HEALTH & CARE

How Much Benadryl Can I Give My Cat: What is Benadryl and How to Use It

benadryl for a cat
Steve Corelli
Written by Steve Corelli

When you suffer from seasonal allergies or have an allergic reaction, the easiest thing to do is to take Benadryl to treat your symptoms. This drug is often given to dogs, and it is also safe for cats, so if you were wondering how much Benadryl can I give my cat, continue reading for more information.

Even though Benadryl isn’t FDA-approved as a medication for cats and dogs, it is completely safe, and even vets prescribe it. Since it has a wide range of applications, it can be used to relieve symptoms associated with allergies, be a mild sedative, or work against motion sickness.

In this article, you will find all the information about what Benadryl is, when it is used, and what is the right dosage for cats. We will also tell you in which cases a cat shouldn’t take Benadryl and what are the side effects of this drug.

What is Benadryl?

benadryl

Benadryl is an antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine as an active ingredient. This is the same medicine you will buy for yourself in pharmacies and is also sold over the counter in many veterinary offices.

As an antihistamine, Benadryl works by neutralizing histamine which is a type of chemical released during an allergic reaction. Histamine attaches itself to H-1 receptors which occur on small blood vessels and smooth muscles. Histamine causes these vessels to widen and the muscles around to contract, thus causing scratching, itchiness, and difficulty breathing.

There are several types of Benadryl like Benadryl Allergy Plus Congestion or Tylenol PR. Some of them contain other active ingredients besides diphenhydramine that aren’t safe for cats. Make sure to always check the label before administering this drug to your cat.

If everything checks out, a cat can experience relief from Benadryl in the following situations:

#1: Allergies

Just like people, cats can also develop allergies—either environmental or food-related. It is also not uncommon to see flea-related allergies. But unlike us, cats come in contact with allergens through their skin, which results in never-ending scratching and licking.

Cats with seasonal allergies on pollens and grasses can benefit from the use of Benadryl since it will repress the histamines and relieve itching completely.

On the other hand, you should be careful about giving Benadryl to a cat that is allowed to go outside since it can make her drowsy. This can be dangerous since it will lower your cat’s abilities to defend herself against other cats.

See Also: Indoor Cat Lifespan

She can also get hit by a car since her senses aren’t working properly, and she won’t have enough time to react. Furthermore, if your kitty is suffering from any form of allergies, Benadryl will only treat symptoms, and you still need to figure out the exact cause of the allergy and deal with it.

#2: Insect Bites

gray cat itching

Flea saliva can really irritate the skin, and just one bite can create an allergic reaction. If your kitty scratches, chews, and licks her fur obsessively, chances are she is suffering from flea infestation. Benadryl can soothe the itching symptoms, but you will also have to get your cat and your home rid of fleas.

See Also: How to Get Rid of Fleas on Cats

Other insects like mosquitoes, bees, mites, ticks, and many others can also cause mild itching. Over time, their bites provoke an allergic reaction that results in excessive scratching. It is safe to give Benadryl on these occasions, and you should consider protecting your cat against insects or keeping her indoors.

#3: Motion Sickness

Another useful property of Benadryl is that works as a mild sedative for cats. This makes it useful for long car rides or to help cats that suffer from motion sickness or anxiety when they travel. Some owners also use it to calm skittish cats when they are expecting a large number of guests that will cause anxiety in the cat.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t give your cat Benadryl if you are traveling by plane. Your kitty will be crammed in the luggage compartment with tons of bags, and since Benadryl will slow the cat’s breathing, she might not get enough oxygen during longer trips.

It is better to consult with your vet since he/she will be able to prescribe a drug that works better for this type of situation.

#4: Nasal Congestion

Just like people, cats can get a clogged nose from allergies, and they can also sneeze a lot. In these cases, Benadryl can help stop the constant sneezing.

Still, you should monitor your kitty carefully since this medicine won’t work if your kitty has a cold or some kind of infection. Be aware that Benadryl will soothe a dry cough or nasal congestion but won’t work if your kitty has a lung infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

So if you don’t notice any changes in 3-5 days, take your cat to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Furthermore, if she has allergies, you need to identify the allergen and do your best to limit your cat’s contact with it.

We advise you to talk with your vet prior to giving your cat any new type of medicine. Even if your cat suffers from pollen allergies, your vet might offer some better solution that won’t involve medicating your kitty. And since he/she is familiar with your cat’s medical history, he/she can offer the best advice when it comes to dosage and the frequency of drug administration.

How Much Benadryl Can You Give to Your Cat?

weighing a black cat

Benadryl comes in 12.5 mg and 25 mg tablets or capsules, and as 12.5 mg per 5 ml oral liquid. Since cats are smaller than people, they shouldn’t be given the same dosages you will use for yourself.

The safe dosage of Benadryl for cats is 1 mg per pound, or 2 mg per kilo administered twice a day, or once every 12 hours. Check the table below to see the appropriate amount based on your cat’s weight.

PoundsDosageKilosDosage
6 lbs6 mg3 kg6 mg
7 lbs7 mg3.5 kg7 mg
8 lbs8 mg4 kg8 mg
9 lbs9 mg4.5 kg9 mg
10 lbs10 mg5 kg10 mg
11 lbs11 mg5.5 kg11 mg
12 lbs12 mg6 kg12 mg

Feline owners are well aware of how hard it can be making a cat swallow a tablet, so many opt for an oral liquid. But even if you go with the liquid, your kitty might refuse it because of the strange taste and smell. Luckily, many pharmacies are able to infuse the solution with poultry, fish, or other flavors that will make the medication more appealing.

You can try giving your kitty a pill by wrapping her in a blanket or a towel to prevent her from scratching you and injuring herself. Also, don’t shy away from asking for help, and involve some of your family members to hold the kitty while you are giving her the pill.

The third option is to crush the pill into powder and mix it with your cat’s favorite food. The smell of the food should mask the smell of the pill, and most cats won’t realize that anything is out of the ordinary.

See Also: How to Get a Cat to Take a Pill

If you, by any chance, miss giving your cat a dose of Benadryl, try to give it as soon as you can. But, if the time for the next dose is near, skip the dose you forgot and continue giving the medicine on the schedule. Doubling the dose can result in deadly overdose, so try your best to stick with the schedule.

Even though Benadryl is safe if given in the right amounts, you should always talk to your vet before you start self-medicating your kitty. Your vet will give you a definitive answer if this course of action is beneficial for your kitty and offer advice regarding proper dosages.

You should also remember that every cat is an individual, and even though Benadryl worked wonders for your neighbor’s cat’s allergies, it might not work for your kitty. Don’t try to give your cat a double dose if the first one seems like it’s not working.

If you don’t notice any significant improvements in the next 3-5 days, take your cat to the vet. You should know that Benadryl will treat your cat’s symptoms, but it won’t cure an underlying issue, so we advise you to take your kitty to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

What Are the Risks and Side Effects of Taking Benadryl?

cat having a dry mouth

Just like any other medication, Benadryl has side effects and can pose risks to your cat’s overall health. That’s why it is important to consult your vet prior to giving it to your kitty. Furthermore, Benadryl can react with some medication, and it shouldn’t be given to cats that suffer from:

  • Glaucoma

  • Liver disease

  • Kidney disease

  • Heart disease

  • Hyperthyroidism

  • High blood pressure

Also, talk to your vet before giving this drug to pregnant or nursing cats since it can jeopardize the health of the mother and the kittens.

As we said earlier, if you buy Benadryl at a pharmacy, check the label to see if the active ingredient is only diphenhydramine. You don’t want it mixed with other active ingredients like acetaminophen since it can lead to lethal overdose.

Furthermore, in severe allergic reactions or when a cat is in anaphylactic shock, don’t try giving her Benadryl since it isn’t strong enough. Take her to the vet right away.

If you accidentally give too much of this drug to your cat, she can experience seizures, extreme sleepiness, coma, slow bleeding, and death. Most commonly seen side effects of Benadryl include:

  • Dry mouth

  • Hyper-excitability

  • Drowsiness

  • Urinary retention

  • Loss of appetite

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

When you start your cat on a new medicine, it is important to monitor her carefully to see how she reacts. If you notice any of the side effects, stop the treatment and take your kitty to the vet immediately.

Wrap Up

giving a pill to a cat

Even though Benadryl isn’t FDA-approved medicine for pets, it is completely safe to give it to a cat. It is an antihistamine that works by suppressing a wide range of allergy-related symptoms. Since it is a mild sedative, it can also be given to cats that suffer from motion sickness and need to travel for a longer period of time in a car.

Generally speaking, 1 mg per one pound is the safe and appropriate dose of Benadryl for cats. It needs to be administered two times a day. Still, you should consult with your vet, since all cats are different, and your kitty might need a different dosage.

Furthermore, don’t forget that this medicine won’t treat your cat’s condition—just the symptoms that are associated with it. That means that you need to get your kitty checked and diagnosed properly in order to provide her with long-term relief.

In some cases, the underlying issue can worsen, like when a cat has fleas or mites. The medicine will treat the itching and scratching, but the fleas will continue to spread.

As we said, Benadryl is safe for cats, but just like all other medicines, it has side effects and certain risks. There is no telling if your kitty will experience any of them, but it is better to study them all and determine if the benefits of the drug are worth it.

Overall, this is an effective drug that will relieve your cat’s allergy symptoms, but it should be administered according to your vet’s instructions.

Did Benadryl relieve some of itching and scratching symptoms related to your cat’s allergies? If you have any experience with this drug, please share them in the comment section below. Have you considered that your kitty’s itching and scratching might be a sign that she needs a flea bath for cats instead?

About the author
Steve Corelli
Steve Corelli

Steve Corelli is a Pet Nutrition Expert from Allentown, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many nutritional strategies for different breeds and a member of some Pet Food development teams. His Maine Coon Stephan, as you might guess, is always well-fed.

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