While some people are allergic to cats, cats suffer from allergies of their own. Some cats are even allergic to their people when it comes to the perfumes, cigarette smoke and cleaning products found in human habitation. They also may be allergic to food, pollen and just about anything that makes their human sneeze, wheeze or break out in hives. Diphenhydramine -- often sold under the brand name Benadryl -- is a versatile antihistamine that eradicates many allergic reactions in cats.
To Use or Not to Use
Talk to your vet about your cat's allergies before giving Benadryl. Taken internally, the medication may make your cat sleepy, lethargic and clumsy, which could be dangerous if your cat spends a lot of time outside. Benadryl also can cause excitability in cats, dry mouth and loss of appetite, according to PetMD. It should not be used if your cat is pregnant or if he has heart, thyroid or prostate problems. While Benadryl is safe and effective for most cats, consult your vet to decide if it is the right way to treat your cat's allergies.
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The simplest way to get your cat to take an over-the-counter Benadryl pill is to wrap it in cheese, a bit of hamburger or tuna. As most vets recommend a fraction of an adult pill, you'll be giving your cat a pill with an uncoated edge that will dissolve in her mouth if not thoroughly covered with food. The pill tastes bitter and gives a tingling or numbing sensation to mouth parts it touches, so gagging, drooling, spitting out the pill and vomiting are common if you give him Benadryl without food. A pill syringe offers a food-free option, but trying to get a pill down a cat's throat may result in scratches or bites to the novice. Ask your vet for advice on how best to administer the pill.
Easy to Swallow
Some cat owners prefer using an oral syringe loaded with an appropriate dosage of children's Benadryl. Use the dye-free version to avoid pink stains on your carpeting should your cat vomit or spit out the medicine. Be sure that you use only Benadryl without added ingredients. Formulations such as Benadryl Allergy Sinus Headache have additional medications besides diphenhydramine. Some ingredients such as acetaminophen are toxic to cats. Symptoms of acetaminophen poisoning result in doses as little as 50 milligrams and acetaminophen is fatal in larger doses.
If you're having a hard time getting your cat's dosage into him, ask your vet about generic alternatives. Pills are available in coated capsules in as small as 2.5 milligram doses. The small size and fully coated surface can make it easier for your cat to swallow without the bitter aftertaste. Another form of the medication comes in a 12.5 milligram chewy treat designed to appeal to even finicky eaters. Other options include flavored oral gel that you can use the same way you'd use a hairball paste and transdermal salve that absorbs through the skin.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.