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What to Give a Dog for a Cough: Safe Natural Remedies and Medications - PawSafe
Dog Healthcare

What to Give a Dog for a Cough: Safe Natural Remedies and Medications

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

what to give a dog for a cough

Home remedies for a dog’s cough are a convenient and natural way of freeing your dog of their discomfort. But first, if your dog is coughing, it’s important to determine the underlying cause before seeking appropriate remedies.

 The reason for determining the underlying cause first is the cough may be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as heart disease or cancer. However, in many cases, a cough can be treated with simple remedies or over-the-counter medications(only with your vet’s go-ahead. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best things to give your dog for a cough, depending on the cause. By following tips from key veterinary sources, we have you covered as you combat the doggy flu at home.

So your dog is having a coughing fit as if they’re clearing something stuck. It’s almost as uncomfortable for you to watch as it is for your dog to feel. The first thing to do is to know what’s up, and your vet is most qualified to tell you that. 

Still, most mild cases are not a cause of concern. So, you can wait a day or two to see if they will go away on their own. As you’re waiting on your vet and giving your pet some time is when natural remedies for dog colds come in. However, always call your vet if your dog’s coughing has other signs like trouble breathing, lethargy, and inappetence. 

It’s important to note that random cough medicine should not be given to dogs with pneumonia, as it can make things worse. If your dog’s cough persists or worsens, seek veterinary attention immediately.

Understanding Dog Coughs

Dog throat clearing can be caused by various factors, including allergies, infections, and even foreign objects. It is important to understand the different types of coughs and the common causes to determine the best course of action.

Types of Canine Coughs

There are different types of cough that dogs can experience, and each type can indicate a different underlying issue. Here are the most common types of cough:

  • Dry cough: This is a hacking cough that does not produce any phlegm or mucus. It can be caused by allergies, dust, or irritants in the air.
  • Wet cough: This is a cough that produces phlegm or mucus. It can be a sign of an infection, such as kennel cough or pneumonia.
  • Honking cough: This is a loud, honking cough that can be a sign of tracheal collapse, a condition where the trachea narrows and makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. Sometimes, reverse sneezing has a honking sound.
  • Hacking Cough: This is a repetitive, forceful cough that can sound like the dog is trying to clear something from its throat. It may be due to tracheal collapse, allergies, or foreign body ingestion.
  • Cough with Exercise: Some dogs may develop a cough only during or after exercise, which can be a sign of exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or allergies.

Common Causes of Dog Coughing

Our article on dogs trying to clear their throat goes much deeper into the causes of canine coughing. Now that we know the different types of cough let’s take a look at the common causes. 

  • Infections: Bacterial or viral infections can cause coughing in dogs. Kennel cough is one of the most common causes of hacking in dogs, which you can learn more about in the linked post.
  • Allergies: Just like humans, dogs can also have allergies to pollen, dust, or other environmental factors. Allergic reactions can cause coughing, sneezing, and itching.
  • Tracheal Collapse: Small breeds, such as Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, can develop a condition where the trachea weakens, causing a chronic honking sound and sometimes dry heaving.
  • Heart disease: Heart disease can cause wheezing, especially at night or after exertion. This is because the heart is unable to pump blood effectively, causing fluid to build up in the lungs.
  • Foreign objects: Dogs are curious creatures and may ingest foreign objects, such as toys or bones, which can get stuck in their throats and cause choking.
  • Cancer: Tumors or cancer in the respiratory system or nearby areas can cause coughing as one of their symptoms.
  • Chronic Bronchitis: Similar to humans, dogs can develop chronic bronchitis, leading to a persistent cough and breathing difficulties.
  • Anatomic Abnormalities: Some dogs may have structural issues in their airways or esophagus that lead to chronic racking noises. Brachycephalic (short-snouted) dogs experience this issue.

The underlying coughing cause can vary widely, and proper diagnosis is essential to provide appropriate treatment and relief for your canine.

Natural & Home Remedies for Dog Cough

It’s important to note that natural remedies are only a temporary solution and never a substitute for medical care. Seeking veterinary hastens recovery and cuts your pup’s discomfort short. Still, these solutions can be of help:

Hydration

Ensuring that your dog stays hydrated is crucial when dealing with a cough. A study on patients with respiratory infections found that drinking water reduces the viscosity of mucus, in turn allowing the body to maintain a healthy production of mucus. 

Chicken Fat (and broth) — Omega-6 fatty acid

Omega-6 fatty acids found in poultry fat promote inflammation. Promoting inflammation sounds like the last thing you need to do, but when ill, inflammation is a part of the body’s healing process. You can also boil chicken for broth to hydrate and nourish your dog. Don’t give your dog too much chicken fat to prevent pancreatitis.

Humidity

Increasing the humidity in your home can help soothe your dog’s cough. Consider using a humidifier or placing a bowl of water near a heat source to add moisture to the air. This can help alleviate dryness and irritation in their respiratory system.

However, don’t use essential oils and incense in your humidifier, as these have drastic effects on canines.

Honey

Raw, unpasteurized honey can be beneficial for soothing a dog’s cough. It has natural antibacterial properties and can help relieve throat irritation. Several human studies have proved that honey reduces mucus and cough. Moderation is key when giving dogs honey since they’re not adapted to that sugar content.

  • Mix ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey into a cup of water. 
  • You can also crush a bit (¼ to ½ )a teaspoon of ginger into the mixture as it’s been shown to help with colds.
  • Some advise giving the teaspoon of honey directly, but diluting is best.

Probiotics

Probiotics can support your dog’s immune system and promote respiratory health. Look for high-quality probiotic supplements specifically formulated for dogs. Consult your veterinarian for the appropriate dosage based on your dog’s size and condition.

Support Your Dog’s Immunity (Long-term)

Giving your dog vitamins and minerals like zinc, vitamin E and C, Selenium, and Echinacea (a herbal supplement) promotes their immune system. Don’t supplement selenium and zinc, as they’re toxic in large amounts. Instead, get them from natural foods like chicken and beef. 

A study on 41 dogs with upper respiratory issues in Switzerland found that 92% of the dogs showed improvements in the symptoms while on Echinacea after four weeks. The recommended dosage is 10 grams per 10kg.

However, conflicting studies show that Echinacea does not have a significant impact on the course of a cold, so it could be the above dogs simply recovered.

OTC Human Cough Medicines Ingredients That Are Dangerous To Dogs

When your dog has a cough, it can be tempting to give them some of your own cough medicine to help them feel better. However, many OTC human cough medicines contain ingredients that can be harmful or even deadly to dogs.

Here are some of the common ingredients found in human cough medicines that are dangerous for dogs. Note that most of these ingredients are used for dogs, but exist in dangerously high amounts in human medicines. 

  • Acetaminophen: Can cause liver damage and red blood cell damage in dogs.
  • Ibuprofen: Can cause stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage in dogs.
  • Pseudoephedrine: Can cause high blood pressure, seizures, and heart problems in dogs.
  • Xylitol: Can cause a rapid insulin release, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure in dogs.
  • Ephedrine: Ephedrine is a stimulant sometimes found in OTC cold medications, and it can lead to serious issues in dogs,
  • Caffeine: Can cause restlessness, rapid breathing, heart palpitations, muscle tremors, and seizures in dogs.
  • Antihistamines: Can cause lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs. Some antihistamines, such as those containing chlorpheniramine, can also cause hyperexcitability and seizures in dogs.
  • Aspirin: This can cause stomach ulcers, kidney damage, and liver damage in dogs.
  • Menthol: Can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures in dogs.
  • Dextromethorphan: Can cause agitation, vomiting, and diarrhea in dogs.
  • Decongestants: Can cause restlessness, rapid breathing, high blood pressure, and heart problems in dogs.

If your dog has a cough, it’s important to talk to your veterinarian before giving them any medication. Your vet can recommend a safe and effective cough medicine specifically for dogs.

Related Posts:

Signs and Symptoms of OTC Cough Medicine Poisoning

Remember, always consult with your vet before giving your dog any medication, including cough medicine. They can recommend safe and effective treatments for your dog’s cough that won’t put their health at risk.

Some of the signs and symptoms of OTC cough medicine poisoning in dogs include:

If you suspect that your dog has ingested cough medicine or is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately. Your vet can assess your dog’s condition and provide appropriate treatment.

Recognizing Symptoms of a Dog Cough

If you are a dog owner, you know that dogs can cough for a variety of reasons. It might be a sign of a minor irritation or a more serious health issue. As responsible pet owners, it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of a dog cough.

Physical Symptoms

Physical symptoms of a dog cold may include:

  • Persistent coughing;
  • Fever(look at how to spot a fever without a thermometer);
  • Wheezing or gasping for air;
  • Runny nose or eyes;
  • Sneezing;
  • Vomiting;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Lethargy;
  • Difficulty breathing;

If your dog is experiencing any of these physical symptoms, it’s important to take them to the vet as soon as possible.

Behavioral Changes

In addition to physical symptoms, dog flu may also cause some behavioral changes. These may include:

  • Restlessness;
  • Irritability;
  • Anxiety;
  • Aggression;
  • Difficulty sleeping; and
  • Avoiding exercise.

Remember, coughing can be a sign of a serious health issue, so it’s important to take your dog’s symptoms seriously. By recognizing the symptoms of a dog cough, you can help keep your pet healthy and happy.

When to Visit a Vet

If your dog has a cough, it’s important to monitor their symptoms closely. While many coughs can be treated at home, some coughs may be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. Some dog owners followed a hunch regarding their dog’s coughing and found something major, like heart disease.

Here are some signs that it may be time to visit a vet:

Severity of Symptoms

If your dog’s cough is persistent and severe, it may be a sign of a more serious condition. Some symptoms that may indicate a more serious problem include:

  • Coughing up blood;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Lethargy; and
  • Fever.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Duration of Cough

If your dog’s cough persists for more than a few days, it may be a sign of a more serious problem, mostly heart issues, collapsed trachea, and kennel cough. While some coughs can be treated at home with rest and fluids, if your dog’s cough lasts for more than three days, it’s important to visit a vet.

Good Over-the-Counter Medications

Never use OTC medicines on your dog before contacting your vet first. The last thing we want is to make anything worse. Nonetheless, here are some OTC cold meds:

Cough Suppressants

Cough suppressants are medications that help reduce the urge to cough. These can be helpful for dogs with a persistent cough that’s causing discomfort or interrupting sleep. However, it’s important to choose a cough suppressant that’s safe for dogs and to follow the dosing instructions carefully.

One common cough suppressant for dogs is dextromethorphan. This medication can be found in many human cough syrups, but it’s important to choose a product that’s specifically formulated for dogs and to check with a veterinarian before giving it. Dextromethorphan can have side effects and may interact with other medications.

Decongestants

Decongestants are medications that help reduce nasal congestion. They can be helpful for dogs with a cough caused by a cold or other respiratory infection. However, it’s important to choose a decongestant that’s safe for dogs and to follow the dosing instructions carefully.

One common decongestant for dogs is pseudoephedrine. Again, this medication can be found in many human cold and allergy medications, but must be specifically formulated for dogs.

Pseudoephedrine can have side effects and may interact with other medications. It’s also important to note that decongestants may not be effective for all types of coughs.

Prescription Medications

When a dog has a persistent cough, prescription medications may be necessary to provide relief. Here are two common types of prescription medications:

Antibiotics

If a bacterial infection causes a cough, antibiotics may be prescribed to help clear up the infection. The type of antibiotic prescribed will depend on the specific bacteria causing the infection.

 It is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully when giving antibiotics to a dog, as they should be given at specific intervals and for the full duration of the prescribed treatment.

Bronchodilators

Bronchodilators are medications that help to open up a dog’s airways, making it easier for them to breathe. They can be used to treat coughs caused by conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Bronchodilators can come in the form of inhalers, tablets, or syrups. It is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully when administering bronchodilators to a dog, as they can have side effects if not used correctly.

Preventing Future Coughs

As responsible pet owners, we want to ensure that our furry friends stay healthy and happy. In addition to treating a cough when it arises, there are steps we can take to prevent future coughs from occurring.

Vaccination

One of the most important steps we can take to prevent coughs is to ensure our dogs are up-to-date on their vaccinations. 

Vaccines can protect against infectious diseases that can cause coughing, such as kennel cough and canine influenza. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines are recommended for your dog based on their lifestyle and risk factors.

Regular Check-ups

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian can help catch and treat any health issues before they become more serious. During these visits, your veterinarian can also assess your dog’s overall health and make recommendations for preventative care. This can include things like parasite prevention, dental care, and nutrition.

Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help prevent coughs. This includes providing your dog with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation. Avoid exposing your dog to environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke and air pollution.

Additionally, if you have multiple dogs, try to keep them separated if one of them is coughing to prevent the spread of illness.

By taking these preventative measures, we can help keep our dogs healthy and happy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What can I give my dog to help with coughing?

If your dog is experiencing coughing, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian before giving them any medication. However, there are some things you can do at home to help ease your dog’s cough, such as using a humidifier, keeping your dog away from irritants like smoke, and making sure they stay hydrated.

How can I treat my dog’s cough at home?

In addition to using a humidifier and keeping your dog hydrated, there are some natural remedies that may help ease your dog’s cough. These include honey and herbal supplements like Echinacea and ginger. However, it’s important to talk to your vet before trying any new remedies.

What is the best cough medicine for dogs?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best cough medicine for your dog will depend on the underlying cause of their cough. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best course of treatment for your dog.

What are some remedies for an old dog coughing and gagging?

Older dogs may experience coughing and gagging due to a variety of reasons, such as respiratory infections, heart disease, or cancer. Some remedies that may help ease their symptoms include using a humidifier, feeding them small meals throughout the day, and avoiding exercise that may cause them to cough.

Can I give my dog human medicine for a cough?

No, you should never give your dog human medicine without consulting with your veterinarian first. Many human medications can be toxic to dogs and can cause serious harm or even death.

Why does my dog keep coughing and gagging?

There are many reasons why your dog may be coughing and gagging, including respiratory infections, heart disease, allergies, and even kennel cough. It’s important to have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause of their symptoms and to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has been helpful in guiding you on what to give your dog for a cough. Remember, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian before administering any medication or home remedies to your pet. If your dog’s cough persists or worsens, it’s best to seek veterinary care to identify the underlying cause and receive proper treatment.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.