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Should You Give Zyrtec (Cetirizine) to Your Pet Dog?

Should You Give Zyrtec (Cetirizine) to Your Pet Dog?

Zyrtec (cetirizine) has not received any FDA approval for use in dogs. Yet, the vet may recommend this medication considering that the anti-allergen has fewer side effects. This DogAppy article takes a closer look at health risks of giving cetirizine to your pet dog.
DogAppy Staff
Caution!
Pregnant dogs as well as those with liver and kidney problems should not be given Zyrtec.
Zyrtec or cetirizine has been specifically formulated for human use, and is an allergy medicine. It is an antihistamine that works to relieve common allergy symptoms such as runny nose, itchy skin, sneezing, watery eyes, cough, and breathing problems. With allergy in dogs becoming increasingly common, can the same medication be given to your pet, given that allergy symptoms in dogs are no different from humans. The following DogAppy article tries to answer this question that has become a topic of hot debate.
The FDA has not approved the use Zyrtec in dogs. This essentially means that the FDA is not sure about the safety of administering this drug to dogs. In such circumstances, it wouldn't be prudent to treat your pet's allergy with this medication. Also, one cannot forget that Zyrtec has been formulated for human use. So, there is no guarantee that this human medication will work in dogs.
Also, just because the allergy symptoms in both humans and dogs are the same, it would be wrong to conclude that Zyrtec is also applicable to your pet. Doctors are aware of how the drug will interact with the human body; however, in case of dogs, there is a possibility that they may react in an unpredictable way to human drugs.
Zyrtec-D - Health Risks
Moreover, often the drug sold has a label with the word 'Zyrtec-D'. The letter D indicates that the medication is a potent mix of antihistamine and a decongestant. The decongestant pseudoephedrine added in Zyrtec-D helps alleviate breathing problems associated with allergy symptoms. Now, this combination is found to be effective in humans, but unfortunately, can be damaging to your dog's health. This is because pseudoephedrine is also a stimulant that can cause behavioral problems in dogs. For instance, it can make the dog restless, agitated, and unruly. The stimulant can also cause tremors and seizures in dogs. There have also been reports of dogs showing signs of drowsiness after taking Zyrtec.
Zyrtec - Off-label Drug
Yes, veterinarians do prescribe Zyrtec for dogs but even they know that the use is off-label, meaning the drug is given for a condition for which it has not been formulated. In this case, it is given to dogs, for which it has not been developed. Also, Zyrtec that is recommended by veterinarians is generic that only contains an antihistamine. Even vets are of the firm opinion that Zyrtec-D, that has a combination of antihistamine and decongestant, should be strictly avoided.
Generic Version of Zyrtec (Cetirizine) - Safety
The generic form of Zyrtec, commonly referred to as cetirizine, is also not free from side effects. However, the side effects are fewer and not as serious as those observed with Zyrtec-D. This is because unlike pseudoephedrine, cetirizine does not enter the central nervous system (CNS); hence the side effects that may occur are usually not worrisome. There have been reports of cetirizine causing drowsiness in dogs. This can occur particularly when the dose is not appropriate. Extra salivation for a few hours and vomiting has also been linked to cetirizine usage in dogs.
Another important point is that Zyrtec in generic form is usually prescribed when the allergy symptoms are severe. Dogs do tolerate fairly well, when the allergy symptoms are mild to moderate. Also, as simple as keeping your pet away from the probable allergens can work to keep the allergy symptoms under control.
In case, you notice an aggravation of symptoms, you should immediately consult a vet. Also, it is necessary to confirm that the symptoms occurring are due to an allergic reaction. Giving the allergy medication when the dog is suffering from some other condition can actually worsen the situation.
Alternative to Zyrtec
When it comes to controlling the itchy sensation, a common sign of allergies in dogs, administering Apoquel is a better option. The drug is found to be effective and most importantly is approved by the FDA for allergic dermatitis in dogs more than 1 year old.
Yes, a dog is a man's best friend but that does not mean we can share our medications with our pet without taking the consent of a veterinarian. Keep in mind that Zyrtec (cetirizine) is not proven to be safe but considering its fewer side effects compared to other antihistamines, it may be recommended for dogs.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a veterinarian.