Kennel cough is rarely fatal and often clears up without much medical management or intervention.

Still, there is no lack of dog cough medicine out there that can help treat the condition.

From natural remedies for kennel cough that can ease your dog’s symptoms using things you might have in the cupboard at home, to more powerful kennel cough antibiotics that kill the bacteria quickly, there are a lot of things you can do to help relieve your dog’s pesky cough.

Maybe the humidifier and the honey in warm water just won’t cut it this time, and you’re looking for another way to alleviate your dog’s bothersome symptoms effectively. Here, we will divulge everything we know about dog cough medicine and how it helps.

When Does My Dog Need A Cough Suppressant?

Dog owners cringe at the thought of their dog coming down with the dreaded kennel cough. We all know what kennel cough sounds like by now, so when you hear that dry ‘honking’ cough, you will do anything to help relieve their symptoms.

In many cases, kennel cough will resolve on its own with some tender loving care, but sometimes you need to further the treatment.

You may consider a cough suppressant if:

  • They are unable to sleep because they can’t stop coughing.
  • They are coughing so often and harshly that they are having a hard time catching their breath.
  • They are coughing constantly or close to it.
  • The dog is experiencing syncope or fainting due to loss of breath and in turn, lack of oxygen to the brain.

What Dog Cough Medicine Can I Give My Dog?

What cough medicine can I give me dog
Cough suppressants are also referred to as “antitussive drugs”. They are meant to relieve persistent and chronic coughing, making it necessary for some Bordetella or kennel cough cases.

Many antitussives are opiates or opioids; therefore, they are very addictive and can cause some adverse side effects. Antitussives are often available via prescription only, and for a good reason.

They suppress retching and hacking by turning off cough receptors in the brain. Neat, huh?

Common antitussives are:

  1. Codeine
  2. Hydrocodone
  3. Butorphanol
  4. Dextromethorphan

Codeine

Codeine offers better oral bioavailability than morphine, meaning it is absorbed more efficiently and effectively in the oral tissues. It is still super addictive and can cause possible toxicity in animals.

Signs of toxicity include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Excitement
  • Convulsions
  • Sedation
  • Excitement
  • Sedation

Hydrocodone

Hydrocodone is more potent than codeine but can sometimes be prescribed for small animals. The use of hydrocodone is not encouraged in cats due to adverse side effects.

Common side effects of hydrocodone in dogs are:

  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Constipation

Butorphanol

100 times more potent than Codeine, butorphanol is an opioid and can be used as a sedative for dogs. Because Butorphanol is not well absorbed orally in dogs, they require ten times the average dose to see results.

Butorphanol has been used for kennel cough in cats to relieve pain. It may cause these symptoms in cats:

  • Disorientation
  • Swallowing
  • Licking
  • Mydriasis (pupil dilation)
  • Sedation

Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is non-addictive and is not a pain reliever or analgesic. Dextromethorphan is the active ingredient in most over the counter cough suppressants like:

  • Robitussin DM
  • Day-quil
  • Delsym
Do not give your pet your prescriptions!

Sharing prescriptions with your pet may sound like a good idea to some, but please believe that it is not! A human amount is at least double an animals’ dose in most cases.

Antitussive or expectorantDosageSide effects
Dextromethorphan½  teaspoon per 10 pounds

Or

2.46 milliliters

Or

5 – 7.5 milligrams

*Cats 2-4 milligrams

  • Mild sedation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
Guaifenesin (expectorant)½ teaspoon per 10 pounds

Or

2.46 millilitres

Or

30 – 50 milligrams

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Mild decrease in blood pressure
  • A minor increase in cardiac rate
Codeine  (opiate)1-2 milligrams dependent on weight
  • Muscle spasms
  • Excitement
  • Convulsions
  • Sedation
  • Excitement
  • Sedation

Especially in cats

Hydrocodone (opiate)0.25 milligrams dependent on weight
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
Butorphanol (opiate)0.055 milligrams dependent on weight

*Cats 0.1 – 0.4 milligrams

  • Disorientation
  • Swallowing
  • Licking
  • Mydriasis (pupil dilation)

Dog Cough Medicine And Suppressants

Dog cough suppressants
Two ingredients that are commonly used in a dog cough medicine are:

  1. Dextromethorphan
  2. Guaifenesin

Both have limited side effects though no drug is completely free of side effects.

Important: Do not administer any drug, over counter or prescriptions without advice from your veterinarian.

Dextromethorphan

Dextromethorphan is commonly used and recommended by veterinarians but requires close attention to dosing requirements and at least a phone consult with your trusted family vet. Just because the product is available without a prescription, doesn’t allow for carelessness when it comes to dosage instructions or frequency of doses.

Possible side effects of dextromethorphan include:

  • Mild sedation
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

You should not administer dextromethorphan to dogs who are:

  • Pregnant or nursing
  • Suffering from heart disease

Guaifenesin

Guaifenesin is a muscle relaxant and expectorant frequently used by veterinarians to:

  • Relax and restrain small and large animals
  • In place of anesthesia
  • Treat respiratory conditions

Guaifenesin is generally safe for use as dog cough medicine, but as usual, caution must be taken when administering doses. Dogs who are given a concentration of more than 5% of guaifenesin run the risk of developing hemolysis.

Hemolysis in dogs occurs when the immune system attacks the oxygen storing red blood cells of the body. Signs of hemolysis are:

  • Exhaustion
  • Weakness
  • Panting
  • Pale gums

Over The Counter Dog Cough Medicine

Over the counter dog cough medicine
Dextromethorphan is the antitussive and cough suppressant often used in products for treating kennel cough. Dextromethorphan & Guaifenesin are the non-habit-forming, active ingredients in such over-the-counter medicines as Robitussin DM.

Can I Give My Dog Robitussin For Kennel Cough?

Yes. Robitussin DM can be useful in treating a kennel cough; however, the evidence is somewhat anecdotal.

Pet owners and veterinarians have used Robitussin to calm a hacking cough, but studies have shown that Dextromethorphan and other over-the-counter medicines for pets can have a short half-life in dogs at about 2-3 hours. Because of this, it is crucial to avoid overmedication.

Can I give Robitussin to dog?

How Much Cough Medicine Should I Give My Dog?

With dextromethorphan at 10mg/5mL and Guaifinisin at 100mg/5mL, Robitussin’s recommended dose for dogs is one teaspoon per 20 pounds.  Here’s where your math skills come in.

A dog’s dose of Robitussin is about 5 milliliters per 20 pounds or 5mL/9kg.  Five milliliters is equal to about a teaspoon, so a Let’s say you have a 40-pound dog, they will be given two teaspoons. A ten-pound dog will only be administered ½ of a teaspoon and so forth.

Kennel Cough Medicine From Walmart

Robitussin DM is readily available at Walmart, as well as any standard drug store in your area. You can go directly to robitussin.com and find local retailers near you.

Kennel Cough Medicine PetSmart

kennel cough medicine from PetsmartHomeopet has a top-selling dog cough medicine simply titled, Homeopet – Cough. 

Many have left positive reviews describing their amazement of this “totally natural” kennel cough treatment option. This product does appear to be all-natural, but let’s talk about some of the familiar active ingredients.

  1. Aconitum nap
  2. Belladonna
  3. Antimon tart

As with many medicinal plants, they can be toxic. Let’s compare the benefits and risks of these three of many active ingredients in Homeopet’s product.

Aconitum Nap

Aconitum napellus, a native plant of western and central Europe is fondly dubbed “a purple poison”. It has been used medicinally to treat a respiratory condition like:

  • Asthma
  • Fever
  • Pneumonia
  • Laryngitis

Belladonna

Ingestion or contact of belladonna berries and leaves can lead to irritation or even death. Despite its toxicity, belladonna continues to show up in homeopathic remedies for animals and humans alike.

The toxic plant has been used to treat ailments such as:

  • Colds
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat

Signs of belladonna overdose:

  • Dry mouth
  • Red face
  • Increase in body temperature

Antimon Tart

Antimonium tartaricum has been used to treat cough, offering some expectorant effects.

Side effects include:

  • Sweats
  • The rattling of mucus – which may help a non-productive cough
  • Cough due to mucus buildup

Risks of Kennel Cough Medicine

Risks of kennel cough medicine
We listed the natural ingredients in a seemingly popular over the counter kennel cough medicine for dogs, to demonstrate that everything can be toxic if misapplied. This goes for any dog cough medicine, natural or prescription.

Signs of Toxicity of Dextromethorphan

  • Muscle spasms
  • Sedation
  • Agitation
  • Seizures
  • Increased body temperature

Potential Toxicity Levels Of Dextromethorphan In Dogs

Dog’s WeightPotential Toxicity
1 – 10 lbs.

(0.45 – 4.6 kg)

0.9 mg or more
11 – 25 lbs.

(5 – 11.4 kg)

10 mg or more
26 – 40 lbs.

(11.8 – 18.2 kg)

23.6 mg or more
41 – 70 lbs.

(18.6 – 31.8 kg)

37.2 mg or more
71 – 90 lbs

(32.3 – 40.9 kg)

64.6 mg or more
91 – 110 lbs

(41.4 – 50 kg)

82.8 mg or more

*Please note that these are the levels at which overdose occurs, not a maximum dosage. Consult your vet whenever you’re considering medication for your pet.

Conclusion

Many dog cough medicines and kennel cough remedies are readily available from your supermarket or vet. Doting pet owners will pay almost anything to see that their pet is enduring as little suffering as possible, but with some medicines, you could hurt more than help.

Please, always ask your vet for help and suggestions before you go around buying every product the internet has to offer for your dog’s case of kennel cough!

Until next time, we’ll be here delving into more research about kennel cough and what you can do to help your beloved pet.