Read This Before Giving Your Dog a Decongestant!

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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.

Can I Give My Dog Decongestants?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.

Combination Pharmaceuticals

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.

This means Sudafed, which is a pure decongestant, is strictly off limits. The same goes for certain versions of Theraflu.

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.

What Do You Think? Have Your Say Below…

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13 thoughts on “Read This Before Giving Your Dog a Decongestant!”

  1. My tiny Chihuahua has a cough, but nothing is coming up. There are no other symptoms. He is keeping water and food down. There are no problems with urinating or pooping. What can I give him that is OTC? Thank you.

  2. My 13 year old dog started having sneezing, congestion, wheezing and coughing. She has been on antibiotics 2 times and steroids and Benadryl almost every day. What else should I give her?

  3. We had a horrible experience with our 12 pound Westie mix. Benadryl is not working. A vet suggested Claritin but we almost overdosed her. She is ok now. What about herbal teas and honey? Someone suggested a tea of bay leaf, thyme and oregano?

  4. My 8 pound Chihuahua has really bad allergies. This is the third time this year we are heading to the vet. Reverse sneezing and a wet runny nose are her main symptoms. Her nasal congestion is bad.

    They give her a steroid shot and put her on Comfortis for her flea allergies, but I need something to nip this before she gets so miserable. Last year was her first year having such problems. She is an inside dog and four years old.

  5. I have a 70 pound yellow Lab (9 years old). Lately, in the past 3 days, he has a cold, congestion and a stuffy nose (heavily at night). He stays inside the house.

    What do you recommend for his stuffy nose? Are there any medicine we can give to him at home?

  6. My Pomeranian has an enlarged heart and seizures. Both are under control, but he has became very congested. He pants constantly and his ruff stays wet with saliva.

    My vet suggested children Benadryl but it made him pass out. We are now trying Dimetapp but it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. I could use some good suggestions.

  7. Jean Lever says:

    I have a 10 year old spayed Maltese. She does not have heartworm but she sounds like she is having trouble breathing. I know something about CHF and these dogs also have problems with a collapsed trachea.

    My vet won’t see her because I owe some money. Would Prednisone help either? I don’t want her to be uncomfortable.

  8. Catherine says:

    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.

    1. 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.

    2. Hi Catherine. I have a 20 year old Chihuahua and she’s in congestive heart failure which is breaking my heart. I can’t afford to take her back to the vet. I try to keep her comfortable, but there are nights like this one where here chest sounds so full of fluid she can barely take a breath.

      She’s crippled on top of it all and is in a lot of pain at times. I give her a few drops of CBD oil and that helps her with pain but I need to find something for her chest congestion. Do you have any helpful hints? Please email me at

  9. 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?

  10. We have a Hound Lab mix. 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?

    1. 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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