Vistaril, Atarax, Hydroxyzine for Dog Allergies


Vistaril, also known as Atarax or by its generic name hydroxyzine, is an anthistamine drug meant to treat dog allergies. This drug can be obtained by prescription from a vet after the veterinarian has determined the dog is suffering from allergies such as atopy or a flea-bite dermatitis. Vistaril drug may be used to ease allergy symptoms in dogs such as itching and scratching as seen in dogs suffering from allergies to bug bites, environmental allergies and food allergies. If your veterinarian prescribed your dog Vistaril, you may be interested in learning more about how it works and its side effects.

Lowering Histamine Levels

Hydroxyzine is an anti-histamine medication, and as such, its primary goal is to reduce levels of histamine in the body. When the body is exposed to allergens, an army of antibodies comes to the rescue and attaches to certain cells that have memory. When the dog’s body is then exposed again to the same allergen, these cells will remember it, and therefore, will attack and release histamine.

While histamine means well as it defends the body, it’s an exaggerated response from the immune system targeted towards substances that are considered harmless. Its response can cause problems such as itching, but also serious bodily reactions such as constricted airways, rash and presence of hives.

A drug such as Vistaril helps block the histamine, and as a consequence, reduces the inflammation and associated itching. In dogs suffering from severe allergies though, antihistamines alone frequently are not enough to control them. An antihistamine like Vistaril though may be used in conjunction with steroids, offering the advantage of using a lower dosage of steroids, explains veterinarian Dr. Andy. 

Some General Information

Vistaril comes in two formulations: hydroxyzine pamoate and hydroxyzine hydrocloride.  This drug is not approved  by the Food and Drug Administration for use in animals but veterinarians often prescribe it as an extra-label drug.

If your dog is prescribed Vistaril for dog allergies, it’s important that you follow the dosage exactly as prescribed by your vet. Consult with your vet if you must give your dog any other medications or supplements so to prevent interactions.

Vistaril is available in different forms such as tablets, syrup and injection. Generally, the effects of this drug persist for 6 to 8 hours in dogs, therefore it is often prescribed to be given up to three times a day.

“Atarax (hydroxyzine) can be given to dogs for several reasons (i.e. antihistamine, allergies, sedation, etc.) at 1 mg per pound of body weight, every 8 hours.” Dr. David Jannsen

A List of Side Effects

Vistaril for dog allergies has several side effects and one of the most common is sedation. Affected dogs may become calmer which is why this drug can sometimes be used to take the edge off in dogs who are anxious.

Each dog is an individual though, and may respond differently to a medication. There are cases where antihistamines cause excitability in certain dogs.

Other side effects, even though less common, include dry mouth, vomiting, dizziness, lack of coordination, fine tremors, whole body tremors and seizures. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog develops side effects and if you notice signs of an allergic reaction to the medication.

This drug should be used with caution in dogs suffering from an enlarged prostate, heart failure, glaucoma, high blood pressure and urinary obstruction. Its use is not recommended in pregnant or nursing dogs or dogs suffering from kidney or liver problems.

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