Dramamine for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects, and Alternatives

Dramamine for Dogs: Uses, Side Effects, and Alternatives

Some dogs eagerly await car rides, rushing to the door when they hear keys jingling. But for other dogs, traveling by car or airplane can be a miserable experience. Symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, excessive drooling, and diarrhea. Dogs with this condition may begin to associate car rides with stressful experiences like vet visits or past bouts of illness.

If your dog experiences motion sickness or travel-related anxiety, discuss with your veterinarian potential causes and ways of dealing with this issue. Your veterinarian may give you tips on how, in some cases, motion sickness can be overcome by conditioning the animal to travel. In other cases, drug treatment may be needed with training or alone to help prevent motion sickness, provide sedation, and decrease drooling. You should always speak with your veterinarian before obtaining these medications, as they know your dog and their medical history best. Some over the counter medications can be effective, but most of the more efficient drugs, including tranquilizers, sedatives, and products to decrease nausea or vomiting, can be obtained from your veterinarian.

What is Dramamine?

Dramamine is a human medication and does have some uses in veterinary medicine, says Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS, veterinarian, veterinary surgeon, and member of the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. For instance, this medication may be given to dogs to treat nausea and allergies. But since it’s not licensed for use in dogs, veterinarians will often turn to other options first, she says. It’s best to consult with your vet about which antihistamine is appropriate for your dog.

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Along with Gravol and Triptone, Dramamine is a brand name for a medication called Dimenhydrinate. It’s the same over-the-counter antihistamine that’s available at any local drugstore or pharmacy. Given how readily available it is and how much you want your dog to feel better, you might be wondering: Can dogs take Dramamine?

Why Do Veterinarians Prescribe Dramamine?

It is important to know that Dramamine is usually not the first drug of choice chosen by a veterinarian to treat motion sickness in dogs.

There are three main uses of Dramamine for dogs:

  • Treating motion sickness
  • Relieving allergy symptoms
  • Sedating a dog

Due to its sedative properties, Dramamine can be helpful for dogs who suffer from motion sickness, Dr. Simon says. It works by preventing and relieving queasiness, dizziness, and vomiting. Other less obvious signs of motion sickness include yawning, whining, and poor appetite. Dramamine is particularly effective in treating symptoms caused by vestibular disease, which tends to be more common in older dogs, she adds.

Vestibular disease occurs when there is a sudden loss or disturbance in a dog’s sense of balance, the cause of which could be illness, infection, or injury. The vestibular system is composed of different structures in the inner ear and brain that are responsible for maintaining balance. Signs of vestibular disease in dogs include tilting their head, losing their balance while standing or walking, and appearing disoriented.

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As an antihistamine, Dramamine is also “used for dogs experiencing mild allergic reactions or those who are having episodes of itchy skin due to their allergies,” she says. “Uncommonly, it is used to calm or sedate dogs, but it does not have this effect on all patients.” Instead of making them drowsy or calm, Dramamine can instead make a dog more excitable or hyperactive.

Alternatives to Dramamine for Dogs

In her practice, Dr. Simon tends to prescribe other antihistamines such as Chlorphenamine, Cetirizine, or Diphenhydramine, which she’s accustomed to using and knows that they’re well tolerated by her patients. As an alternative to Dramamine, the vet may prescribe medications such as Apoquel and Cytopoint, which tend to be more effective in reducing itchiness. These newer drugs are often prescribed instead of steroids, which can have some negative side effects.

“For an anti-nausea effect, medicines like Maropitant generally work better and can help with nausea regardless of the specific cause,” she adds. Lastly, since Dramamine doesn’t always have a sedative effect, the vet will likely prescribe other more potent and effective drugs to relieve anxiety. Again, it’s best to talk to your vet about the best course of treatment for your dog.

How Much Dramamine Can I Give My Dog?

Before getting into Dramamine dosage for dogs, it can be helpful to understand how this medication affects a dog’s brain and body. Histamine is a chemical that is released by the immune system and leads to allergy symptoms like itchiness and inflammation.

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Remember, Dramamine is an antihistamine. “[It works by] antagonizing H1 histamine receptors in the vestibular system,” Dr. Simon says. In other words, this medication binds to histamine receptors in the brain and decreases their effect. “Interestingly, Dramamine was developed for the treatment of allergic reactions, and it was only discovered by chance that it had an anti-nausea effect,” she adds.

When giving any drug to your dog, you should always first speak with your veterinarian to get information on the correct dosage and how to administer it. When used at home, Dramamine is usually given to a dog in tablet form. It also comes in a liquid oral option. “For owners who find it hard to give their dogs tablets, or for when quite low doses are needed,” Dr. Simon adds. At the clinic, the vet may administer Dramamine or other antihistamines through injection, especially if the dog has been throwing up, she adds.

Dramamine should never be given to dogs that are allergic to the drug or other similar antihistamines. It should never be given to neonatal dogs or dogs who will undergo antigen skin testing for allergies within the following two weeks.

Dramamine should be given with caution in dogs with glaucoma, a history of seizures, heart disease, high blood pressure, an enlarged prostate, possible gastrointestinal or urinary blockage, or respiratory disease. Its use is probably safe in nursing and geriatric dogs, but American Kennel Club Chief Veterinan Dr. Jerry Klein says it should be administered with caution.

Side Effects of Dramamine for Dogs

As with any medication, whether it’s natural or synthetic, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks. Dramamine can lead to the following side effects in dogs:

  • Sleepiness
  • Decreased mental alertness
  • Dry mouth
  • Upset stomach
  • Hyperactivity (with prolonged use or higher doses)
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“If too much is given, we may see signs of toxicity including seizures, hyperventilation, and even death,” Dr. Simon warns. That said, when these medications are administered at an appropriate dosage, “most dogs tolerate antihistamines like Dramamine well,” she says. Moreover, giving your dog Dramamine can have the following benefits:

  • Less itching
  • Reduced skin inflammation
  • Relief from hives
  • Decreased nausea for dogs with vestibular disease
  • Mild sedative for treating anxiety

For dogs who get anxious having their nails trimmed or traveling in a car, Dramamine may have a calming effect, she says. But, as noted above, this medication can have the opposite effect on dogs, especially with repeated use. That’s why it’s important to monitor your dog when they’re on a new treatment regimen and make sure to disclose all medications your dog is taking, including supplements, because they can interact with each other and cause unintended side effects.

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