Over-the-Counter Medication for Pets

Published: October 12, 2023
Jordan Louis
By Jordan Louis, 2025 PharmD Candidate
Quinn Mosgrove
By Quinn Mosgrove, 2025 PharmD Candidate
Melody Berg
By Melody Berg, PharmD, MPH, BCPS

Can This OTC Medication Treat Me and My Pet?

Have you ever wondered if some of the over-the-counter (OTC) medications you have around the house could also be used on your pup or cat? As it turns out, you can treat your fur babies with some OTCs depending on the circumstances. But don’t get too eager—some human medications can also be deadly for your pets. You should always check with your veterinarian first, but you can use this quick guide to learn which OTC medications are safe or unsafe for your furry friends in the meantime.



Have you noticed that your dog is having trouble passing their bowel movements, or that your cat is going in and out of the litter box? It’s possible that they could be dealing with a bit of constipation. We’ve all been there, and MiraLAX can be just as useful for our four-legged friends to get their bowels moving. How much to give depends on the size of your pet. For smaller cats and dogs (less than 10 pounds for a cat and 30 pounds for a dog), you can sprinkle 1/8 - ¼ teaspoon of MiraLAX into their wet food twice daily; for larger dogs (over 55 pounds) you can mix ½ - ¾ teaspoons twice daily. Be sure to keep your pet hydrated with plenty of water, and check with your vet before administering.

Acid Reflux:

Your vet has just informed you that your fur baby is temporarily suffering from acid reflux. Luckily, you may already have some vet-approved options in your medicine cabinet. Medications like omeprazole (Prilosec) or famotidine (Pepcid) can be used to protect your pet's stomach. 


Cuts and Scratches:

Under all that fur is sensitive skin that can require extra love and protection from the outside environment, just like ours. If you are walking your dog in cold weatheror perhaps your cat turns up with a scratch after a serious case of the zoomies—consider protecting their skin and paws with a wax-based petrolatum or lanolin product, like a healing ointment by Aquaphor or CeraVe.



Has your pet been sneezing or outside playing with those beehives again? Medications like diphenhydramine or cetirizine can relieve your pet’s allergy symptoms, and as explained below, you should avoid medications with decongestants that are harmful to dogs and cats. The amount of allergy medication you give to your pet is important to avoid side effects or overdose, so only use these medications after talking to your vet first.


OTC Medications that Pets Should Avoid:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol). High doses of this medication can cause liver failure and death in dogs and cats.
  • Decongestants (Sudafed, Claritin-D, Mucinex-D). Any medications containing phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine can cause seizures and hyperactivity in dogs and cats.
  • Vitamins. Most human vitamins are unsafe and can cause liver failure in dogs and cats.
  • Pepto Bismol. Although safe to use for dogs with upset stomachs, Pepto Bismol can cause bloody stools, dehydration, and death in cats.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and Naproxen (Aleve). NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers and kidney failure in dogs and cats just like these medications can in humans.
  • Kaopectate. Because this medication has recently been reformulated with aspirin, Kaopectate is no longer recommended to be used in cats.


Luckily, there are likely some OTC products already in your household, or easily accessible at your local pharmacy, that can be used to help your furry friends in mild and moderate scenarios. But know that this does not apply to all OTC medications. Make sure to always check in with your pet's veterinarian for approval before giving them any unprescribed medication.

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