If a dog consumes cough syrup, what are the possible outcomes?


Cough syrup is a common medication used to treat coughs in humans. However, it is important to note that cough syrup contains several active ingredients that can be harmful to dogs if ingested. As responsible pet owners, we need to be aware of the possible outcomes if our dogs consume cough syrup and how to prevent it from happening.

Ingredients in cough syrup

Cough syrup typically contains a combination of ingredients that work together to suppress coughing. These ingredients include dextromethorphan (DXM), acetaminophen, and antihistamines. DXM is a common ingredient found in most cough syrups, and it can cause severe toxicity in dogs. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage and anemia in dogs, while antihistamines can cause drowsiness, lethargy, and disorientation.

How do dogs consume cough syrup?

Dogs can consume cough syrup in several ways. They may accidentally ingest it if it is left within their reach, or they may be given the medication by their owners without realizing the potential harm. Dogs may also be attracted to the sweet taste of cough syrup and consume it willingly. It is important to note that even a small amount of cough syrup can be toxic to dogs, depending on their size and weight.

What happens when a dog consumes cough syrup?

When a dog ingests cough syrup, the active ingredients can quickly enter their bloodstream and cause a range of symptoms. These symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, cough syrup toxicity can lead to liver failure, kidney failure, and even death.

Symptoms of cough syrup toxicity in dogs

The symptoms of cough syrup toxicity in dogs may vary depending on the amount of medication consumed, the size of the dog, and the specific ingredients in the cough syrup. Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, disorientation, tremors, seizures, and difficulty breathing. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms after consuming cough syrup, seek veterinary attention immediately.

How to diagnose cough syrup ingestion in dogs

If you suspect that your dog has consumed cough syrup, it is important to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Your veterinarian may perform a physical examination and take blood and urine samples to assess your dog’s overall health and check for any signs of toxicity. They may also ask about your dog’s medical history, including any medications or supplements they have been taking.

Treatment options for dogs that consume cough syrup

The treatment options for dogs that consume cough syrup will depend on the severity of their symptoms and the specific ingredients in the cough syrup. In some cases, your veterinarian may induce vomiting to remove the medication from your dog’s system. They may also administer activated charcoal to bind to any remaining medication in your dog’s stomach. In severe cases, your dog may require hospitalization for supportive care, including intravenous fluids, oxygen therapy, and medication to manage their symptoms.

Can cough syrup be fatal for dogs?

Yes, cough syrup can be fatal for dogs if not treated promptly. The active ingredients in cough syrup can cause severe toxicity, which can lead to organ failure and death. It is important to seek veterinary attention immediately if you suspect that your dog has consumed cough syrup.

Preventing cough syrup poisoning in dogs

To prevent cough syrup poisoning in dogs, it is important to store all medications out of their reach. Keep cough syrup and other medications in a secure cabinet or cupboard, and make sure that any discarded medication is disposed of properly. If you need to give your dog a medication, always consult with your veterinarian first to ensure that it is safe for them to take.

Alternatives to cough syrup for dogs

If your dog is experiencing coughing or other respiratory symptoms, there are several alternatives to cough syrup that are safe for dogs. These may include herbal remedies, supplements, or prescription medications that are specifically formulated for dogs. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of treatment for your dog’s specific needs.


Cough syrup can be harmful to dogs if ingested, and it is important to take steps to prevent accidental poisoning. If your dog does consume cough syrup, seek veterinary attention immediately to minimize the risk of severe toxicity and organ damage. By being aware of the potential risks and taking steps to prevent them, we can help keep our furry friends safe and healthy.


ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. (n.d.). Dextromethorphan Poisoning in Dogs. Retrieved from

Pet Poison Helpline. (n.d.). Cough Medications Poisonous to Dogs. Retrieved from

VCA Hospitals. (n.d.). Acetaminophen Toxicity in Dogs. Retrieved from

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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