Can You Give Your Dog Cough Medicine for People?

Dog cough medicine is generally formulated to treat the specific type of condition that the dog is suffering from. Cough is a symptom of an underlying disease that may be either mild or more severe. One of the most common types of canine cough that dogs suffer from is known as kennel cough.

Kennel Cough

This cough is contagious and is commonly caused by the parainfluenza virus, Bordetella bronchiseptica and mycoplasma. Pets suffering from kennel cough require prompt treatment to prevent secondary infections. Kennel cough sounds different from other coughs, and can be easily diagnosed during a vet visit. Several pet owners use pediatric Robitussin to relieve excessive coughing, along with Vicks Vaporub to soothe irritation.

Tracheal Collapse

Pets are known to suffer from tracheal collapse due to obesity. This condition may also be controlled with cough medication and surgery. Medicines that contain dextromethorpan may be effective if administered in accordance with vet instructions.

Safety of Human Cough Medicine on Dogs

Although medicines formulated for humans are sometimes administered to pets to treat symptoms such as fever, pain and cough, the medicine has to be given in the appropriate dosage to prevent toxicity. Medication overdose is the most common cause of death due to toxicity in pets. Human cough medication can be effective in controlling excessive bouts of coughing. However, pets that show accompanying symptoms such as high fever, bloody nasal discharge or loss of appetite should be given prompt medical help. Antibiotic medication may also be necessary to completely cure the underlying infection.

Medicines Safe for Use in Dogs

Prescription medication is always preferred in comparison to over the counter medication. If the medicine doesn't bring any relief from the symptoms, the dog will have to be re-diagnosed for pneumonia or bronchitis. Human cough medications that may be used with caution in pets are those that contain dextromethorpan. Cough medicines such as Robitussin and Benylin contain dextromethorpan. However, pet owners should read the packaging labels and check for aspirin or acetaminophen content, as it can cause severe damage to the pet's body.


Although dextromethorpan is not approved by the FDA for use in animals, it has been used as a cough suppressant in dogs. Cough suppressants are not ideal for pets suffering from wet cough that's accompanied by phlegm, as it doesn't allow the body to eliminate mucus naturally. It's important for pet owners to talk to the vet before administering any human medication to dogs. The dosage and administration varies according to the condition and the initial response to treatment.

Risks Associated with Dextromethorpan

  • Dextromethorpan shouldn't be given to pets suffering from productive cough.
  • It shouldn't be used in combination with acetaminophen or caffeine.
  • Pets may also suffer from side effects such as nausea, dizziness and vomiting.
  • Dogs with known allergic reaction to the drug shouldn't be given medicines that contain dextromethorpan.
  • The general dosage is 0.5 to 1 ml for every pound of body weight. Overdose is fatal, so vet instructions should be closely followed.

Pet owners should always choose to conduct a vet check on pets suffering from cough, to rule out severe conditions that may cause permanent damage. Although human medication has worked effectively on some pets, it's best to use prescription medication after a correct diagnosis.