Written by David Reich — Fact checked by Piet Hellemans, DVM
Yes, dogs do get colds, but these are not the same as human colds. Dog colds may go away on their own if your dog’s immune system is strong enough. However, it is advised to take care of your dog the same way you would care for a human if you notice they are sick. Most colds are harmless, but some may be more serious. Consult your vet if symptoms persist.
Can dogs catch colds?
Can dogs get colds? Yes, dogs do get colds, but it’s different compared to human colds. Dogs get viruses like parainfluenza and bacteria like Bordetella bronchiseptica, while humans get colds from viruses like rhinovirus. At times, you might hear dog colds being referred to as kennel cough or canine cough. Most of the colds you will find in dogs is due to a combination of many infectious agents.
Most dog colds aren’t life-threatening; they are however irritating. Any infection that causes a cold in a dog can make them sniffle and sneeze. However, the cold can mask more serious illnesses in your dog.
What is a dog cold?
Dog colds are always a result of a wide array of viruses and bacteria. These infectious beings group together to cause similar symptoms like sniffling and sneezing. Some of these contagious beings tend to be more serious compared to others. That’s why you need to treat your dog immediately you detect any cold symptoms.
How do you know if your dog has a cold?
Most dog’s cold symptoms are easy to identify and include:
- Watery eyes
- Congested or runny nose
- Trouble breathing
- Loss of appetite
If your dog experiences most of these cold symptoms, it’s advisable to take it to a vet.
What does a dog cold sound like?
When coughing, the dog might sound like it’s trying to cough something up. Furthermore, you can listen for sounds like honking or gagging. Remember to inform your vet ahead of time because these colds can end up being contagious to other dogs.
Can a dog get a cold from humans?
No, dogs can’t catch colds from humans. These cold viruses are species-specific; thus, they can’t be transferred from you to your dog and vice versa. Therefore, if you have a cold, don’t worry that you might end up passing it to your dog.
It may not always be a cold…
Your dog can showcase the symptoms listed above, but these symptoms could be other dog illnesses. These illnesses include:
- Canine distemper
- Dog allergies like hay fever
- Kennel cough
Dogs catch canine distemper from a highly contagious virus known as the paramyxovirus. This virus primarily affects dogs, but it can also affect grey foxes, skunks, raccoons, ferrets, and many other animals. The condition affects the immune, skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous systems, and the symptoms can show after 14 days of exposure. Some symptoms of canine flu or distemper include:
- Eye discharge
- Nasal discharge
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Skin sores
- Thickening of foot and nose pads
Furthermore, dogs catch colds or canine flu from being around other wild animals and dogs with the virus. Vaccination against this virus is one of the best ways of ensuring that your dog is safe. Any puppy and an older dog that isn’t vaccinated is more vulnerable to canine distemper.
Dogs can have hay fever or allergies due to exposure to allergens. These reactions can take a while before they reveal their symptoms. If a dog has allergies, the immune system can have lower response rates, thus harming the body. The most common symptoms of dog allergies include:
- Itching of the skin
Allergies are common in dogs of all backgrounds and breeds. Most of these will emerge when your dog is six months old, while the effects can become serious while the dog is one or two years old. The most allergy-causing subjects in dogs are plants, mould spores, pollens, dust mites, and proteins from insects.
Kennel cough in dogs has multiple causes, just like human colds. You know your dog has a kennel cough if he is constantly making noises that insinuate that he’s choking. This, however, isn’t a cause for concern, even though it might sound terrible. Most dogs get to recover from the cough without any treatment. The most common symptoms of the cough include:
- Forceful, persistent cough
- Eye discharge
- Runny nose
- Loss of appetite
There are a few factors that might lead to your dog getting the cough, they include:
- Travel induced stress
- Exposure from cigarette smoke or dust
- Cold temperatures
- Exposure to crowded areas
Do dog colds go away on their own?
If your dog’s immune system is strong enough, it is possible that a light cold can go away on its own. Nonetheless, just like with humans, you will need to take care of your dog to help it get healthy again.
Treating your dog’s cold from home
As long as your dog is eating, breathing, and drinking normally, you can manage its cold from home. To properly manage the cold from home, you need to consider adding liquids like beef and low sodium chicken broth to the feeding foods. Fluid intake is vital in dogs just like it is in humans. This ensures that your dog remains hydrated.
Furthermore, you can give your dog clean, fresh water. In case your dog’s sense of smell is affected, feed him with strong odour foods. They can encourage him to eat. More so, you can increase odour’s by pouring tuna juice into the regular food. You can as well consider showering with your dog in the bathroom.
The steam from the shower can help remove any sinuses that the dog might have. Besides, this can help loosen up the available congestion. Likewise, when walking the dog, you should consider switching from a collar to a harness. When your dog gets colds, its collar might irritate the trachea. Furthermore, the harness can help keep the dog quiet, thus avoiding further harm and irritation to the lungs and trachea.
Avoiding wild play and running is another way of ensuring that your dog heals quickly. Always watch other dogs to ensure that they don’t get the cold or cause cold reinfection. You can also clean any discharge from your dog’s nose and eyes at least twice a day. Using a warm compress can help soften all the dried discharge.
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to getting cold in the winter – make sure you put some protective clothing on them such as dog sweaters when you take them for a walk.
Treating your dog’s cold through a vet
If you want to get rid of your dog’s cold, you can seek some professional aid from a vet. This helps rule out serious infections and causes of the cold. Besides, the vet will conduct tests to know whether the dog has a serious condition. The common tests will include listening to the lungs and heart, bloodwork, fecal analysis, and radiographs.
These tests will help highlight the cause of the dog’s cold and help the vet know which treatment plan will work great for your dog. The treatment will always rely on the cause of the cold. In most cases, mild dog cold will resolve on its own. However, infections like kennel cough will require a treatment protocol that will include fluids, cough suppressants, antibiotics, and rest.
How to prevent your dog from catching a cold
Unfortunately, there are no vaccines for the common dog flu. That’s because of the wide array of viruses that can cause dog cold symptoms. However, your dog can be vaccinated against the common cold, distemper, kennel cough, and canine cold or influenza. These vaccines will help minimize the risk of the dog contracting the disease.