Can I Give My Dog Decongestants?

Can I Give My Dog Decongestants?There will be times when your dog will benefit from the use of a decongestant. It may be due to respiratory congestion or a type of respiratory infection. Some over-the-counter decongestants can be given to your dog following a proper diagnosis and vet approval.

If you have a pet with noticeable congestion it’s tempting to run to the pharmacy to help ease their discomfort. This is sometimes more detrimental than good. Your dog’s system, including their upper respiratory tract, works somewhat differently from that of a human.

In addition, some dogs take well to human medication while others don’t. Each dog has a different sensitivity level in addition to an allergic profile to various drugs. OTC decongestants are no different, worse actually, which is why a vet’s prescription is the best way to go.

Can I Give My Dog a Decongestant? Answer: With a vet’s prescription

If you are thinking of giving your dog a decongestant for whatever reason, give your vet a call.

There’s a lot of confusion about what a decongestant is verses an expectorant, antihistamine and cough suppressant. Many medicines on the market overlap in treating symptoms and are a concoction of chemical remedies. This is why you really need to consult with your vet for the sake of your dog.

For example, Dextromethorphan is often used successfully for dogs but it isn’t really a decongestant. If you use this don’t exceed 1 teaspoon per twenty pounds of dog every six hours.

Working out exactly how much to give your pet, especially if you have a miniature dog, is difficult yet extremely important. Too much can be lethal and too little may not help at all. Most larger breeds likely need two teaspoons, while miniature types may only require just three quarters of a teaspoon. Your veterinarian, taking all the factors into consideration, will know the proper dosage as well as which decongestant to buy.

Know Your Dog’s Weight

Knowing your dog’s weight is key for administering any medicine. If you don’t know it try this: stand on a scale and weigh yourself and then stand on the scale holding your dog. The difference between the two weights is the weight of your dog. This isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s one way to weigh your pet.

We can’t stress enough the importance of the weight factor for treating your dog any human medication!

Some Safe Decongestants

There aren’t many safe decongestants you can buy over-the-counter for dogs. Sudafed seems to be the only pure OTC decongestant in pill form. You can give your dog an expectorant called Guaifenesin. This often includes Dextromethorphan, an effective cough suppressant, which is given every six hours or so. It comes in liquid form and one teaspoon per twenty pounds of dog is a reasonable guideline.

Diphenhydramine is useful but requires a vet’s approval and is actually a antihistamine, not a decongestant. Similarly, Hycodan is a cough suppressant, not really a decongestant, that can only be prescribed by vets. This will usually be given in extreme cases. Your veterinarian is only a phone call away!

If need be, you can break a tablet to ensure the right dose is being given. The advantage of this is you can crush the tablet and mix in with their food.

K9 Side Effects of Decongestants

Some severe side effects can result from giving decongestants recklessly. If your dog starts vomiting, trembling, becomes hyperactive, or appears to have an elevated heart rate, stop giving the medication immediately and contact your vet right away. An overdose of decongestants can certainly kill a dog.

It is likely your veterinarian will suggest that you bring the dog in immediately for evaluation. Some people try to induce vomiting at home.

So What to Do

Ultimately, deciding whether to give your dog over-the-counter decongestants or not is in your hands. It’s certainly best that you only do so with vet approval and their detailed dosage recommendation. Once you get the okay, keep a watchful eye on your beloved dog for early signs of a bad reaction. If you notice any harmful side effects, stop the medication immediately and notify your veterinarian.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine January, 2016

I’ve had English bulldogs for 20 years. Daisy is having congestive heart failure, she is over 10 years old. I’ve been to the vet but they want to charge me over $700 dollars. What do you suggest? They have her x-rays, blood work, etc. from a couple months ago. I just want her comfy. It’s her time to be home and happy with my hubby and I, in her safe place and not hooked up to IV’s.


Allan February, 2016

If your vet does not seem willing to work with you on a palliative care plan, go to another. You should also consider making arrangements for a vet to come out to your house when it is time to put Daisy down, should it come to that. Many vets will provide this service but not all. Plan in advance.


Joanne June, 2015

I have a 22 pound Dachshund. She has a wet cough and is sneezing intermittently. It’s almost like she has post nasal drip and is trying to get rid of it. I bought Robitussen expectorant but it is the adult version with dosage indicated at 2-4 teaspoons every 6 hours. How much would I give to her and how often and should it be only when she’s coughing or sneezing?


Sandy February, 2013

We have a Hound Lab mix and he is congested and sneezes through the day and night. He does have a large amount of mucous, and I noticed today his eye is blood shot. The vet gave him an antibiotic and he is bit better. Would it be safe to give him Mucinex?


James April, 2014

Hi Sandy. Yes, you can use Mucinex but please read the entire article for more information. How is your dog doing now?


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