Is Cough Medicine Safe for Dogs?

Cuteness may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Some types of cough medication contain ingredients poisonous to dogs.
Image Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Just like a person, your dog may need a bit of cough medicine to help him feel better if a persistent cough is making him miserable. While some types of human cough medication are safe to give to your dog, others aren't. If your vet thinks that it's necessary, she'll prescribe the proper type and dosage of cough medication to give your pooch.


Video of the Day

Visit the Vet

If your pooch is coughing, several things could be the cause, including a viral, fungal or bacterial infection, allergies, tracheal collapse or a foreign body lodged in the throat. Once your vet determines the cause of your pup's coughing, she can treat it. In addition, she may prescribe a medication to help encourage or discourage his coughing, depending on the cause. Some illnesses cause a dry cough, while others cause a productive cough. Productive coughs result in mucus being expelled from the body and usually are caused by an infection. If your pup has a productive cough, your vet may prescribe an expectorant to encourage the mucus to come out of his system. Dry coughs won't produce any mucus and typically can be quelled by a cough suppressant medication.


Dog-Safe Ingredients

In cases where your pup has a dry cough, your vet may prescribe a cough suppressant called dextromethorphan. Dextromethorphan typically is prescribed to treat chronic bronchitis and dry, unproductive coughs in dogs. This ingredient is found in pet-specific medications and over-the-counter human cough medications; your vet will recommend one that is safe for your pup. Another ingredient, guaifenesin, is a type of expectorant found in many cough medications, usually in combination with dextromethorphan. Your vet may prescribe a cough medication containing guaifenesin if your pup has a moist, productive cough. This muscle relaxant helps to stimulate bronchial secretions, making your pup's moist cough more productive.


Side Effects and Precautions

Only give your pup the exact type of cough medication your vet prescribes, even if it is an over-the-counter product, because formulations may vary. Typical side effects of dextromethorphan include nausea, dizziness, vomiting and drowsiness, according to An overdose can cause more serious effects, including a decreased rate of breathing. Side effects of guaifenesin include an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. An overdose can cause vomiting, tremors, hypothermia and a lack of coordination. These medications may not be appropriate for pregnant or nursing pooches, so consult with your vet. Always administer these drugs as directed by your vet to prevent an accidental overdose.


Ingredients to Avoid

Human cough medications may contain ingredients in addition to dextromethorphan and guaifenesin that aren't safe for dogs. These ingredients include acetaminophen, caffeine, xylitol and ibuprofen, all of which are toxic to dogs if ingested. Cough medications for people also may contain unsafe doses of antihistamines and decongestants for dogs, including pseudoephedrine, brompheniramine and chlorpheniramine. To prevent your pooch from becoming poisoned by additives to human cough medication, give your dog canine-specific cough medicine when possible. Always inform your vet of the name and brand of cough medication you are giving your dog. If possible, bring the medication into your vet's office for her to approve before giving it to your dog.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.