Suppressing Canine Cough with Human Medicines

Canine cough is a symptom of a respiratory infection called "kennel cough" as well as a number of conditions ranging from minor to more serious illnesses. Kennel cough is a highly contagious disease, especially in close quarters, but one that's relatively easy to treat with over-the-counter cough suppressants made for humans. Such medications allow dogs with kennel cough to rest and recover, often without seeing a vet. However, your vet may or may not recommend human cough medicine to treat coughs signaling other illnesses.

Kennel Cough Is Contagious

Kennel cough is a highly contagious infection that spreads through the air or upon contact. Coughs sound like honking and gagging, and may worsen when your dog drinks water, feels stress or experiences temperature changes. It's important to isolate your dog to keep him from infecting other canines. Sometimes cough medicine will help alleviate the symptoms of kennel cough, but sometimes you shouldn't use over-the-counter cough medicine.

Cough Symptoms Treatable with Human Medicine

Human cough medicines sold over-the-counter may help alleviate these symptoms of kennel cough:

  • Non-productive cough
  • Retching
  • Bouts of intense coughing with intervals of minimal coughing
  • Runny nose with clear discharge

When Simple Cough Medicine May Not Be Recommended

Your dog's respiratory condition may worsen. If your dog has a runny nose with discolored discharge, runs a fever, or loses interest in food, a vet should assess whether other medications, like antibiotics or a prescription cough medicine, are warranted instead of simply over-the-counter cough suppressants. Cough suppressants do not help dogs with wet, productive coughs, for instance. Moreover, a lingering cough may signal your dog has pneumonia, the flu, parasitic infections, congestive heart failure or heartworms. In such cases, ask your vet whether you should administer human cough medicine to your dog.