Respiratory: Cough Medicine

Cough is a symptom of several respiratory disorders;

Symptomatically a cough can be treated by different medicines such as expectorants and suppressants and home remedies. However, it is important to note that while treating the cough symptoms will help your dog, an effort should be made to remove the underlying cause.

For example, cough due to allergy can be only be completely eradicated by the use of antihistamines. Similarly antibiotic therapy for infections will help to eradicate the cause along with the cough.

If your dog coughs for more than a day, be sure to see a veterinarian. If cough is accompanied by rapid breathing, it could indicate a heart problem. Contact/see your veterinarian immediately.

Types of Cough Medicine for Dogs

Natural Cough Medicine for Dogs Home Remedies

Home remedies used as a cough medicine includes raw honey, sugar & peppermint.  One recommendation for acute cough from the book Homeopathic Care for Dogs and Cats is to take dry herbs, mixing as a tea, add one teaspoon of the listed ingredients below steeped in 1 cup boiling water. After steeping remove herbs and give a dropperful to smaller dogs, or 1/2 teaspoon per 20 pounds to larger dogs. Provide 3x to 4x per day.

Homeopathic Cough Medicine for Dogs

Homeopathic remedies can help dogs maintain a clear chest and to breath easier. It can also help with a dry or hacking cough. Ingredients such as Plantago lanceolata (for clear chest, nose and throat), Bryonia (soothes throat) and Echinacea purpurea (immune system support) can all be of help. One product made specifically to help with canine cough and that is a good resource for additional research on homeopathic care is PetAlive KC-Defense Formula..

Dog Cough Suppressants & Cough Expectorants:

Cough Suppressants or “Anti Tussives” are those medicines used to suppress or reduce cough by different means, such as by acting on the “cough center” in back of the brain. These medicines are usually administered to help with dry cough.

Cough expectorants or “Mucolytic agents” are used in productive cough, which dissolves the thick or dense mucous, thus reducing cough by helping to clear the respiratory systems' airways.

Cough suppressants and expectorants help with symptoms only. symptomatic treatment only. Some examples of products used to suppress dog cough are codeine, morphine and hydrocodone.

Cough Expectorants and Suppressants only provide relief to the respiratory tract or reduce nervous stimulation which causes cough, but is not a solution to the reasons why the dog is coughing in the first place and therefore is not considered to be an adequate treatment for cough.

If your dog is coughing more than 1x per hour, an over the counter cough suppressant may be of help. Be sure to buy one that only contains the ingredient dextromethorphan (Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough Syrup). Check with your veterinarian for the correct dosage. A general guideline is .5 to 1 mg per pound of body weight (1 teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight every 6 hours).  Make sure products do not contain aspirin or acetaminophen; these are dangerous for dogs.

There are side effects associated with these products including addiction, high blood pressure and drowsiness.

Anti-histamines for Dog Cough:

Anti histamines are used to help with dog cough caused by several types of allergies. Allergic components which may cause cough in dogs includes pollution, dirt and pollen and hayfever. One type of antihistamine given to dogs is Diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Call your veterinarian for the right dosage which as a general guideline is 3 milligrams of Benadryl multiplied by the weight in pounds of your dog.

Dogs are sometimes sensitive to anti histamines; drowsiness is the most common side effect.

Antibiotics for Canine Cough:

Antibiotics are not supposed to be prescribed for the cough itself, but they are prescribed when they are needed to eliminate the cause of the infection causing cough. Antibiotics prescribed for infectious respiratory diseases associated with dog cough include chloremphenicol, gentamycin, quinolones and tetracycline. Antibiotics should never be used along with corticosteroids.

Formulations of Cough Medicine for Dogs:

Available medicines are formulated as syrups, tablets, capsules or aerosols. Different combinations are also available. Suppressants and expectorants are sometimes delivered in combination to enhance the effect. Similarly various syrups are available in combination of anti histamine & expectorants which are used only for allergies.

Antibiotics can be used with cough suppressants, but with those having no steroidal properties. Morphine is one such example, which can’t be used along with antibiotics.

Many other herbal and natural remedies are also available for treating cough in dogs; these preparations contain honey and peppermint.


Sometimes, cough medicines may not work. This is because of poor or irrelevant diagnosis, e.g. cough suppressants have no or a minimal effect on product or moist cough. Cough due to infectious disease cannot be cured by expectorants or suppressants alone. So a detailed and confirmatory diagnosis is required prior to administrating cough medicines.