A nasal decongestant is simply any pharmaceutical or over-the-counter remedy that reduces the swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose and sinuses as well as loosens mucus congestion. The problem with using these products on pets is that they are extremely toxic and could result in cardiac arrest if not used correctly. Some nasal decongestants are safe for animals, but they need to be prescribed by a vet. Some nasal decongestants are available over the counter.

The two most popular decongestants are phenylephrine and pseudoephedrine. These substances are frequently present in cold, flu, and allergy treatments. Decongestants, which cause vomiting, dilated pupils, significant blood pressure changes, irregular heart rhythms and rates, tremors, and seizures, can be fatal when unintentionally consumed by dogs and cats. Potentially fatal symptoms may require immediate medical attention.

How Do Nasal Decongestants Work?

The active ingredient in many nasal decongestants is phenylephrine. This drug works by constricting the blood vessels in the nose. This reduces the pressure and any pain that may be associated with it. The effects can last up to four hours or even more depending on the dosage. Phenylephrine is also used as a decongestant for people, which means there are potential side effects for both humans and animals. While this drug does not show adverse reactions in most cases when given at recommended doses, signs of overdose include fast heart rate, high blood pressure, seizures, and tremors.

How Do You Use Nasal Decongestants for Dogs?

There are a variety of over-the-counter medications you can buy that are safe for your dog. Ask your vet about prescription varieties or if you have any questions. If your dog is experiencing severe congestion or doesn’t have any relief with over-the-counter medication, then you should immediately head to the vet. Your vet may prescribe an anti-inflammatory nasal spray or antihistamine nasal spray, which will help get rid of any swelling in the nose. Your vet may also prescribe an oral steroid nasal spray, but these can be addictive. Talk to your vet about what’s best for your dog. Nasal decongestants for dogs come in many different forms and sizes, so choose one that best fits your pet’s needs!

Overuse of Nasal Decongestants in Dogs

Too much use of a nasal decongestant for dogs can lead to clinical signs, including the potential for addiction. It has been found that some dogs will chew their feet to obtain even more of this medication, which can lead to kidney or liver damage and heart failure. A nasal decongestant for dogs is only prescribed when other methods have failed; sometimes no drug is needed at all if an underlying cause is identified. 

If your pet exhibits signs of lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, incoordination, seizure activity, or muscle tremors after taking a nasal decongestant, then it may be necessary to visit your vet right away.

Safe Alternative to Nasal Decongestants for Dogs

A safe alternative to nasal decongestants for dogs is a saline spray. The spray can be used similarly, including spraying it into the nostrils of your pet. This can help reduce sinus pressure and clear up congestion. There are several different ways that nasal decongestants for dogs can be administered such as topical or oral application. Consult your veterinarian before administering any medications.