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Dogs, like people, can be afflicted with stomach problems, including indigestion, diarrhea, and gas. Although severe or prolonged symptoms should always be treated by a veterinarian, minor cases of stomach upset or diarrhea can be cared for at home with human medications that are safe for dogs.
If symptoms persist or if you’ve never given your dog one of the foods or medications mentioned below, call your veterinarian first. Here is what you need to know about OTC medications that are safe for treating GI and stomach problems in dogs.
Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) is technically safe to offer to dogs. However, Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer for the AKC, says he rarely recommends it because the salicylates in the medication could cause gastric bleeding, and the bismuth in the medication can turn the stool black, which may mask any resulting gastric bleeding. “If it must be given, offer no more than one or two doses after consulting with your veterinarian,” he says.
Your veterinarian may instead recommend the bismuth subsalicylate product formulated for dogs, called Corrective Suspension. Dogs with bleeding disorders, dogs who are pregnant or nursing, and dogs taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) such as Rimadyl and Deramaxx shouldn’t take any form of bismuth subsalicylate.
If you decide to use Pepto-Bismol for dogs, Dr. Klein recommends a dosage of 1 teaspoon for every 10 pounds. You can offer the dog the medication every six to eight hours, but if your dog still has diarrhea after a few doses, stop the medication and call your veterinarian. Also, if you’ve never given Pepto-Bismol to your dog before, check with your veterinarian first to confirm the dosage.
To administer Pepto-Bismol to dogs, use an empty plastic syringe (without a needle) to give your dog the medication. Open the dog’s mouth, place the empty syringe toward the back of the tongue, and push the plunger. Hold their muzzle for a second to ensure they swallow it.
Imodium (loperamide) is another over-the-counter medication dogs can take that helps resolve diarrhea. Before administering it, check with your veterinarian, since dogs with certain conditions and dogs taking certain medications should not take it.
What is the correct Imodium dosage for dogs? Call your veterinarian first to verify the correct dosage. A dog can take one 2-milligram pill per 40 pounds of body weight two to three times a day, says Dr. Klein. Do not offer this medication for more than two days. If symptoms persist, seek veterinary care.
You can administer Imodium to dogs in a pill pocket or wrapped in a bit of food (like cheese). Use only enough food to hide the taste of the pill, or you may risk further irritating your dog’s stomach.
If your pet has issues with stomach acid build-up, gastric ulcers, or other stomach- or GI-related issues, some veterinarians recommend Pepcid (famotidine). Although this medication has not been FDA-approved for use in pets, it’s considered standard practice for veterinarians to recommend its use in certain dogs and cats. Contact your veterinarian before administering—it may not be recommended if your pet is pregnant or nursing or has a medical condition.
Dr. Klein recommends a Pepcid dosage for dogs of one 10-milligram tablet for a 20-pound dog every 12 to 24 hours. Before administering this medication to your dog, check with a veterinarian to verify the dosage is accurate for your pet.
It is best to give this medication one hour before meals. Also, if purchasing Pepcid, make sure to buy Pepcid Original Strength (10-milligram tablets). Pepcid Complete contains additional active ingredients, and Pepcid Maximum Strength contains more medication per tablet.
How should you administer Pepcid to dogs? It’s not recommended to give Pepcid with food, which can lessen its effectiveness. Instead, tilt your dog’s head back, place the pill on the back of the tongue, hold the mouth shut for a moment, and gently stroke the throat or blow on the nose to induce swallowing. If you do not have experience giving pills to your dog without a treat, contact your veterinarian for advice.
Certain bland foods, such as unseasoned pumpkin and rice, can also help with stomach issues in dogs. You may also want to try a product specifically designed to treat upset stomachs in dogs. In addition, you may want to ask your vet about probiotics. Dr. Klein says he’s prescribed probiotics made for humans to treat diarrhea in dogs. “If diarrhea is not severe, results are noticed within 24 hours,” he says. Consult with your veterinarian about the best course of treatment for your pet.