Treating Dog Kennel Cough with Butorphanol

Butorphanol tartrate is a prescription drug that’s classified as a controlled drug by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency of the United States. Hence, there are certain legal requirements for stocking and prescribing it.

Butorphanol belongs to the opiate agonist class of drugs and is a sedative with analgesic properties. In addition, it has anti-tussive properties and is used as a cough suppressant in the treatment of canine kennel cough.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, also known as tracheobronchitis, is a common and contagious respiratory disease that is prevalent among non-vaccinated puppies and in dogs that reside in kennels, shelters and homes with multiple pets. It’s characterized by a hacking cough and is caused by damage to the trachea and upper bronchi as a result of a viral or bacterial infection.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough:

  • Dry, hacking cough
  • Phlegm
  • Retching
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Lethargy 
  • Pneumonia


Butorphanol is an opiate sedative that’s an anti-tussive as well. Butorphanol works in 2 ways and is an agonist as well as an antagonist. It stimulates the kappa and sigma receptors and antagonizes the mu receptors. It’s a cough suppressant, a sedative and a short acting analgesic.

If administered in low doses, it effectively suppresses coughs and in high doses, it works as an effective pain reliever. Although it’s an opiate, it doesn’t slow respiration.

Treatment of Kennel Cough with Butorphanol

Although a dog with kennel cough can recover without treatment, Butorphanol is prescribed in the tablet form or the injectable form as a cough suppressant because persistent cough can cause damage to the trachea.

Side-Effects of Butorphanol

There are few and temporary side effects of Butorphanol. These include grogginess, drowsiness, lack of appetite and diarrhea. In rare cases, there can be a severe and fatal allergic reaction in over sensitive pets. Some dogs might also get hypotension as a result of the administration of Butorphanol. An overdose of Butorphanol can result in seizures and if your pet has a seizure after taking Butorphanol, contact the vet at the earliest.


The drug is contraindicated in dogs with nervous system disorders or pets that have suffered from trauma in the head. Dogs with renal disorders shouldn’t be given the drug as they might not be able to metabolize and eliminate the drug. Butorphanol shouldn’t be administered in conjunction with drugs such as barbiturates, tranquilizers and anti-histamines as it can cause seizures. It’s also contraindicated in lactating dogs as it can be secreted in the mother’s milk.

Dogs with liver disease shouldn’t be administered Butorphanol as such pets wouldn’t be able to excrete the drug from their bodies. The drug is also contraindicated in dogs with hypothyroidism, hydrocephalus or Addison’s disease.

You should only administer Butorphanol after obtaining vet approval. It’s important to complete the entire treatment plan, even if your pet is better, in order to prevent the development of resistance to the drug and decrease the chances of a relapse.