As pet parents, all we want is the best for our pups, and when they are feeling under the weather, it is only natural for us to want to help in any way we can.
With the rising cost of living, sometimes this can find us searching for home remedies for common ailments and may see a worried paw-rent reaching to the medicine cupboard for over-the-counter human therapies before making a trip to the veterinary clinic.
While some human medications are safe for our four-legged friends, many are very toxic, so my advice would always be to chat with your veterinarian before assuming medication is safe, even if you have found many articles online that say it’s okay to give it to your pooch.
What Is Pepto-Bismol?
Pepto-Bismol is a human medication available to buy over the counter to help with heartburn, acid reflux, indigestion, diarrhea, and nausea. The active ingredient in the medicine is a compound called “bismuth subsalicylate,” and it works by protecting the stomach and lower food pipe from stomach acid.
Is Pepto-Bismol Safe For Dogs?
In certain circumstances and at specific doses, Pepto-Bismol is potentially safe to be given to dogs. However, this is not true in every case, and it would always be advisable to speak to your veterinarian before giving your pup Pepto-Bismol. You can then be sure the medication is beneficial and not harmful to your dog.
The medication is derived from “salicylic acid,” which is also the precursor for aspirin. This has significant implications for some of the occasions when Pepto-Bismol is not safe for dogs. These are discussed at length below. It’s important to also mention that Pepto-Bismol can be toxic to cats and should never be given to them.
Why Might A Veterinarian Suggest Giving Pepto-Bismol?
Your veterinarian may occasionally consider Pepto-Bismol as part of a management protocol for gastrointestinal upsets. Tummy upsets in dogs make for one of the most common complaints in first-opinion veterinary clinics. They can occur for a whole host of different reasons, from stress to dietary indiscretion, to genuine medical issues with the gastrointestinal tract.
Despite Pepto-Bismol being used by people when they are experiencing digestive discomfort, it should not be the first thing your reach for if your dog has a tummy upset. It is better to provide your pup with plenty of fresh water while encouraging them to eat a little and often. There is an argument for and against switching to a bland diet but avoiding rich and fatty foods is preferable. If there is no improvement in 24 hours or your dog is very lethargic, wobbly, or has evidence of bloody or tarry stools, then speak to your veterinarian.
If your veterinarian recommends Pepto-Bismol for your pup, they are doing so “off-label”. This is because the medication is not formulated for veterinary use, and there is no licensed veterinary product. It is essential to carefully follow your veterinarian’s advice on dosages and any cautions they provide. Failure to do so may make your pup very sick. If your pup’s signs persist after a few doses, it is better to check in with your veterinarian rather than continue the medication.
When Should Pepto-Bismol Not Be Given To Dogs?
There are many times when Pepto-Bismol is not safe for dogs or should be used with caution, even under veterinary guidance.
If your pup has allergies to Pepto-Bismol or aspirin products, you should not give Pepto-Bismol to her. Signs of allergies in dogs can manifest from gastrointestinal upsets, itchy skin, hives, or breathing issues. If you suspect your pup is having an allergic reaction to Pepto-Bismol or any other medication, contact your local veterinary clinic immediately.
Blood Clotting Disorders
Pepto-Bismol can increase the risk of bleeding due to the aspirin-like compound in its formulation. If your dog has been diagnosed with a bleeding disorder, then Pepto-Bismol should never be administered unless under express recommendation from your veterinarian. If your pup shows signs of unexplained bleeding, such as nose bleeds, bruising on the skin or gums, pale gums, or bleeding into her stool, you should seek urgent veterinary care.
Pepto-Bismol can worsen gastrointestinal ulceration. If your fur friend has been diagnosed with an ulcerative gastrointestinal disease by your veterinarian or is showing any signs of gastrointestinal bleeding such as fresh blood in the stool, black or tarry stools, vomiting with blood or vomit that contains material similar to coffee grounds, they should not be given Pepto-Bismol. Gastrointestinal bleeding can be very serious, even leading to rupture of the gut, which can be fatal. If you are worried your pup is showing these signs speak to your veterinarian immediately.
Kidney Or Liver Disease
Diseases of the kidneys or liver can mean your pup processes medications slower. This may be true of the active ingredient in Pepto-Bismol too. Therefore, if your pup has kidney or liver problems, at-home administering of drugs may increase the risk of overdosing due to slower drug processing and elimination from the body. If your pup has liver or kidney problems, always speak to your veterinarian before giving any new medications, supplements, or treatments.
Pepto-Bismol should not be given to diabetic dogs. This is because the medication can lead to inaccuracies in urine sugar and ketone monitoring. There are also concerns it may negatively interact with insulin absorption, but this cannot be substantiated in the literature.
Rare Metabolic Disorders
Several rare diseases affect the way the body uses and breaks down proteins. One example reported in dogs is called “phenylketonuria.” Dogs with this condition should not be given Pepto-Bismol as some of the formulations contain a substance called “aspartame,” which can precipitate severe illness in dogs with this condition.
True gout is extremely rare in dogs, but there are reported cases. In the human literature, Pepto-Bismol has been found to worsen gout symptoms and, as such, is not recommended. Although we do not have the veterinary evidence, given how rare the disease is, extrapolation from human medicine would mean that any dog suffering from gout should not be given Pepto-Bismol.
Other Prescription Medications
Pepto-Bismol should not be given alongside any of the following medications without explicit veterinary recommendation: non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, ACE inhibitors, loop diuretics, and tetracycline.
If your pup is taking any other medications or receives any vitamins, supplements, or other herbal remedies, you must make your veterinarian aware of them as they may interact with Pepto-Bismol. Equally, if you have given Pepto-Bismol to your pup before a veterinary consultation, ensure you let your veterinarian know, as it may impact the tests or treatment they recommend. Did you know that Pepto-Bismol can interact with laboratory tests such as urine glucose tests and interfere with diagnostic imaging such as x-rays?
Pepto-Bismol should not be given to pregnant or lactating bitches unless under the direct supervision of your veterinarian. The risks of this medication in these groups of dogs have not been studied. Your veterinarian will only prescribe the medication if they feel the benefit to your dog outweighs the potential risk to her and her puppies.
Again, its use in young puppies or debilitated dogs should be cautioned. It can cause constipation and fecal (poo) impactions that can be very serious, especially in young puppies. At-home treatment of puppies with diarrhea is also very risky. They are highly vulnerable to dehydration, which can be fatal if not treated quickly.
What Side Effects Are Possible With Pepto-Bismol?
Some potential side effects at recommended dosages include changes to your dog’s stool color (it may become grey-black or greenish-black) or constipation. Due to the aspirin-like component, a potentially severe side effect is the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Pepto-Bismol doesn’t make a great addition to a canine treatment plan because the medication may make stools black, and GI bleeding can make the stool black. Therefore, a mild side effect of Pepto-Bismol may act to mask more severe side effects, subsequently delaying investigations and treatment.
Other potential side effects, which are more probable in the event of an overdose, include diarrhea, bloody stools, vomiting, rapid breathing, seizure, tremor, or collapse. If you are concerned your pup is showing any side effects after administering Pepto-Bismol, call your veterinary clinic or their emergency provider immediately. Do not delay seeking advice, as delays can mean that treatment is not always successful in cases of toxicity or overdose.
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Has Had Too Much Pepto-Bismol?
If you are worried your pup has had an overdose of Pepto-Bismol or has an adverse reaction to the drug, you should contact your local veterinary clinic immediately. If they are closed, then seek advice from their emergency out-of-hours provider, do not wait overnight to speak to your regular veterinarian.
While treating common clinical ailments such as digestive upset at home is tempting, if you feel your pup is poorly enough to need medications, it is always advisable to speak to your veterinarian. Dogs do not process medications in the same way as us, which can mean that a seemingly very safe medicine for people can be fatal for your pup. Pepto-Bismol may be used, in some dogs, under veterinary guidance. Still, it would not be advisable to administer this medication without chatting to your local veterinary clinic first, in case it does your pup more harm than good.