Pepto-Bismol is a popular option for humans experiencing gastrointestinal distress. Many people keep it around because it's so effective. If your dog is having tummy trouble, you may be tempted to give a little Pepto-Bismol to offer relief. Unfortunately, this may be a bad idea. Although Pepto-Bismol can sometimes be given to dogs, it should be used with caution.
What Is Pepto-Bismol?
Pepto-Bismol is a brand name that contains the active ingredient bismuth subsalicylate. It is sometimes called pink bismuth. Bismuth subsalicylate is found in other brands such as Kaopectate, Bismatrol, Diotame, and some types of Maalox and Mylanta.
Chemically, bismuth subsalicylate is a bismuth salt of salicylic acid. The drug has antiemetic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is used in humans to treat diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, and heartburn. Drugs containing bismuth subsalicylate are sometimes used to treat diarrhea in dogs but should be administered with caution.
Medications containing bismuth subsalicylate are available over-the-counter as a suspension and in tablet or capsule form. Pepto-Bismol products are pink in color. Many generic forms of bismuth subsalicylate are pink as well, but some are white or green.
Is Pepto-Bismol Good for Dogs?
When given under to supervision of a veterinarian, Pepto-Bismol may help relieve diarrhea in dogs. It may also be used as a part of treatment for Helicobacter bacterial infections in dogs. Potential side effects include constipation, black-colored stools, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, bleeding, and toxicity.
Bismuth subsalicylate is considered a salicylate. Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is also salicylate. Although these two drugs have different mechanisms, they can also have similar toxic effects on dogs. Salicylates can cause gastrointestinal irritation, ulcers, and damage to the liver and kidneys. These drugs can be very dangerous to dogs if used incorrectly.
Bismuth subsalicylate use in dogs is often avoided. First, the risks of the drug may outweigh the benefits. Plus, dogs often dislike the taste of the suspension and are reluctant to swallow it. In addition, bismuth subsalicylate causes the stool to turn black in color, making it difficult to detect bleeding in the GI tract. Digested blood in the stool has a black, tarry appearance.
Pepto-Bismol may sometimes be recommended by veterinarians, but, there are safer and more effective drugs to treat diarrhea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal problems. Talk to your vet before giving your dog Pepto-Bismol or similar medications.
Salicylates can be toxic to cats. Do not give cats bismuth subsalicylate, aspirin, or any other drug that contains salicylates unless specifically recommended by a veterinarian.
How to Give Your Dog Pepto-Bismol
Contact your veterinarian before giving your dog Pepto-Bismol or other medications containing bismuth subsalicylate. Your vet may approve the use of bismuth subsalicylate if you need to use an over-the-counter product and cannot get to the veterinarian's office for a better option.
Pepto-Bismol suspension should be given orally to your dog at the dose recommended by your veterinarian. Never give more than recommended as it may cause toxicity in your dog. Dogs need to take the suspension because the dosage of the tablets and capsules is much too high. Be sure to use the original strength formula and not the ultra or extra-strength version. Check the product ingredients well; never give medications that contain xylitol, sometimes called birch sugar, as this is highly toxic to dogs.
You may wish to keep Pepto-Bismol in the refrigerator to increase palatability. Shake the suspension well before use. A general dosage for dogs is one milliliter per five kilograms (11 pounds) of body weight three times daily. Do not use the product for more than two days unless your veterinarian recommends continued use. If diarrhea persists for two days, you should take your dog to the vet for an examination rather than trying to treat your dog at home.
Do not give bismuth subsalicylate to dogs taking steroids or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (common NSAIDs include aspirin, carprofen, deracoxib, piroxicam, and meloxicam). If your dog is taking other medications, talk to your vet first about the proper usage and timing of bismuth subsalicylate. Bismuth subsalicylate should not be given to dogs with bleeding disorders, pregnant or nursing dogs, or young puppies. Do not give this medication to dogs allergic or sensitive to aspirin or other salicylates.
Pepto-Bismol Overdose and Toxicity
Although most dogs dislike the taste of Pepto-Bismol, it's still possible for some dogs to find the product and ingest too much of it. It's also possible to accidentally give too much to your dog—mistakes happen. Some dogs will experience toxic effects after getting a proper dose of bismuth subsalicylate, but an overdose is more likely to cause complications.
Salicylate toxicity is serious. It may cause vomiting (possibly with blood), depression, hyperthermia, internal bleeding, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, and coma. Severe overdose or lack of proper treatment can lead to death. Contact a veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog has ingested too much bismuth subsalicylate. You may be instructed to induce vomiting if the drug was recently ingested. Never induce vomiting unless instructed to do so by a veterinary professional.
Initial treatment of salicylate toxicity may include gastric lavage, oral administration of activated charcoal to absorb toxins, and intravenous fluids. Dogs will often need lab tests to evaluate toxic effects and hospitalization so they can be treated and closely monitored. Additional medications may be necessary depending on the case. Most dogs will fully recover if toxicity is caught soon enough and the dog receives medical care.
Everyday items are toxic to pets. Pet Poison Helpline.
Plumb's Veterinary Drug Handbook, 7th Edition. Donald C. Plumb, Pharm.D.