip me.

    1. Hi Jo. It’s a common problem. There are three drugs that may help, if your vets feel comfortable prescribing them: clonidine, trazodone, and gabapentin. There’s probably no over the counter medication likely to work unfortunately. Your other alternative is to find a vet who can offer you grooming under sedation (we do it so I’m sure others do as well). Good luck.

  10. Actually I think Claratyne-D is still able to be purchased over the counter with showing your licence

  11. Hi Andrew, my 4 yo cocker spaniel is scooting and has a slightly red sore rear. Vet said anal glands were clear, worming up to date with drontal and has been since birth. Now looking at allergies as a cause (we moved recently) what would you recommend-antihistamine and change in diet?

  12. Hello, our 14 year old Westie has started to have terrible sneezing fits, mainly when he gets excited. Is there an over the counter antihistamine we could try?

  13. good afternoon
    I have a Yorkie 7 years old. his paws always itches. I live in SA do you have any human medications that will work for him, please?
    and sometimes his coat as well.

    1. Hi Vanessa. I don’t have anything else to offer you other than what is mentioned on this page. In some countries you can buy Hydrocortisone cream over the counter but the problem with these is the dogs will lick them off and potentially take toxic doses. See our page on the causes of licking the paws as well.

    2. Hi I have 4 small dogs mine also suffer from itchy paws. The vet told me to wash there paws after a walk in warm water,salt and a bit of hand wash.Also give them a antihistamine morning and night. After just a day it has worked. Its pollen in the grasses that cause this. So in a few weeks I can stop this. It happens every year and lasts about 6 weeks. (I live in N. Ireland.)

  14. Hi Andrew
    My concern is always the benefit of my
    Dog. My vet has Defended his career on his knowledge , only two have patients
    Going on u tube and putting human use products down there dogs ears, or finding natural therapies. Recently my own dog finally had his ear cleaned out.. after months of different drops ect…
    I now clearly see the benefit and see my young dog so much happier.
    Everyone reading this.. we all have the same concerns u walk into a vet .. it’s $100 dollars straight up…
    But your years of study.. should be adhered, and maybe vets could possibly start there own in-house vet care programs to help people less financial.
    We love our pets.. and brakes me to see an animal suffer in any shape.
    I may not eat for a fortnight to pay my recent dogs surgery.. but I took on the responsibility.. but I also have pet insurance on my other 2 dogs.
    Anyway I just wanted to emphasise the importance of what your training ensures and to stress to people that a vet seeing your animal is always the first call..

    1. Hi Morgan. Betadine can be used on dogs for much the same applications as humans, at similar dilutions. That said, there aren’t many occasions when it will be helpful except for localised and superficial infections of the skin.

  15. We are struggling with our cavalier king Charles who has had a permanent tracheostomy and cannot get into a comfortable sleeping position without occluding the stoma – any suggestions. Have tried a rolled up towel but she will only use this if she is exhausted.

    1. Hi Nancy. I’m sorry- we don’t manage tracheostomies and con’t advise you. The specialists who performed it will be your best source. Good luck.

  16. Hi, my Puggle has allergies on her feet. Manly in the summer and spring. When we walk after, I always put her in a water bath to sooth and remove dirt. The Vets just give her antibiotics when they break out. Winter is fine, I put Pawzs on her to protect her feet. But the Pawzs are to hot is Spring and Summer and Fall. I live in a small town in PA and nothing has helped. Any ideas that might help?

  17. What do you reckon that to use around home for a dog that has mange or sunspots.
    I rewind and fled him with revolution and worming tablet I’ve been cleaning it with Betadine salt water eucalyptus oil peppermint oil and lavender and I have looked up some home remedies and used vinegar.
    Unfortunately I cannot afford to go to a vet right now just had three children with the flu so been on a cold a medicines for them now I have to get more medicine as they all have come down with chickenpox I wish I was making this up.
    I have spent in the last three weeks on my children $300 on medication I don’t have the money to take my poor dog to the vet help my husband doesn’t want a debt with that pay so I am totally up the shit Creek

    1. Hi Maree. Mange can be caused by anything (see the link) but is mostly allergy or fleas. Revolution should help fleas, but the newer dog flea control tablets are better if you can afford them. Read my page on dog skin allergy home remedies too. I certainly would not use eucalyptus oil peppermint oil or lavender as these are likely to worsen the problem. Betadine and salt water can be OK, but medicated shampoos (brands Dermcare, Virbac) are best. Beyond this, I can only say that you will need a vet. Good luck.

  18. Hello just wanting to know if you can give your dog a c-zine (human tablet) for a strained muscle and to help with discomfort? My usual vet is closed?

    1. Hi Jaomi. C-zine tablets appear to be cetirizine. This is certainly an antihistamine we use in dogs. The doses can be found in the table.

  19. Thank you for your information but I noticed your rates per weight of dog should be in a larger font and in bold at the beginning so it does not get missed, not at the end where I nearly missed it. some people do not read everything especially when it is at the bottom or are searching for a particular problem. I could not see it when I was looking up antihistamines only. Also there is no reference to NOT use Claratyne D (pseudoephedrine) as it is highly toxic to dogs. A person may not know this and might think its an added bonus for their dog and buy it. I was at the vet the other day and they give dosage based on 10 kg dogs this was easy to work out and express importance of working out dosage to weight. I think it would be good if you could add this information to be more noticeable on your page before some one accidentally overdoses their beloved pet. I do appreciate your efforts to help people out there with their dogs and Thank you for this.

    1. Hi Jenny. Thanks for the feedback. I’ll look into changing the dosing to make it more obvious and easy to understand. Pseudoephedrine (which I believe to be an amphetamine derivative) is unavailable in Australia due to human abuse issues, so I thank you for highlighting this product.

      1. Hi Andrew, I saw your comment about Pseudoephedrine being unavailable in Australia. This is not correct, you can get it from a pharmacist but only on presentation of your driver’s licence so it goes on a central database to prevent abuse, onselling for drug production etc. (I get bad sinus from allergies and find that is the only medication that works, so know that you can get it). If you it is toxic to dogs perhaps you should still mention this.

  20. Hi Andrew
    I just wanted to drop a line and say what a wonderful service your blogs. Thank you!

  21. Hello Andrew,
    We use periactin given half hour before meals to boost appetite (for fussy eaters. It appears to work but I think it is being discontinued. Is there another safe antihistamine with a similar side-affect?

  22. Hi Andrew,
    My dog has been prescribed Meloxicam liquid by his vet to help his arthritis. I have read that Meloxicam is also available for humans in tablet form. Do you think then that the Meloxicam for humans could be AOK for Edward? (my 52kilo pooch).
    I also read that Ibuprofen is the same- so I appreciate your warning that Ibuprofen is seriously contraindicated for dogs!

    1. Hi Pagan. Yes, many people use the human meloxicam tablet usually sold as Mobic. It should be just the same, and your vet may be able to write a prescription but there may be legal issues depending on where you live.

  23. hello
    i have a product called BRAUER ARNICAEZE (arnica tablets)that i bought for my wife and myself,can i give my dog(JACK RUSSELL)any of these tablets,for his arthritis pains.
    thanking you
    best regards

    1. Hi Josef. I can find no toxicological studies of Arnica in dogs and so I would be very careful using it. Though probably safe, each animal species tends to react differently so it’s hard to say much I’m sorry.

    2. Some of this is totally different to the care plan I have for my dog.
      I thought paracetamol was toxic for dogs as well as cats. My dog is on zantac and nexium.
      For constipation Metamucil is far safer than lactose.
      Also Glucosamine is just as bad as fish oils for my dog who gets pancreatitis regularly.

      1. Hi Nicole. There are many drugs that should only be used by vets in specific circumstances. Nexium and Zantac are examples of these. This is also true for paracetamol, but I’ve included it just to show that it is an option.
        We do not believe that glucosamine is efficacious for arthritis in dogs so it is easy to avoid. I suspect in your case the reaction is to other products that are are found together with it.
        Regarding treatments for constipation, psyllium husk is certainly the best place to start. However, at risk of being repetitive, constipation is over-diagnosed and I would only use these treatments with veterinary guidance.

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