Diphenhydramine Side Effects for Dogs (Benadryl)

So, I gave Belle her first in a long time dose of 25 mg of diphenhydramine last night with food. This was around 7:30 p.m. We sat down to have dinner and then watch some TV. Belle slept like a rock. A couple of times I tried to wake her up by calling her name, which usually does the trick. However, she just kept on sleeping. Now, she could have been worn out from the vet’s visit; she did get her 6-month exam and shots at the same time, but it didn’t really seem like it.

This morning, she was sluggish to get up and moving and just seemed a little loopy. We just checked on her again and she seems to be getting better.  However, this prompted me to start looking in to the side effects of the allergy medicine on dogs.

The first site I went to was written by a veterinarian and discussed the side effects of diphenhydramine or Benadryl. The common ones they listed were

  • sedation
  • dry mouth
  • retaining urine

Ok, that explains the sleepiness. The vet also went on to mention that the side effects might be stronger in older dogs and that different dogs may react differently and the dosage should be tailored to your animal. Belle definitely reacts poorly to most medicines, as seen in her urinary incontinence side effect with both prednisone and antibiotics. Even though the vet recommended 25 mg dose twice a day, I think we will try out once a day for a while. If Belle’s sluggishness doesn’t go away, but she is still itching, we will cut that dose in half and try that.
Read more about the side effects and details about diphenhydramine.


  1. says

    I’ve had some allergy bouts with my beagle mix, Hendrix. It always seems like that first dose of diphenhydramine makes her VERY sleepy, but she seems to acclimate to the doses after about 24-48 hours and return to her usual self. For me, Benadryl might as well be a sleep aid…knocks me right out!

  2. BUD says


  3. Katelan says

    Bud, this is happening to my dog as well. She’s 50 lbs and we’ve been giving her Benadryl daily off and on for about 6 months.

    She will get the exact symptoms you’ve described sometimes before bed. If you find anything out, I’d love to know.

  4. Carlyn says

    I have a 90 lb golden retriever and she has the same symptoms of running around like she’s on speed, then she will stop and stand in one spot for an extended period of time anywhere from 10 min to 30 minutes staring at the wall, then it seems like something startles her and shes off again running around. I’ve wondered if she’s hallucinating because her behaviour is so unusual. Any thoughts?

  5. Rose says

    It is the 4th of July and we were going to go to a neighbors house. My dog hates fireworks so I gave her benadryl before we left. Just came home and her left leg is swollen from her foot to her hip and she can’t stand on it. Other than that she seems normal. I’m going to take her to a vet in the am. I’m just worried and that is how I found this website.

  6. Belle's Mom says

    I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to this. When you find out from your vet, please post here to help others.

  7. bmdd says

    my vet gave my appx 9 year old 90 lb lab/spaniel mix (JACK) a 50 mg dose of diphenhydramine (not for any allergies but before performing a “fine needle aspirate.”) Jack was so gassy (much more than usual) and he had diarrhea. Is this normal for this to happen?

  8. says

    I’m sorry to hear about your poor dog. I am not qualified to answer this question as I am not a vet. I did some research on PetMD and Vetinfo.com and they both list diarrhea as a possible (but rare) side effect of Benadryl (which is diphenhydramine). I would definitely discuss this with your vet. This article, written by a vet, provides more details on side effects, precautions, and drug interactions: http://www.wedgewoodpetrx.com/learning-center/professional-monographs/diphenhydramine-for-veterinary-use.html I hope this helps!

  9. Sherrill says

    Carlyn;Hello we have a 5year old sheltie that started exhibiting very similar behaviour except for the running around,in his case it is more like severe restlessness.The vet has diagnosed it as seizures caused by anaplasmosis,a tick borne infection that affects the Liver functions. Regards Sherrill

  10. Wilkys says

    We gave our 3yo terrier Tinkerbell benadryl for her allegeries and she has consistantly mounted our other dog. She seems calm and just quieter now.

  11. tara says

    I give my 25lb Boston Terrier 1 25mg benadryl tablet daily for itching…he tolerates it well and it helps him get a little grogy so I give it at bedtime or close to it… we’ve had no repercussions … he takes trifexis monthly for fleas and I don’t give him the benadryl that same day…

  12. Mindy says

    I’ve been giving my 50lb beagle mix 50mg of Benadryl twice a day for about 2-3 weeks, and I feel like his itching has been worse lately. Does anyone know if he could be allergic to the Benadryl?

  13. Hiranya says

    Our Puppy had a severe case of swollen eye which the ER vet assumed to be allergy related. She prescribed 12.5mg benadryl tab for her (18lbs). She became absolutely loopy and seemed to have lost all motor coordination, Then she threw up several times, all through the night. She behave d as if she was under the effect of anesthesia. HAs anybody seen it?

  14. kaylon says

    To the ones talking about their dogs acting like they’ve taken a hit of speed, diphenhydramine affects some children like that as well. I wouldn’t be too concerned with it.

  15. Jason says


    We are going through the same thing now. Our dog is acting like he doesn’t know us. He is a completely different dog. Did your pup go back to normal and how long did it take?

  16. says

    My 68.7 pound Beagle was having an Allergic Reaction to Benedrly he could not stop itching his Paws stopped the Benedrly and the itching has stopped

  17. Nikki says

    We had a big problem with Benadryl and now there is a sticker on my dog’s file at the vet to never give it to him. He was given an injection of benadryl for an allergic reaction. He immediately changed from a sweet, gentle, loving, affectionate dog to more aggressive. I could tell he was terrified as well and was on the edge because of whatever his internal experience was from the drug so, while I was a little nervous about a fear reaction, I also know I’m his comfort-person so I offered some careful reassurance to him without overbearing him. He’s a very athletic border collie, and his heart rate is usually extremely low (lower than the norm) between 30 and 50 beats per minute at rest. It shot up to 120 during this time. The vet didn’t know what to do and had never seen this before. I decided to stay near the vets office and try to walk it off for awhile. We were there for half hour to an hour, outside gently walking, until I felt generally okay about leaving. We had given him Benadryl once before at the 4th of July on the suggestion of the vet, because he’s terrified of the fireworks, and they thought it would help sedate him. We wondered if he was even more worked up after the Benadryl. After the experience at the vet’s office, it seems that was probably so.

  18. says

    That sounds horrible. I’m glad your dog is better. I think some dogs are just more sensitive than others. Belle gets incontinent no matter what medication she is given – whether it be prednisone or an antibiotic. I’m very careful about giving her anything.

  19. Christina says

    I’m dealing with an 18yo healthy guy that has CCD Canine Cognitive Disorder and evenings/nights have become a nightmare for all of us. Anyone who suffers from dementia has issues with confusion and restlessness at night. If I don’t get some sleep I’m gonna be in the looney bin! Personally I cannot tolerate a full dose of benadryl and it causes me to feel like I’m crawling out of my skin and I get hyper. A dog can have 1mg/1# but my little guy is so sensitive so I think I’ll try 5 mg (he weighs 10#) and pray it knocks him out so we can sleep tonight. Any advice or suggestions welcome.

  20. anita campbell says

    my 12 year old.65 pound irish setter ouf no her whole face swelled up at 2 am i took her to the vet. they gave her a 2 shots and sent her home with 25 mg of diphenhydramineto take 9 a day for 3 days. gave her 9 a day for 2 days . the swelling went away but she runs around like on speed cant sit still. wont eat and now on this 3rd day she just sleeps all the time doesnt want to eat pants alot . had to force her to go outside to pee, im really worried about her. tomorrow will tell the tale.

  21. Spencer says

    I have a Bichon who is almost 17. He sleeps all day but every single night but barks, moans and cries at night. I don’t understand it. It is like a switch is flipped and as soon as it gets to around Midnight he suddenly turns on and is restless. I don’t understand it. I would like him to sleep through the night. I have tried giving him valium and benadryl but nothing seems to help him. He will bark when in the bedroom so I put him in another room and then he will bark to goto the bedroom but bark as soon as he gets there. What do other owners who have this problem do? CCD Canine Cognitive Disorder has been mentioned but valium and benadryl have not worked. The vet compared it to sundowning in an alzheimer patient.

  22. Mr Acevedo says

    I have a 2yr old american terrier and she has seasonal allergies, mange ,and I believe an allergic reaction to wheat. should I consider giving her benadryl?

  23. Laura says

    Many of the comments on here sound like their dog was overdosed. Here is what the vets website said:
    •Overdose with diphenhydramine can cause symptoms ranging from CNS stimulation to CNS depression.
    •The usual signs of mild overdose are sedation and clumsiness.
    *.Seizures, respiratory depression, coma and death can occur after a massive overdose.

  24. quizzy2 says

    My rescued dog (3yo American Bulldog 72lbs) has come up with a horrible allergy reaction with skin issues as well as intense itching and sneezing. We live in Eugene Oregon. We couldn’t get her in to vet over holiday weekend so decided to give her 1 -25m Benadryl. She acted normal a little sleepier and less itchy, however still NORMAL! We were able to get into vet today and walked out with a bag of goodies and instructions for administering. Oral antibiotic and steroid, shampoo and spray, and ear wash. Instructions were to give 1m per 1pound of Benadryl in addition for itching. We dosed her up with 50 Benadryl rather than the close to 75, as well as orals meds and ear wash. Within an hour my dog was barking aggressively at my 7 year old son. Made him unnerved as well as husband and self. We sent kids to bed early, doors closed for extra safety of unknown. We decided that her abnormal behavior of barking, pacing, panting, guarding, and look of hallucinations would be safer for her to be kenneled for the night. She is currently in our room in her safe zone but still sitting up on guard. Not even trying to lay down. She loves to play with my husband and wouldn’t have any part of it. She won’t drink but is salivating/drooling so not terribly worried about that at the moment. I feel bad caging her but I have a family and she is now a part of it and we want EVERYONE to be safe through the night. This too shall pass but I will NEVER give my dog more than 25 of her Benadryl again.

  25. says

    I sure hope your dog is feeling better now. Did you call your vet about her reaction? Perhaps they can recommend an alternative medicine. Belle had bad skin issues for a while and we used medicated shampoo which seemed to help her a lot. Hope your girl is getting some relief from her allergies.

  26. Brandi says

    Our oldest dog 7yr 60lb rescued lab/retriever has metastatic melanoma. The vet in KY has her on antibiotic, Prednisone, tramadol, and benadryl for 2 weeks post surgery (her 4th to date removing problematic moles/lesions). She hasn’t exhibited any of these behaviors.
    Our 4 month old 30lb puppy cries all night. 1 pill and he was hyper then slept! Not that I will give this to him regularly, just wanted to try and it helped all of us sleep during her recovery. Sorry to hear about the other issues some of you are experiencing. Different breeds, ages- different responses. Plus maybe the interaction of benadryl with other meds for some might indicate changes in behavior.

  27. says

    Brandi, I believe that just like humans, different dogs react differently to medicines. Belle gets incontinent with most types of medicines – even antibiotics sometimes! While Charlie can take anything and not be bothered. Best wishes for the speedy recovery and improved health of your 7 yr-old lab/retriever mix.

  28. PAULINE says

    Hi I have a 13yr old Lhasa Apso named Cassie who suffered many years with allergies. She could not stop scratching was doing major damage to her skin and was loosing her hair mostley on her legs.
    Tried many things from the vet and natural. Finally I came across a wonderful product called Dermacton This product is all natural and works wonders. They have site on internet Equinat USA. Please go to this site and read all the testimonials you will see Cassie in there also.
    Believe me it really works I feel I have my baby back she is like her old self plays with her toys.

  29. Leo's Mom says

    My Leo is a Jack Russell Beagle mix (tiny bit chihuahua too) and is almost 4 and was suffering for 2 days with horrible environmental allergies (my sister has 4 dogs here, 2 of which have some of and symptoms). She has been giving her dogs Benadryl with no side effects. My Leo on the other hand was throwing up all day today after giving it to him twice yesterday and has diarrhea. He is drinking water, but earlier today, he had to be coaxed outside and he seemed to be retaining urine also. He’s finally lying in recliner with me sleeping, but he’s been lethargic. I just need to know that he’ll be okay. I’m hoping I can get him to the vet tomorrow!

  30. says

    Pauline, I’m glad you found something that worked for your dog. I would like to recommend that folks discuss any new medicines with their veterinarians before trying them out.

  31. says

    I sure hope everything turned out OK for you and Leo. So sorry to hear about your troubles. Always talk to your vet before giving new medicine to your dog. Just like people, some dogs have strong reactions while others have none at all.

  32. Jan says

    I did an online search for side effects of benedryl because my 22 lb, 7 month old pup has been hyper, breathing heavy and panting after taking benadryl. After reading the responses I can relax a bit but still keep an eye on her. I so appreciate others taking time to leave a response, that I figured I would give back and offer my experience with sun downers as it is compared to a human. My mom had sundowners. She feared the night. She hated the effect of the sun going down that she wore sunglasses 24 hours a day. We put more lights on in the house prior to sunset and left them on all night. She became anxious about 3pm in anticipation of sunset and night. She watched tv shows all night long, unable to sleep. At the crack of dawn I would celebrate with her that the night was over and morning was breaking through. As the sun ever so slightly broke through the dark sky, she would relax and finally fall asleep. We shared a cup of camomile tea for about 4 months of sunrises until she passed away. I know her fear was real and she couldn’t control it. Antidepressant helped but didn’t help her sleep. Sleep pills helped knock her out but made no effect on the sundowners phenomena.
    She also saw a counselor, but sun downers was just sundowners for her and the sunglasses, lights, day sleeping, TV watching , tea, and the rest was just a part of her coping and dealing with this. She was capable and functioning otherwise. It had progressed over the years, she’d taken Benadryl for many many years to help her sleep. I am glad I did the best for her that I could in the end.
    She needed:
    Reassurance morning would come
    Needed to see and feel morning
    Lights on while awake in the dark of night
    Sunglasses to dull the brightness of day and the fading daylight
    Distraction at night…
    I hope this helps…
    Sundowners was very real and very frightening to my mom- she said it felt heavy on her – I believe it was not under her control. She felt the same effects even on a rainy day. It was a powerful response of her body to the rising and setting of the sun.

    I hope it’s possible for you to keep a space for your dog at night to have companionship and try to keep lights on or off in a constant manner to dull the visual effect of day and night. I’d also provide calming activity at night with quiet chew toys and quiet music while you sleep close by. I am sorry my mom went through this sundowners thing. I hope you can help easy your digs sundowners experience…

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