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Euthanizing a Dog at Home With Benadryl: Risks & Recommendations

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Euthanizing your dog is unquestionably one of the most difficult times as a dog owner. You’ve spent so much time together, and it’s time to say goodbye.

On top of the emotional stress, a lot of dog owners also face expensive vet bills, making the process even more challenging.

As a result, many owners are trying to find inexpensive options to euthanize their dogs, and want to figure out how to euthanize a dog with a simple over-the counter product such as Benadryl.

While Benadryl can indeed be lethal to dogs, there are several very important legal and medical factors that you should consider.

Summary of key points:

  • It is estimated that Benadryl can be lethal to dogs at 24 to 30 mg per kilogram of body weight by IV administration. Note that the impact of “oral” diphenhydramine in dogs has not been studied, and this estimate is extrapolated from studies on other animal species (read below for important details).
  • Benadryl is lethal to dogs because it can cause serious neurological and cardiovascular effects – it is not a comfortable way for your dog to pass away, and we recommend other options.
  • In most US states, dog euthanasia can often ONLY be performed by a veterinary professional. A very small number of euthanasia methods are allowed and deemed safe for your dog (read below for details), and it may not be legal to use Benadryl in your location.
  • Dog euthanasia at home is allowed in most states in the US, but regulation still often requires that it should be performed by a veterinary professional.

DISCLAIMER: This website does not provide legal advice in any shape or form. Please consult your lawyer for any legal advice.

Can Benadryl Help Euthanize a Dog?

Benadryl is an inexpensive over-the-counter antihistamine medication used to treat allergies. The active component in Benadryl is called diphenhydramine, which comes in tablets, capsules, or liquid. Benadryl can indeed be lethal to dogs when given at high doses. It should only be administered to dogs in certain circumstances with the supervision of your veterinarian.

A recommended dose for the treatment of mild allergies or anxiety for most healthy adult dogs is approximately 2 to 4 mg per kilogram of body weight, but this can vary based on your dog’s health profile. For a dog weighing about 40 pounds, this would equate to 36 to 72 mg diphenhydramine or 1 to 1.5 tablets (for tablets with 50mg diphenhydramine). Make sure your consult with your veterinarian to determine the right amount for your dog. So what dose is then lethal to dogs?

According to this scientific paper, the lethal dose for diphenhydramine in dogs ranges between 24 to 30 mg per kilogram of body weight by IV administration. For a 40-pound dog, this would equate to about 430 to 540 mg, or 9-10 tablets (for tablets with 50mg diphenhydramine – note that some tablets are 25mg only).

However, it is important to note that the impact of “oral” diphenhydramine in dogs has not been studied (only “IV” diphenhydramine), and these estimates are derived from extrapolated values from other animal species. The unpredictability of dosage is one of the many reasons that euthanizing a dog with Benadryl is not allowed in most situations.

Because Benadryl can have dramatic side effects for your dog, they can suffer a lot before the active ingredient actually results in death, especially if the dose is too low. We recommend visiting the AKC site to learn important details about Benadryl and dogs.

Why you Should Not Euthanize a Dog at Home with Benadryl

Besides possible legal ramifications, Benadryl will also not effectively euthanize your dog, even if it is administered by a veterinarian professional. The reasons include:

1) There are significant effects that could cause unnecessary pain and suffering for your dog. Benadryl is lethal to dogs because it can cause serious neurological and cardiovascular effects, with effects including hyper-excitability, rapid heartbeat, seizures, convulsions, or respiratory failure.

As a result, using Benadryl to euthanize your dog has many risks to create a painful and stressful death for your dog, and a veterinarian professional needs to be consulted to review other options. There are much more humane ways to euthanize your dog.

2) The exact amount to be ingested is unknown and can vary significantly from dog to dog. The scientific paper referenced earlier estimated that as few as 2-4 tablets could have very adverse and even lethal effects to a dog. However, the paper also noted a case where a dog survived with treatment, even after ingesting 67 mg per kilogram of body weight (as many as 20+ tablets at 50mg/tablet, for a 40-pound dog).

There is simply no good data to estimate the dose required to euthanize a dog with Benadryl, with potential dire consequences for your dog. With such an unpredictable lethal dose, Benadryl is far from the best option to use for euthanizing a dog. Additionally, it may not be legal to do so in your location. Please read the next section for more details.

As a result, we recommend that you consult with your veterinarian to discuss options.

Are You Allowed to Euthanize a Dog at Home? Are You Allowed to Use Benadryl?

Dog euthanasia in the US is highly regulated and can often ONLY be performed by a veterinarian professional or euthanasia technician in most states, to ensure a pain-free and effective process for the animals (with exceptions in case of emergencies). FindLaw.com states that “obtaining and administering a fatal dose of euthanasia drugs to your animal without specific training or required license may be a violation of the law.” (Learn more).


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Dog euthanasia at home is allowed in most US states, but regulation generally restricts who is allowed to perform the euthanasia to ensure that the process is done in the most humane way possible for your dog. In most states, at-home euthanasia still needs to be performed by a veterinarian professional.

Additionally, only certain euthanasia methods are legally allowed. In most states, the use of Benadryl to euthanize a dog is NOT allowed. Only experts with the appropriate training and licenses may euthanize an animal using barbiturate medicines, such as sodium pentobarbital.

Barbiturate medications are a much more humane way to euthanize an animal. They have been proven to induce a quick and peaceful death that causes no distress to your dog.

If you live in the US, you can view regulation by state on the American Veterinary Medical Association website: State Animal Euthanasia Laws. Please note that our website does not give any legal advice and we are not legal professionals in any way, shape and form: check with your state or lawyer for most recent laws.

DISCLAIMER: This website does not provide legal advice in any share or form. Please consult your lawyer for any legal advice.

What is the Best Way to Euthanize a Dog?

To euthanize a dog, a veterinarian will often use barbiturates to stop a dog’s heart. The medication is administered through an intravenous catheter or an injection. Sometimes, veterinarians will give the dog a sedative first to help make the process pain-free for the dog.

If you are looking for ways to euthanize your sick, injured or elderly dog in the most pain-free way possible, please contact a veterinarian to discuss options.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your local veterinarian for health decisions. Learn more.

Euthanasia should always be viewed as a blessing – to be able to stop an animal’s suffering is a wonderful thing. But it must be performed in the right way, with the correct medication, your beloved pet deserves nothing less.  

Learn more about dog euthanasia.

Author

  • Dr. Winnie earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. She is a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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