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.