Using Dextromethorphan (Robitussin DM) to Treat Kennel Cough Symptoms

In order to treat kennel cough, dog owners and veterinarians sometimes rely on medication that is primarily designed for humans. Dextromethorphan, or Robitussin as it is also known, is such a drug. Even though it has not been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) for use in animals, veterinarians use it frequently for suppressing chronic bronchitis and dry, nonproductive cough. It is available without a prescription, but you are highly recommended to take your dog to the vet before administering this drug, in order to establish the right dosage and to find out about the possible interactions.

Pharmaceutical Pathways

Tracheobronchitis, as kennel cough is also known, is suppressed as Robitussin mildly irritates the airways. Robitussin is also able to help with decongestion, because it contains an expectorant called guaiphenesin. It is also believed that Robitussin interacts with the cough center in the brain, and as a result, this issue is suppressed.

Recommended Dosage

Robitussin is available in several different concentrations, but the most common one is 2mg/ml. Since it is available both in liquid form and as tablets, there are a couple of ways to administer this drug.

The recommended dosage ranges between 0.5 and 1mg per pound, every 12 hours. For a precise dosage you need to take your dog to the veterinarian. The dosage varies according to the gravity of the symptoms and the overall response to medication. The dosage may need to be lowered if any side effects occur.

The duration of the treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Even though the symptoms may seem alleviated, the dog should complete the whole treatment plan. This measure is taken in order to prevent relapse.  

Contraindications of Robitussin

As with most drugs, there are certain situations when Robitussin is not recommended. First and foremost, some dogs are allergic to Dextromethorphan, or at least they display hypersensitivity to this drug. As an allergic reaction is difficult to deal with, Robitussin should not be administered in such a situation. It's recommended for mild coughs, so it may not be as reliable for dogs suffering from persistent or chronic cough.

Robitussin is also contraindicated if the dog suffers from a lung disease such as pneumonia. It should also be avoided if the cough appears as a symptom of a heart disease.

Drug Interactions

Some of the drugs that may interact with Robitussin include:

Make sure that your dog is not administered such medication while taking Robitussin. In order to find a complete list of drugs that could alter the effects, you need to talk to the veterinarian.

Adverse Reactions to Robitussin

In the majority of the cases, the side effects of Robitussin do not represent a great concern, as they are quite rare and are mainly related to sedation. However, other adverse reactions that your dog may have include:

  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dizziness
  • Excitability
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Seizures
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Tremor
  • Weakness

All these can be easily avoided by lowering the dosage or by administering an alternative drug that does not have such side effects.