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Is Pepto-Bismol safe for dogs?

Pepto-Bismol and its generic version, bismuth subsalicylate, works wonders on humans for the occasional upset stomach, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea. The over-the-counter (OTC) product is sold in pharmacies and grocery stores, and many pet owners may find themselves considering whether to give this OTC human medication to their dogs, who, after all, also get upset stomachs and diarrhea. But, is Pepto-Bismol safe for dogs?

What is Pepto-Bismol?

Pepto-Bismol is an oral medication used to treat gastrointestinal signs in humans, available in caplets, liquicaps, and liquid formulations. The active ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate, which is a derivative of salicylic acid, or aspirin. In the stomach, bismuth subsalicylate is broken down into bismuth oxychloride and salicylic acid.

What is the safe dose for dogs?

Pepto-Bismol can be used in dogs, but it does not suit every dog, and chronic use is not recommended. If your dog has gastrointestinal signs and you’re considering using Pepto-Bismol, you should consult with your veterinarian first and administer the medication to your dog only under their direction.

Does Pepto-Bismol have side effects in dogs?

Pepto-Bismol may do a good job of curbing upset stomach and diarrhea, but negative side effects can potentially occur in dogs.

Bismuth subsalicylate, Pepto-Bismol’s active ingredient, can turn your pet’s stool black, which is problematic because it mimics melena (i.e., “digested” blood in the stool). Pets given Pepto-Bismol are already suffering from gastrointestinal signs, so it is important that the medical team knows whether the change in stool color is due to a disease progression or a medication side effect.

Pepto-Bismol is broken down in your pet’s stomach into different components, including salicylic acid, or aspirin, which can be toxic to dogs in high doses.

Bloody vomit and diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weakness may occur in pets with gastrointestinal bleeding. Increased respiratory rate, dehydration, seizures, and coma may also occur with high aspirin doses. Platelet dysfunction may cause prolonged blood clotting times.

Do not give Pepto-Bismol to pets who are currently taking other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for chronic conditions, such as Rimadyl or Deramaxx for arthritis, because they are already at increased risk of stomach ulcerations or perforation.

Pepto-Bismol and X-rays

Pepto-Bismol tablets are radio-opaque, meaning that they show up as dense objects on your pet’s abdominal X-rays. When your veterinarian investigates gastrointestinal signs, they look for gastrointestinal foreign bodies. Dogs eat a variety of strange objects, apart from food such as corn cobs, and when your veterinarian sees that your pet, who is exhibiting gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting or diarrhea, also has opaque objects in her stomach or intestines, they may suspect that a foreign object is causing a blockage or leaking caustic chemicals. An intestinal foreign body typically warrants invasive surgery, and a Pepto-Bismol tablet can look like a dangerous foreign object, leading to unwarranted surgical removal. Owners must always tell their veterinarian if they have given, or plan to give a pet Pepto-Bismol.

What can I use instead if my dog has gastrointestinal signs?

If your dog is suffering from gastrointestinal signs, such as diarrhea and vomiting, you should call your veterinarian. Some situations call for oral Pepto-Bismol, but the medication is not appropriate for all dogs, and many medications, such as Pepcid (i.e., famotidine) and Prilosec (i.e., omeprazole), are safer when administered with your veterinarian’s approval. Many gastrointestinal signs will respond to non-medical options, such as withholding food for 12 to 24 hours before instituting a bland diet (e.g., poached chicken, egg, rice, or pasta), which you should discuss with your veterinarian.

Not all medications meant for human consumption are safe for pets. Before you give any OTC or prescription human medication to your pet, check with your veterinarian to ensure you’re not risking your pet’s health.