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Kaopectate is an over-the-counter drug that veterinarians sometimes recommend for dogs with gastrointestinal upset. Kaolin and pectin were the primary ingredients in Kaopectate’s original formula, though in recent years, these were swapped out for bismuth subsalicylate, the active ingredient in Pepto Bismol. Some brands of Kaopectate sold outside of the US contain attapulgite, a clay-based mineral manufacturers use in place of bismuth. 

Bismuth subsalicylate coats the stomach and esophagus to protect the body from digestive acids while also neutralizing the stomach contents. Evidence suggests that Bismuth has antimicrobial properties and may help heal damage to the stomach lining

Dosage

Vets usually suggest 0.5 to 1.5 ml per lb of liquid Kaopectate, or up to half of a 262 mg tablet per 7.5 lbs. You can give this medicine 1 to 3 times daily, with or without meals, for up to 48 hours. 

Dosage instructions

First, shake the bottle to reincorporate any active ingredients that have settled to the bottom. Using an oral syringe, draw up the correct dosage for your dog’s body weight. Position the tip of the syringe near your dog’s molars, in the area between their gum line and inner cheek. Slowly apply pressure to the plunger until all the medication is gone. 

Don’t squirt the liquid too quickly, since this may cause your dog to aspirate. You may need a friend to help administer the medication, especially for large or strong dogs.

Efficacy

Both animal models and human studies show that bismuth is an effective treatment for nausea and vomiting, with a success rate of up to 80%. When given to a study group of 275 infants with diarrhea, a 4-day course of bismuth stopped diarrhea in nearly 90% of the babies. 

Another human study of 48 volunteers with upset stomach found the active ingredient in Kaopectate reduced bloating, indigestion, gas, and discomfort in the research group.

Research also indicates that the subsalicylate in Kaopectate is equally important for canines with diarrhea since it prevents fluid loss and lowers the risk of dehydration.

Active ingredients in Kaopectate

Bismuth subsalicylate or attapulgite

Side effects

Kaopectate can cause some unusual side effects in canines like:

  • Change in stool color

  • Black tongue

  • Excessive drinking

  • Tiredness

  • Loss of coordination

  • Stomach pain

  • Fever

  • Constipation

Considerations

This medication shouldn’t be given to pets with uncontrollable diarrhea that persists for over 48 hours. Severe diarrhea can quickly turn into dehydration and requires immediate veterinary attention. 

Avoid giving Kaopectate to your dog before an X-ray; bismuth is a contrast agent and can obstruct radiography. This medication may also cause inaccurate urinalysis results, especially in large dosages. 

Kaopectate can worsen intestinal bleeding, stomach ulcers, and clotting disorders, so it shouldn’t be given to dogs with a history of these conditions. Since Kaopectate darkens the feces, it can obscure the outward signs of internal bleeding and delay the diagnosis of serious illnesses. 

Drug interactions

Since Bismuth coats the stomach, it can interfere with the digestion of certain medications, particularly antibiotics and blood pressure medications. If your dog takes other medications, wait at least 2 hours after the last dose to administer Kaopectate.

Certain diuretics can inhibit the excretion of bismuth subsalicylate, causing adverse side effects. In severe cases, loop diuretics, in combination with salicylate-containing drugs (like Kaopectate), can lead to irregular heartbeat, overheating, neurotoxicity, and death. 

Other drugs Kaopectate may interact with include: 

  • NSAIDs (including carprofen) 

  • ACE inhibitors

  • Digoxin

  • Chloroquine

  • Valproic acid

  • Sulfonylureas 

  • Metformin

  • Meglitinides

Allergic reactions and sensitivity

Never use Kaopectate in animals with allergies to Pepto Bismol, meloxicam, carprofen, or other NSAIDs. Alert your vet immediately if your dog becomes unresponsive, has swelling of the tongue or throat, or develops hives. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I use Pepto Bismol in place of Kaopectate for dogs?

Pepto Bismol

is a safe alternative to Kaopectate since it contains the same active ingredients. Most vets suggest 5 ml of Pepto Bismol per pound of bodyweight. Never give your dog new medications without consulting with a vet first — particularly if they have coexisting conditions or take other medications. 

Is Kaopectate safe for dogs and cats?

Although safe for dogs, the active ingredient in Kaopectate can cause a life-threatening reaction in felines. Only use this medication for cats under the explicit direction of a veterinarian. 

Is Kaopectate safe for dogs who are nursing or pregnant?

No, never give Bismuth-containing drugs to pregnant or lactating animals.

Can I mix liquid Kaopectate with dog food if my pet won’t keep it down? 

Yes. Food doesn’t affect the absorption of Kaopectate for dogs. Mixing this medicine with food is a great way to mask the taste (and help them keep it down, too!).

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