Loratadine for Dogs

Loratadine, perhaps best known by its brand name Claritin, is a popular over-the-counter antihistamine for people. It can also be given safely to dogs under veterinary supervision.

How Loratadine Helps Allergic Dogs

As an antihistamine, loratadine’s main function is to counteract the effects of histamine in an allergic person or animal. Histamine is a chemical that an allergic dog’s immune system creates in response to a trigger from an allergen (such as pollen, food ingredients or flea saliva). Reddened skin, hives and swelling can all be caused by the overproduction of histamine in your dog’s body after he begins to suffer an allergy attack.

In extreme cases, your dog’s airway can become obstructed as the tissues in his throat swell, and this can quickly become a life-threatening condition.

Conditions Loratadine Can Help Treat

Loratadine is especially effective in treating allergies that result in skin irritation, such as atopic canine dermatitis.

Symptoms of atopic canine dermatitis include:

  • chewing of the feet and legs
  • excessive scratching
  • hair loss and hot spots

Causes can include inhaled allergens such as dust mites, mold or pollen. Dogs that suffer from this condition often benefit from a combination of treatments that include antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medications, changes in diet and fatty acid supplements.

Another condition that loratadine can help treat is inflammation that results from mast cell tumors. These tumors, which are most common in boxers, cocker spaniels, and golden and Labrador retrievers, develop on a dog’s skin or in his digestive or respiratory systems. They are caused by the overgrowth of mast cells, which are supposed to protect a dog from parasites.

Loratadine is helpful in treating the side effects of immunizations in some dogs. If your dog is prone to reactions from his routine course of shots, giving him loratadine beforehand can help lessen or eliminate his allergic symptoms. Loratadine has also been used to treat allergic reactions resulting from insect stings or snakebite.

In addition to its histamine-fighting qualities, loratadine has the added benefit of being a non-drowsy antihistamine, unlike diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and other commonly used over-the-counter antihistamines.

How to Determine the Correct Dose for Your Dog

Loratadine is available in 5- and 10-milligram tablets in the cough-and-cold section of most pharmacies and grocery stores. The generally recommended dose is 0.12 mg to 0.22 mg for every pound your dog weighs. Consult your veterinarian for specific dosing recommendations for your dog.

When purchasing loratadine for your dog, make sure that you do not purchase a decongestant variety of loratadine because it contains pseudoephedrine, which is unsafe for dogs.

Watch for Possible Side Effects

Although loratadine is fairly side-effect-free, dogs that are taking certain antifungal or antibiotic medications may become overly drowsy. If your dog becomes drowsy after taking loratadine and he is not on any additional medications, additional testing may be required to determine the cause of the drowsiness.

Loratadine is not recommended for dogs with other medical conditions, such as liver or kidney disease. Pregnant or nursing dogs also should not be given loratadine. As noted earlier, consult your veterinarian before administering loratadine to your dog.