Can I give my dog Robitussin for kennel cough?

Photo by Mike Mozart on Flickr

Has your dog got a persistent cough of late? Does it sound as if they have something stuck in their throat and that they are on the verge of choking?

Well, it could be that your dog has kennel cough and in this article I look at the best ways of treating it.

My main focus will be on the cough suppressant Robitussin but there are alternatives as well. 


What is Robitussin?

Robitussin is a brand of cold and cough medicines produced by Wyeth, which is an American pharmaceutical company.  

These medicines are formulated to be used in humans and not dogs. 

In 2009 it was bought by Pfizer

The cough suppressant used in Robitussin is the medication Dextromethorphan. 

It comes as a syrup, lozenge, tablet and spray and there are well over a dozen different Robitussin products

What is kennel cough?

Kennel cough is a bacterial and viral infection that makes your dog cough and sound as if they are on their last legs. 

There are a number of bacteria or viruses that cause it. 

But don’t worry- although your dog might sound very poorly, kennel cough isn’t a serious condition and most dogs will recover without treatment.

The symptoms of kennel cough

The classic symptoms of kennel cough is a coughing sound which may make your dog sound a bit like a goose! 

Their cough is like a honking sound. 

Other symptoms include a runny nose and a loss of appetite

How is it transmitted?

It is called kennel cough because, once upon a time, that was where most dogs caught it.

After a visit to a local kennel.

But it is a highly contagious disease which can easily be caught from any other dog that has it.

A dog doesn’t need to visit a kennel to catch it.

But if dogs are kept together in cramped conditions with poor ventilation (and one or more of the dogs has the disease) then it will spread like wildfire.

But dogs don’t need to be in close contact with other dogs to catch it, as infected objects that are shared between dogs will also spread the disease.

Toys, food bowls and water bowls are just a few examples. 

Can I give my dog Robitussin for kennel cough?

Many veterinarians (such as this one and this one) recommend using Robitussin with your dog but to bear the following in mind.

Firstly, if your dog has a persistent cough that lasts longer than a few days then you should book them into see a vet as your dog might not have kennel cough but a more serious condition. 

Secondly, Robitussin is designed to be used with humans and not dogs and so you shouldn’t follow the dosage instructions on the packet!

Finally, Robitussin will not cure kennel cough, it will only suppress the cough because that is what the drug dextromethorphan does.

It stops the part of the brain that causes you to cough.

As I said earlier most dogs will get over kennel cough without any treatment but if you are after a cure then you need to visit your veterinarian and get some antibiotics. 

Like any other infection caused by bacteria or a virus, the only way drugs that will kill the virus or bacteria are antibiotics. 

If most dogs will recover from kennel cough without any medical intervention, then you need to bear in mind the side effects that using Robitussin might have…

Side effects of Robitussin

The most common side effect is nausea.  

Some of the milder side effects of this drug include: 

  1. Dizziness
  2. Drowsiness
  3. Restlessness
  4. Vomiting
  5. Stomach pain

How long does kennel cough last?

Kennel cough can last up to three weeks, particularly if your dog has pre existing medical conditions or they are in their “senior years”.

What over-the-counter medicines can you give a dog for kennel cough?

There are a variety of over the counter cough suppressants that will be as effective as Robitussin.

All of these products contain dextromethorphan and these include:

  • Coricidin®
  • Delsym®
  • Dimetapp®
  • Mucinex®

Can you use Manuka honey for treating kennel cough?

If you would prefer to treat your dog’s cough with a home remedy instead of using a commercial medicine, perhaps your best bet is to use honey- Manuka or otherwise.

The AKC believes that honey is safe to feed to dogs in moderation. 

Obviously there is a lot of sugar in honey and so it is packed with calories and it can rot teeth. 

And there is real evidence that honey can reduce the symptoms of a cough in humans.

And this advice has been given by the NHS- the UK’s healthcare system.

Children who had an acute cough, coughed fewer times and with less severity when they were treated with honey. 

So try it with your dog!

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!