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Do you think your dog may need a decongestant? Are they stuffed up and having difficulty breathing through their nose?
We’ll tell you which brands and active ingredients can be used on canines.
But, quite honestly, a diagnosis should be the first step. Otherwise, it’s probably best to do nothing at all.
Whether it’s congestion or any other type of discomfort, you obviously want to avoid worsening your dog’s situation.
The thing is…
Some decongestants aren’t good for an upper respiratory tract infection and the same goes for a weakened immune system.
Only Give Your Dog a Decongestant If Your Vet Approves
We asked Sara Redding Ochoa (DVM) for her thoughts and here is what she told us:
“Upper respiratory infections and seasonal allergies are common reasons why dogs can have difficulty sleeping at night. Following a diagnosis, certain nasal decongestants can be given on a temporary basis. They’re most effective when given before bed time as a way to enable a more restful night.”
But, make no mistake, a decongestant can also be counterproductive and even detrimental for your dog.
You should let your veterinarian do a check-up to form the basis for the right treatment.
There is confusion about what decongestants can do verses expectorants, antihistamines and cough suppressants.
The truth is many of these types of medicines overlap in treating symptoms and are, to be honest, a concoction of chemical substances.
Here is an example:
Dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) and Guaifenesin (an expectorant) are both active ingredients in Robitussin DM. Despite not actually being a decongestant, this medicine essentially does the same thing and can be successfully used on dogs.
Which Names Are Dangerous?
Avoid anything that contains Pseudoephedrine or Phenylephrine. They can harm your dog and it could be quite serious.
Zyrtec-D, Claritin-D, Aleve-D, Mucinex-D are to be avoided as well!
You’ll notice the D stands for decongestant, but too often the active ingredients are super risky. Carefully check the label for those two ingredients!
Decongestants And Other Drugs
Unfortunately, there aren’t many safe decongestants for dogs that can be purchased over-the-counter.
Oxymetazoline is good choice because it is not easily toxic. This active ingredient is used in nasal spray brands including Afrin, Dimetapp, Vicks Sinex, Zicam and Mucinex Sinus-Max Full Force.
It makes sense to look at similar drugs that can alleviate congestion.
We’ve already mentioned Guaifenesin and Dextromethorphan.
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is commonly used on canines.
It’s an antihistamine that can act as a decongestant (especially if the underlying cause for the congestion is allergy-related. It has a pretty good track record when it comes to dogs!
Hycodan (Hydrocodone Bitartrate) is also a possibility. It is particularly effective for nasal congestion, but it requires your vet’s prescription.
A Word About Dog Dosing
Too much could be lethal while too little may not help, and this certainly applies to decongestants.
We cannot generalize about dosing here as it would be irresponsible.
A good vet, based on several factors, will recommend an appropriate decongestant as well as the correct dose.
Knowing your dog’s weight is important for determining how much to give, but there are other variables as well. Leave it to the professionals!
Monitor For Side Effects
As with any drug, decongestants can cause bad things can happen. Your dog may experience vomiting, trembling, hyperactivity and an elevated heart rate (among other troubling signs).
Given recklessly, an overdose could even be fatal.
It cannot be stressed enough:
Bring your dog to a clinic ASAP if they react poorly. While it’s possible to induce vomiting at home, it’s highly recommend that you head to your local veterinary practice.
The Bottom Line
There are decongestants that can be administered to dogs, but they require vet approval and detailed instructions.
Once treatment begins, keep a watchful eye for adverse reactions. You should immediately stop the medication upon observing worrisome side effects.
Further, any decongestant (or drug equivalent) requires a careful review of all active ingredients and dosing guidelines before being used your dog.