Although humans and dogs look quite different, they actually have very similar bodies. In many cases, dogs can use human medications and humans can use dog medications. However, some human medicines can be lethal to dogs, and you should never give your dog medicine without first consulting a veterinarian.
Medicine for Dogs
Dogs and humans share the same basic body systems, and many medications that work for humans work for dogs. However, dogs' digestive systems contain different enzymes from humans' digestive systems, which means dogs may be unable to break down or metabolize certain human medications. Additionally, dosing for dogs may be dramatically different than for humans. A human dose could easily kill a toy dog, but might be ineffective for a very large dog. Dogs, like humans, can also have allergic reactions to medications, so no medication is guaranteed safe.
Diphenhydramine—marketed as Benadryl—is safe for dogs and can help with skin allergies. Some over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications are also safe for pets, and include drugs such as Immodium and Pepto-Bismol. Some human antibiotics such as penicillin are safe, though the dosage may be different. Dogs can also have Dramamine, an anti-motion-sickness medication. Glucosamine helps alleviate the pain of arthritis and other joint problems and is safe for dogs.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen are potentially lethal to dogs; never give your dogs these medications. Acetaminophen is also unsafe. Dogs should never get psychoactive drugs such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, though there are some dog-safe versions of these medications that your vet can prescribe. Diabetes drugs, vitamin D supplements and the cancer medication Fluorouracil also pose significant dangers. Do not give dogs iron supplements, coffee or anything containing caffeine.
Seeking Veterinary Care
Even if a drug is potentially safe for dogs, the dosage can vary greatly from dog to dog. Any condition that warrants medication warrants a trip to the veterinarian, so call your vet before giving your dog any human drug. Antibiotics are particularly dangerous because you can create treatment-resistant infections in your dog if you give the wrong antibiotic or the wrong dose.
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.
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: Top 10 Human Medications That Poison Our Pets
- Walker Valley Vet: Over-the-Counter Medications
- Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats; Richard H. Pitcairn, et al.
Brenna Davis is a professional writer who covers parenting, pets, health and legal topics. Her articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines as well as on websites. She is a court-appointed special advocate and is certified in crisis counseling and child and infant nutrition. She holds degrees in developmental psychology and philosophy from Georgia State University.