A dog's cough can be indicative of serious disease. However, dogs can cough for other reasons: dust or allergens in the air, kennel cough, or a collapsed trachea. In such cases, an over-the-counter cough suppressant, or over-the-counter kennel cough medicine, might be appropriate to control or to prevent coughing. Always consult your dog's veterinarian if you're uncertain about the severity of your dog's illness. Cough suppressants should never be used by dogs who could possibly have pneumonia.
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Cough suppressant for dogs
Dogs who have a dry, nonproductive cough can be treated with over-the-counter cough suppressants intended for human use. These cough suppressants should contain the active ingredient dextromethorphan, which suppresses the cough center in the brain. Unlike prescription narcotic-based cough suppressants, dextromethorphan typically does not cause drowsiness. Products that contain dextromethorphan include the additive-free formulations of Robitussin, St. Joseph Cough Suppressant for Children, and Vicks Formula 44 Soothing Cough Relief.
Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine can be used to treat coughs associated with airborne allergens. Benadryl is a commonly used antihistamine for treating dogs and is a safe cough suppressant for dogs. It is also used to treat side effects of allergies, swelling, and inflammation. Benadryl, however, can cause drowsiness which can help with anxious dogs while travelling, especially to and from the kennel.
Over-the-counter kennel cough medicine
Kennel cough is an infectious disease that can be both viral and bacterial. It generally does not need treatment and usually will resolve on its own in one to three weeks. A cough suppressant can be useful when a dog's cough is severe enough or frequent enough to interfere with her ability to rest. While a cough suppressant can help a dog be more comfortable during her recovery, it only treats the dog's symptoms. A cough suppressant does not cure kennel cough.
Furthermore, treating a dog with a cough suppressant might reduce the chance of a collapsed trachea. A cough suppressant reduces coughing episodes — the more episodes, the greater the possibility of the trachea collapsing. Canine cough suppressants can also be combined with a prescribed sedative when needed. However, dogs who have had surgery to correct a collapsing trachea often need a prescription cough suppressant, such as torbutrol, rather than an over-the-counter product.
Dog cough medicine side effects
Cough suppressants should not be used for a cough that produces mucus, because the body needs to remove mucus from the lungs by coughing. Also, dextromethorphan should not be used in pregnant or nursing females; neither should it be used by animals with allergies to the drug.
Some side effects of dog cough medicine include excitement, nausea, high blood pressure, dizziness, drowsiness, or reduced rates of breathing. It's also possible for dogs to become addicted to dextromethorphan so use cautiously. Note also that antihistamines can cause drowsiness and/or an allergic reaction in some dogs.
Contact the vet
If your dog is coughing for more than a day or if her symptoms grow worse, consult your veterinarian for an updated diagnosis. Chronic coughs lasting for a week or more might be a symptom of other lung, airway, or heart disease. Dogs who have severe cases of kennel cough may need antibiotics to control their cough. The antibiotics do not directly treat the cough, but might be necessary to treat secondary infections as a result of the cough.