BACK

A Guide to Common Medications for Dogs

Sep 15, 2021

This is not medical advice. Before pursuing feeding your dog a new food, supplement, or medication it’s advised to consult with your veterinarian.

It can be a scary or stressful experience when your dog is sick or injured. Your dog is a member of your family and your most faithful companion. Thankfully, with modern veterinary medicine, most ailments in dogs are easily treatable, leading to a full recovery. If you have taken your dog to the vet recently for a health concern, they’ve likely prescribed your dog medication. Sometimes the medication prescribed to your dog might look familiar to you. There is often overlap between medicine for humans and medicine for dogs. A common example is Benadryl, which vets often prescribe to dogs, which you may have taken the last time you had a cold. However, whatever medication is prescribed, it is important to follow your vet’s instructions carefully and always ask your vet before giving your dog any medication. In this guide, we will look at some of the common medications given to dogs, drug interactions, side effects, and adverse reactions.

Commonly Used Medicines for Dogs

Here are some of the more common types of medications vets will prescribe dogs. This is not a complete list of all the types of medications vets use for dogs, but it hopefully will help you understand more about what your vet prescribed your dog and why.

Antibiotics

You’ve probably taken antibiotics before for a cold or flu. Antibiotics kill harmful organisms, called microbes, like bacteria and yeast. Antibiotics help treat infections in both dogs and humans. Antibiotics don’t kill viruses. But sometimes antibiotics are prescribed when an animal has a secondary bacterial infection that occurred when they have a viral infection. Penicillin, trimethoprim-sulfa, cephalexin, and enrofloxacin are all examples of antibiotics that your vet might prescribe your dog. 

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories

If your dog has a soft tissue injury or a mild case of arthritis, your dog may prescribe them a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine like aspirin. These drugs reduce inflammation, swelling, and pain and are typically safe when used under the care of a veterinarian. If you think your dog is in pain or has an injury, do not give them common NSAIDs for humans, like ibuprofen (Motrin), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Call your vet and they can give you instructions for how to give your dog aspirin, or they may want to do a physical exam and prescribe a different NSAID, like carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl), deracoxib (Deramaxx), firocoxib (Previcox), or meloxicam (Metacam). While these drugs are typically safe for dogs when used according to your vet’s instructions, they can cause kidney, liver, or digestive problems. Remember the signs of a bad reaction to an NSAID with the word BEST: Behavioral changes, Eating less, Skin redness or scabs, Tarry stool (poop)/diarrhea/vomiting. These potential side effects mean there might be a problem with your dog’s kidneys, liver, or digestive system. Always talk to your vet before administering any medication, especially if it is a medicine made for people.

Opioid Pain Relievers

If your pup just had surgery or is in a great deal of pain, your vet might prescribe them an opioid pain reliever. These are strong drugs, typically made from morphine, and are “potent pain relievers”, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. These drugs are generally controlled substances because of their strong potential for addiction. Vets will usually only prescribe an opioid pain reliever for a short time and very specific reasons, such as surgery. Like with any medication, it is possible for your dog to overdose on these painkillers, which is why it is incredibly important to follow your vet’s instructions and to keep any opioid medication out of your dog’s reach. Because these drugs are so powerful, it only takes a small amount to cause an overdose. Signs of an opioid overdose in dogs include pinpoint pupils, becoming sedated, wobbly and uncoordinated walking, lowered breathing rate, and coma. If your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, take them to the vet immediately, because if left untreated, an opioid overdose can be fatal. Examples of opioid pain relievers include oxycodone, hydromorphone, butorphanol, meperidine, and fentanyl.

Steroids

Steroids are common drugs that vets can use for many different reasons. One common example is prednisone, which can be used to treat inflammatory illnesses such as allergies and arthritis. These drugs work to reduce inflammation in several ways, which is part of why they are so effective. Your vet may prescribe a steroid in the case of anaphylactic shock, if your dog has an allergic reaction to something  like a bee sting. Because of their effectiveness in reducing inflammation, your vet may prescribe a short-term dose of steroids for pain. The general rule of thumb with steroids is the minimum amount needed for the shortest period of time. Used at high doses, steroids can suppress the immune system, however, a vet would only prescribe at this level for a very specific reason. It is also at high doses that your dog may have some of the negative reactions associated with steroids. It’s important to not mix NSAIDs with steroids, because of the increased risk of digestive side effects. If your dog is having side effects on steroids, talk to your vet about how to take your dog off the meds safely; do not just suddenly stop giving your dog the drugs. Examples of steroids used to treat dogs are prednisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone.

Antiparasitics

Parasites are no fun for anyone involved. Parasites can cause anything from mild discomfort to a serious illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.”. Heartworms are internal parasites that damage the heart and preventive medicine for them is often included in your dog’s monthly flea and tick treatment. Heartworms can enter the body through an infected mosquito bite. The heartworm then burrows its way into the heart and starts to clog it. They are far easier to prevent than treat, though there are effective antiparasitic medicines and treatments for heartworms. Still, they can be hard on the dog and quite expensive. Intestinal parasites are another common type of parasite and include hookworms, ringworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms, and the non-worm parasites coccidia, giardia, and spirochetes. Hookworms are another common dog parasite, which feeds on your dog’s blood. They are more dangerous to puppies but are easily treated with cleaning and medicine. Most of the intestinal parasites can cause diarrhea and weight loss. Fenbendazole, known by the brand names Panacur and Safe Guard, is a common antiparasitic medicine for intestinal worms. You may have also heard of Ivermectin, which is a heartworm preventative medicine. 

Behavior-modifying drugs and sedatives

If your dog is on the anxious side, having behavioral issues, or about to go through a traumatic experience like surgery, your doctor might prescribe drugs like diazepam, xylazine,

acepromazine, or midazolam. Unless the behavior-modifying drug or sedative is being used for a specific purpose, such as to calm a dog before surgery, vets will often work with you to come up with a holistic plan of action that includes medication, rather than relying on medication entirely to deal with anxiety or behavioral issues in your dog. 

Hormones

A classic example of a hormonal medication is insulin. Your dog’s pancreas makes insulin, which helps with digestion and regulating blood sugar levels. If your dog is suffering from diabetes, your vet will prescribe your dog insulin. Other drugs used for hormonal issues are methimazole or levothyroxine for abnormal thyroid levels. The drugs atenolol, digoxin, and pimobendan are hormonal medications for the heart. 

CBD May Promote Long Term Health in Dogs

Many pet owners are turning to CBD to support their dog’s overall health. CBD may do a wide variety of things for your dog, from enhancing cardiovascular function, to supporting their overall physical and mental wellbeing. CBD can help keep your dog in peak condition by promoting long-term health. From a calming effect on your dog’s nerves, to support for healthy bones and joints, CBD may help your dog maintain optimal health. 

With so many people choosing to give their pets CBD, the market has been inundated with CBD products for pets. However, not all pet CBD is created equal, and some products can contain harmful solvents and chemical additives from the manufacturing process. In addition, some supplements (for pets and people) don’t contain what they say they contain, whether it’s an incorrect dosage level or extra, unlisted ingredients. Pet Releaf is certified by the National Animal Supplement Council, which means that all their products are tested by third-party laboratories to ensure that what’s in the bottle matches the label. Pet Releaf is a company of pet owners striving to make the best pet CBD on the market. They’ve made a product for every pet, including your dog. They have hemp oil, a moisturizing and soothing Canna Care topical cream, and peanut butter and carob flavored Edibites. To find the right CBD product for your dog, try their helpful product finder, which uses simple questions to determine the best CBD product for your dog. 

Suggested Products

Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist
USDA Organic
$33.99 or subscribe and save 10%
  • TOTAL CBD
  • PET SIZE
  • PET TYPE
  • 200 mg
  • Medium
  • Dog
- +
View Product
Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist
$29.99 or subscribe and save 10%
  • TYPE
  • TOTAL CBD
  • PET SIZE
  • PET TYPE
  • Soft Chew
  • 150 mg
  • Large
  • Dog
- +
View Product
Add to Wishlist
Add to Wishlist
$25.99 or subscribe and save 10%
  • TYPE
  • TOTAL CBD
  • PET SIZE
  • PET TYPE
  • Soft Chew
  • 90 mg
  • Large
  • Dog
- +
View Product
Need a product recommendation? Try our Product Finder

Invite & Earn

X
Signup to start sharing your link
Signup