Dog owner feeding her dog a treat with medicine in it

Why pet owners are switching to online vet care with Dutch

  • Prescriptions delivered free to you

  • Fast access to Licensed Vets over video

  • Unlimited video visits and follow-ups

It can be heartbreaking to see your furry little companion in pain. Getting a licensed veterinarian’s opinion is the best way to try and alleviate their issue and sometimes they may suggest you use some over-the-counter human medicine, as strange as it may sound.

Although dogs are nothing like humans in many ways, some medications can be helpful in relieving their symptoms or easing pain. However, you should never give your dog any type of medicine that has not been specifically prescribed or suggested by your vet, otherwise there could be adverse effects, as every dog is unique and has different needs.

Discover which human medicines are safe for dogs and more with this guide.

Is Human Medicine Safe for Dogs?

There is no definitive answer to this question. Some human medicine can be safe for dogs, if administered correctly, under a veterinarian’s recommendation and with the right dosage. However, lots of human medicine also has negative impacts on dogs and can be very harmful to them in the long run and perhaps even fatal.

This is due to physiological differences between a dog’s body and a human’s body, meaning that drugs are metabolized and used by the body in different ways, therefore having different effects. This complex issue should be approached with caution and never considered without speaking to a licensed professional first.

Administering human medicine without supervision or recommendation could result in drug toxicity, incorrect dosage, adverse drug reactions, allergic reactions, and more.

List of some human medicines that are prescribed to dogs

What Human Medicine is Safe for Dogs?

When used correctly there are a few different types of over-the-counter medications that can have positive effects on your pup. These include, but are not limited to certain antihistamines, nasal salines, gastrointestinal medications, pain relievers, over-the-counter topicals, and antibiotics. When speaking to a vet about human medicines, please make them aware of any pre-existing health conditions your dog has had, or any medications or treatments they are currently on.


Commonly used to tackle minor allergic reactions to pollen, cat fur, or other common allergens, antihistamines can have beneficial effects on your dog and may be recommended for you by a veterinarian. There are a few different brands of antihistamine that can be used, but always check with a licensed professional first - all antihistamines have different ingredients, so not all are safe to give to dogs.

One form of antihistamine that is safe for dogs is diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl. This can be recommended by vets to calm motion sickness, anxiety, or minor allergic reactions in dogs.1 Although Benadryl is not yet FDA-approved for use in animals, it is widely considered safe for use on dogs and cats. However, antihistamines can have negative interactions with certain medications your pet may be taking, so it’s important to talk to your vet about using Benadryl before administering it to your pet.1

This may be used as a medication to soothe a number of seasonal allergies or skin allergy symptoms, including itching, hives, swelling, redness, runny nose or eyes, coughing and sneezing.1 Its drowsy side effect can also make it helpful for treating different forms of anxiety or travel sickness.1

Other common side effects from using Benadryl on your dog could be urinary retention, a dry mouth, hypersalivation, increased heart rates, and rapid breathing.1 Rarer side effects include vomiting, diarrhea and a change in appetite - if any side effects occur severely or persist, contact your veterinarian immediately and cease from giving your pup anymore. You should be especially aware of signs of overdose, which includes hyper-excitability, usually shown by dilated pupils, rapid heartbeat, agitation, constipation and seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact an emergency poison control or vet service immediately.


Other forms of human medication that may be prescribed for your canine are various forms of antibiotics, used to treat a range of bacterial infections.2 One form of antibiotic that could be prescribed is cephalexin, an oral medication that can be given with or without food.2 Typically, cephalexin is prescribed to help to treat urinary tract infections, skin or soft tissue infections, bone or ear infections or respiratory tract infections.2

If your dog is taking any other medicines, is pregnant / breastfeeding or suffers with allergies, kidney disease or regular stomach upset, then this form of antibiotic is not appropriate and could have harmful effects.2 Alert your vet immediately if you notice any changes in behavior or any of the following common side effects: nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, hyper-excitability, drooling, panting or skin rashes.2

Gastrointestinal Medication

Loperamide, also known as Imodium, may also be recommended for use in dogs suffering with diarrhea.3 To confirm the dosage, speak to your veterinarian and be prepared to give details on your dogs, breed, age, height and weight. This can be given with or without food.3

Pain Relievers

So, you might be thinking, what human medicine can I give my dog for pain? Well, most pain relievers are pretty dangerous for dogs and will therefore rarely be recommended for use by your vet.4

Over-The-Counter (OTC) Topicals

If your dog gets a cut or scrape, it may be tempting to use a human medicine straight away on the wound. However, first and foremost, you should gently clean the wound with water and pat dry, then show the abrasion to your vet as soon as possible.5 From there, they can determine what the best course of action is to take, which may be to apply an OTC topical cream or oral antibiotics.

Not all OTC topical creams are appropriate for use with dogs, so you should check with your vet first. A popular OTC topical cream that is safe in small doses for dogs is Neosporin, which helps to prevent bacteria from infecting the wound.5

However, there is a chance that your dog could be allergic to this cream, so a small patch test should be done under the supervision of your vet.5 Watch to see if there is any redness, irritation or hives that break out.5 Additionally, OTC topicals are not always the best course of action to take. If the wound is in an easy to reach place, the dog may lick it, making the administration pointless and perhaps even getting your dog ill.5 Similarly, if your dog does not tolerate bandages well then a topical cream will not be very effective.5

Nasal Saline

The uses with this medication is very similar to humans, although the dosage will vary to humans and amongst dogs, depending on the breed, age, health and other factors. Nasal saline can be used to alleviate dryness and nasal congestion in dogs, often associated with a common cold.6

List of human medicines that are not safe for dogs

Common Human Medicine Unsafe for Dogs

Many medications, prescriptions and treatments we humans use are not appropriate for use on dogs. It is better to assume that the medicine won’t be safe than to ever give your dog any medicine without proper instruction from a professional vet. Medicines that we wouldn’t think twice about taking, like Tylenol and Sudafed, for instance, can have extremely severe reactions for dogs and even result in death.6

Some common human medicines that are unsafe for dogs include:

  • NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve and Motrin)
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Antidepressants (Effexor,* Cymbalta, Prozac,* Lexapro*)
  • ADD/ADHD medications (Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin)
  • Benzodiazepines and sleep aids (Xanax,* Klonopin,* Ambien, Lunesta)
  • Birth control (estrogen, estradiol, progesterone)
  • ACE Inhibitors (Zestril, Altace)
  • Beta-blockers (Tenormin, Toprol, Coreg)
  • Thyroid hormones (Armour desiccated thyroid, Synthroid)
  • Cholesterol lowering agents (Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor)

*These medications are safe for dogs when prescribed by a veterinarian at the appropriate dose.

Safe Practices When Using Human Medicine for Dogs

Most importantly of all, never give your dog any type of medication that is not recommended by a veterinarian with a very specific dosage. Ensure that you follow the vet’s directions carefully and monitor your pup for any out of character behavior or worrying symptoms like fevers, vomiting or any new illness symptoms.

Any visible side effects should be reported to your vet immediately, along with any signs of progression. Keep a record of the effectiveness of the medication so you have all the information necessary to give to your vet. This can also be handy if your pup ever has to take this medication again in the future. Store any medicines safely out of reach of your curious little furball - we know what they’re like!

Shiba Inu sitting in front of a laptop

Final Notes

There are many different forms of human medicine that your vet may recommend you give to your dog under certain circumstances. However, under no circumstances should you ever administer these drugs of your own accord or as an intermediate solution. Giving your dogs human medicine can cause severe illnesses if not prescribed correctly. Be thorough about following your vet’s instructions to keep your pup happy, healthy, and strong.

For more advice on caring for your furry little friends, consult our other Dutch blogs to read up on the best tips and tricks for keeping your pup happy. Need pet care advice? Consider using our telemedicine service, a convenient way to get advice from a licensed veterinarian, from the comfort of your own home. You can also get dog prescriptions, as well as purchase a number of useful dog care tools and treats. Try Dutch today - your one stop shop for pet care from anywhere.



  1. Burke, Anna. “Benadryl for Dogs” American Kennel Club, 21 Sep. 2021

  2. “Cephalexin: What It Is and How It Can Help Your Dog” American Kennel Club, 27 April 2020

  3. Donovan, Liz. “Is Pepto-Bismal Safe for Dogs? (Along with Other OTC Medications)?” 7 March 2018,symptoms%20persist%2C%20seek%20veterinary%20care

  4. H. Edwards, Scott. “Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs in Animals” MSD Manual, Nov. 2022

  5. “Can You Use Neosporin on Dogs?” American Kennel Club, 21 June 2021

  6. “Common Medications that are Safe for your Dog” NCPA

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

How much will it cost for Dutch to treat my pet?

The Dutch membership starts at $7/mo for unlimited access to the vet. No more long waits for appointments or surprise bills.

In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.