Safe Use of Over-The-Counter Medications in your Greyhound
by Amy Wolfgang, DVM
One of the most common questions that I hear in my practice is, ” What over-the-counter medications are safe to use for my dog?” Many products are very detrimental and can cause illness and even death. For those products that are safe, I still recommend checking with your veterinarian for an accurate dosage and to be sure that your pet does not have a medical condition or is on any other medication that may interact with a particular product. Also understand that dogs and cats have unique metabolisms so what is safe in a dog, may not be safe in a cat. Furthermore, due to the large variance of dog breeds, the dose for a particular medication will be vastly different based on the size and weight of the individual dog. The following list of medications and usual dosages is specific to greyhounds only.
Here are some of the common OTC product categories:
The only OTC product that can be used in limited cases for pain and inflammation is Buffered Aspirin. I usually start at a dose of 81mg orally once daily, not to exceed 325mg orally twice daily. Side effects of Aspirin therapy include vomiting, diarrhea, and decreased platelet function. Aspirin can also interact with many prescription medications. Therefore, it is essential that before starting therapy with aspirin, check with your veterinarian to make sure that it is appropriate for your greyhound. Always give Aspirin with food and discontinue if any adverse side effects occur. There are safer and more effective medications available for arthritis by prescription only (these include Rimadyl and Deramaxx.)
Never use any of the other OTC pain medication such as Ibuprofen, Acetominophen, or Naproxen in your greyhound or other pets. These products are not metabolized well in animals and can cause toxic side effects including ulcers, kidney, and liver failure. If you suspect that your pet has ingested any of these products, call your vet or animal poison control immediately.
Glucosamine/Chondroitin Sulfate is an OTC product available that helps to aid in the prevention and pain associated with arthritis in dogs. It helps to restore and maintain cartilage in the joints. Cartilage normally cushions the joints during normal movements. In arthritis, the cartilage degenerates or is destroyed for some reason, and the underlying bones become damaged, resulting in pain and discomfort. Greyhounds are at an increased risk of arthritis because they are a large breed dog and have placed a great deal of strain on their joints and bones as a result of racing. Glucosamine is a very safe and effective supplement to give and is available in pet stores as well as grocery stores and vitamin shops. Some pet foods, especially senior diets even have glucosamine added right in. I would recommend using 500mg orally twice daily for 4-6 weeks and then just once a day for maintenance. Glucosamine/Chondroitin is safe to use with other medications and side effects are rare. In a few cases, I have seen vomiting associated with it due to an allergy to shellfish (which is used to make the product.) If vomiting occurs, discontinue use and consult with your veterinarian.
Diarrhea can occur in dogs for a variety of reasons, some more serious than others. If your dog starts having diarrhea but seems fine otherwise, I recommend initially withholding food for about 8-12 hours to give the digestive system a rest. Then, you can gradually introduce small amounts of a bland diet such as boiled chicken and rice or hamburger and rice. Kao-Pectate can be used in a greyhound at a dose of 2 tablets or 2 tablespoons orally twice daily. Be aware that many OTC formulations of Kao-Pectate also contain Asprin. Therefore, the same warnings and recommendations apply to the use of this product as for Aspirin (see above). There is K-Pectin available without Aspirin, but this usually has to be obtained from a veterinarian. Immodium AD can also be used in greyhounds with diarrhea at a dose of 2mg orally twice daily. Sedation or lethargy may be expected with the use of this product. Do not combine anti-diarrheal products, Use one or the other.
***In any case of diarrhea, it is important to note that if symptoms persist for more than 2-3 days, please make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your greyhound examined and tested for the specific cause of the diarrhea.
As with diarrhea, there are many causes of vomiting in dogs, some more serious than others. If your greyhound is acting fine otherwise, you can try conservative management initially. Withhold food and water for 8-12 hours, then start with small amounts of a bland diet as described above. Greyhounds can take Pepcid AC at a dose of 10mg orally once daily. Pepcid is very safe and I have not seen any side effects associated with the use of this medication in dogs. Pepto Bismol can also be used at a dose of 2 tablets or 2 tablespoons orally twice daily. The OTC formulations of Pepto Bismol do contain aspirin so the same warnings and recommendations apply to this medication as for Aspirin (see above).
***If vomiting persists for more than 24-48 hours or is continuous or intractable, please call your veterinarian immediately as your pet may have a more serious illness and can become quickly dehydrated.
Coughing in dogs can indicate anything from a mild cold to a more serious bronchitis, pneumonia or even heart disease. For mild cases, you can use Robutussin CF at a dose of 2 tablets or 2 teaspoons orally twice daily. If the cough is persisting, getting worse, or your dog is lethargic or having difficulty breathing, consult your veterinarian immediately!
For mild cases of constipation or firm stool, you can use canned pumpkin, 1-2 tablespoons orally twice daily or Metamucil, 1 tablespoon orally twice daily. If your greyhound exhibits chronic constipation or is still not having a bowel movement after 1-2 days of therapy, further treatment by a vet is warranted. Do not use any OTC enemas or laxatives other than Metamucil as serious dehydration or electrolyte imbalances can result.
Dry skin can be caused by poor diet, over bathing, seasonal changes, stress, or primary skin problems such as allergies or infection. Make sure that your greyhound is eating a premium quality food as recommended by your veterinarian and try not to bathe them more than twice a month. Using a humidifier during the winter months can be helpful as well. When bathing, use a shampoo that is specifically for dry skin and contains oatmeal. I would also recommend a leave-on oatmeal conditioner as well. These shampoos and conditioners are available at most pet stores and veterinary hospitals. Finally, a daily supplement containing Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin E such as DermCare or Missing Link can be purchased OTC in pet stores. Check the label on the product for specific dosage instructions based on the weight of your pet. Some products are more concentrated than others and therefore will require a smaller dose. Alternatively, you can purchase Vitamin E capsules from the grocery store or vitamin shop and give 4 i.u. daily. In my opinion, however, this does not work as well as the combination products. If dry skin persists, or other skin lesions occur, please consult a veterinarian as this may indicate a more serious skin problem.
Itching can be caused by numerous problems including dry skin (see above), allergies, or external parasites such as fleas or mites. For mild itching where you are not seeing any open sores, extreme hair loss, or external parasites, you can use Benadryl at a dose of 50mg orally every 8-12 hours. Make sure that the product you are using is strictly Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) and does not contain any other ingredients such as Acetominophen or other cold/flu medications. The main side effect to Benadryl is drowsiness, so it is best given at night or you may decrease the dose if need be.
OTC Corisone creams or sprays may also be used, again only if there are no open sores or parasites. It is best after applying a cream or spray to distract you greyhound for 10-15 minutes so that they do not lick the product off. You can take him/her for a walk or feed a meal as a temporary distraction. Side effects to topical cortisone are mild but may include increased thirst and urinating. Cortisone is contraindicated in some medical conditions and with some medications, so please check with you vet before using these products.
If you notice open sores, severe itching or hair loss, these may be signs of a more serious condition and require further care by a veterinarian.
***One final note, I do not recommend the use of OTC flea products, including flea collars as they are not very effective and I have seen severe reactions to them including seizures, excessive salivation, and nausea. Please purchase flea preventives from you veterinarian such as Advantage or Frontline! They may be more expensive but they are safer and work better in the long run.
Greyhounds have very thin skin and are therefore extremely susceptible to cuts and abrasions. For superficial abrasions, you can do conservative treatment at home by keeping the wound clean with an antibacterial soap such as Dial or hydrogen peroxide and then using Neosporin topically twice daily. If the wound in on an area of the body which the greyhound can lick, make sure to either distract him/her for 10-15 min (see above techniques), or place a protective bandage or Elizabethan collar (plastic cone that goes around the neck, can be purchased at pet stores). When placing a bandage, ensure that it is not too tight so that the circulation to the skin is not compromised. If the wound is deep or you see any swelling, excessive bleeding, or yellow/green discharge, this is more serious and may require stitches or oral antibiotics.
Car Sickness/Traveling Anxiety
For greyhounds that experience vomiting or extreme anxiety during car rides, you can use Dramamine at a dose of 50mg orally every 8 hours or Benadryl, 50mg orally every 8 hours. It is best to restrict food within a few hours of traveling if your pet is prone to car sickness and keep them confined while riding, either using a pet seatbelt, available in pet stores or a crate. This also helps prevent injuries in the car as well. Dramamine and Benadryl may cause drowsiness.
Although using OTC products may be less expensive and more convenient, these products are not made for pets and while some are safe, others are not. Also, the use of OTC products alone may not be sufficient enough in all cases. Please remember to be cautious when using OTC products in your pet, and if you have any doubts, check with your veterinarian first.