By Rania Gollakner, BS, DVM, MPH

What is dimenhydrinate?

Dimenhydrinate (brand names: Dramamine®, Gravol®, Travtabs®, Driminate®, Triptone®) is an antihistamine used to prevent motion sickness and to treat nausea, especially in dogs with vestibular disease. It has also been used for its sedative properties and to reduce itchiness associated with allergies.  

Its use in cats and dogs to treat nausea and motion sickness is ‘off label’ or ‘extra label’. Many drugs are commonly prescribed for off label use in veterinary medicine. In these instances, follow your veterinarian’s directions and cautions very carefully as their directions may be significantly different from those on the label.

How is dimenhydrinate given?

Dimenhydrinate is given by mouth in the form of a tablet or compounded liquid. It may also be given as an injection in the hospital setting. It may be given with or without food; however, if vomiting occurs on an empty stomach, give future doses with food. Measure liquid forms carefully. If using dimenhydrinate for motion sickness during travel, give this medication 30-60 minutes prior to travel. Do not give any of the combination products; only give products that contain dimenhydrinate as the only active ingredient. Give free access to water while giving this medication.

This medication will take effect quickly, in about 1 to 2 hours, and improvement in clinical signs should follow.

What if I miss giving my pet the medication?

If you miss a dose, give it when you remember, but if it is close to the time for the next dose, skip the dose you missed and give it at the next scheduled time, and return to the regular dosing schedule. Never give your pet two doses at once or give extra doses.

Are there any potential side effects?

The most common side effects include sleepiness, dry mouth, and difficulty urinating. Other less common side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Serious side effects include seizures and coma, and may indicate an overdose.

This short-acting medication should stop working within 24 hours, although effects can be longer in pets with liver or kidney disease.

Are there any risk factors for this medication?

Do not use dimenhydrinate in pets that are allergic to it or similar antihistamines. Do not use in neonatal pets or in pets that are undergoing antigen skin testing within the next two weeks. Dimenhydrinate should be used cautiously in pets with glaucoma, seizures, elevated thyroid levels, heart disease, high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, gastrointestinal or urinary blockage, and respiratory disease. Use cautiously in geriatric, pregnant or nursing pets, although use is likely safe.

Are there any drug interactions I should be aware of?

The following medications should be used with caution when given with dimenhydrinate: anticholinergic drugs, central nervous system depressants, or tricyclic antidepressants.

Dimenhydrinate may also interact with antigen skin testing; discontinue at least 2 weeks prior to allergy testing.

Be sure to tell your veterinarian about any medications (including vitamins, supplements, or herbal therapies) that your pet is taking.

Is there any monitoring that needs to be done with this medication?

There is no specific monitoring that needs to be done while your pet is taking this medication. Your veterinarian may monitor your pet to be sure that the medication is working. Monitor your pet for serious side effects.

How do I store dimenhydrinate?

Store this medication at room temperature and protect liquid forms from freezing.

What should I do in case of emergency?

If you suspect an overdose or an adverse reaction to the medication, call your veterinary office immediately. If they are not available, follow their directions in contacting an emergency facility.

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