The Dangers of Pepto Bismol in Pets


Pepto Bismol is a common medication in US households. You may recall the TV commercial that states “pink does more than you think". Pepto Bismol has been used to quell nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, and diarrhea in humans for decades. While dog parents may occasionally use over the counter (OTC) medications to help their pup with minor ailments, they should only be given under the direction of your veterinarian. Some OTC medicines are safe for dogs, while others are not. Pepto Bismol is one of those drugs that can cause more harm than good to your dog’s overall health.

See Digestive Help Collection

What is Pepto Bismol?

Pepto Bismol is an OTC medicine containing the active ingredient “bismuth subsalicylate". Subsalicylate is part of a class of drugs called “salicylates”, more commonly known as aspirin. The salicylates in Pepto Bismol could cause gastric bleeding in some dogs, so its use should be closely monitored. It is a myth that Pepto Bismol reduces hot spot itchiness and there is no scientific proof that it helps hot spots. In fact, applying Pepto Bismol to a hot spot can risk a subsalicylate overdose if the dog licks it off the hot spot. Pepto Bismol can be purchased in liquid, tablet, or caplet form; however, the caplet form is never recommended for dogs.

How is Pepto Bismol safely administered to dogs?

The liquid form of Pepto Bismol is the safest form of the drug because it provides the most accurate dosage. Tablet cutting will not provide a precise dosage and it also opens the risk for an overdosage.  A dog who accidentally takes too much Pepto Bismol will require a veterinary visit. Chronic use is NOT recommended. 

What are the signs of a Pepto Bismol overdosage?

Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog shows any of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea or bloody stool
  • Vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Weakness, tremors, seizures, or collapse

What conditions in dogs are contraindicated for Pepto Bismol? 

  • Dogs with bleeding disorders
  • Dogs who are pregnant or nursing
  • Dogs who are currently taking antibiotics or aspirin
  • Dogs taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as Rimadyl and Deramaxx. Dogs taking these medications are already at risk for stomach ulcerations or perforation.
  • Puppies
  • Dogs with allergies to the active ingredient bismuth subsalicylate

What are the risks and dangers of administering Pepto Bismol to dogs?

  • Pepto Bismol creates black stools and can mimic melena (digested blood in the stool). Once it is administered, it is more difficult to distinguish between Pepto-induced black stools, which are a harmless pigment change, and a more serious gastro-intestinal problem.
  • Pepto Bismol tablets are radio-opaque, meaning that they show up as dense objects on a dog’s abdominal X-ray. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian before giving Pepto to your dog, especially when follow-up care is required. Unnecessary surgeries have been performed on dogs who were thought to have swallowed a metal object such as a coin, when in fact, it was a Pepto tablet in their intestinal tract.
  • Pepto Bismol can cause gastric ulcer disease in dogs. This risk can increase if the dog is already taking aspirin or an NSAID for other conditions. Using Pepto with steroids like prednisone can also increase risk of GI ulceration.
  • Pepto Bismol can interact negatively with other medications. In addition to exacerbating the risks of NSAIDS, Pepto can also increase the risk of abnormal bleeding in dogs on anti-coagulants. It can also reduce the efficacy of tetracycline antibiotics such as doxycycline. Pepto Bismol should be avoided in dogs taking ACE inhibitors, some diuretics, and digoxin (used to treat heart conditions).
  • Pepto Bismol is detrimental to a nursing puppy or a canine fetus.
  • Pepto Bismol may interfere with laboratory tests, causing incorrect results on urine glucose and ketone tests.

Are there better options than Pepto Bismol for treating GI upset in dogs?

There are much better options than Pepto Bismol for treating stomach upset!

For nausea and vomiting, try products such as Gastro Elm or Gut Soothe.  Check out my blog on GI upset and how to make congee.

For treating diarrhea, RX clay, Dr. Harvey’s Runs Be done, or plain pureed pumpkin. Check out my blog on treating diarrhea:

Other over-the-counter medications that can be administered include Pepcid (famotidine) and Prilosec (omeprazole) for gas and upset tummy. These medications should not be used long term. However, I recommend to never give your dog any medication without consulting your veterinarian. Just because a medication works for you, or you heard it worked for another dog, doesn’t mean it will work for your pup. When consulting with your veterinarian about using Pepto Bismol or any OTC drug, always let them know all medications, supplements, vitamins, treats or anything else you give to your dog. You can never have too much caution when using human medications on your dogs!

See Digestive Help Collection

Photo by João Victor Xavier on Unsplash




Back to blog