A runny nose, a sore throat, and coughing, sneezing, and spluttering all over the place — getting a cold is no fun, and sometimes curling up on the lounge with your pet is the only thing that can make you feel any better. But if you're in close proximity to your dog, is it possible for you to share those nasty cold germs with your canine companion?
The good news is that no, as far as science knows, it's not possible for you to infect your dog with a cold. However, dogs can suffer from their own version of the cold virus, so it's important to know what you can do to look after your fur-baby when he or she is feeling under the weather.
Signs Your Dog Has a Cold
Although there are some key differences in the types of virus that infect us and our dogs, the symptoms dog colds and human colds produce are actually quite similar. An upper respiratory infection, a canine cold can produce a long list of familiar signs and symptoms in our four-legged friends.
At the top of the list are nasal congestion and discharge, which are otherwise better known as a blocked or runny nose. This may also result in some mild breathing difficulty for your pet.
Runny eyes and sneezing can also be common, while an occasional cough is another sign your dog may be battling a cold. General lethargy and weakness, a loss of appetite, and maybe a mild fever are other signs to keep an eye out for.
However, it's also important to be aware of the differences between a common cold and a much more serious problem such as kennel cough. This highly contagious cough makes a distinctive honking sound, and is typically transmitted at kennels and boarding facilities. Canine influenza and a range of other serious health issues can also affect our canine companions, so make sure you get any worrying symptoms checked out by a veterinarian.
The Science of Dog and Human Colds
Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that each year in the United States, there are millions of cases of the common cold. In fact, according to the CDC, adults have an average of 2-3 colds per year and kids have even more.
However, the majority of the viruses that cause colds in people are species-specific, and so cannot be transferred from human to dog. What about the flu? Can you share the flu with your canine companion? While the chances of this happening are rare, the answer is actually a surprising yes.
According to a March 2010 article in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases,
a cat was diagnosed with swine flu after presumably catching it from its owner. Since then, a small number of other isolated cases have seen domestic animals, including dogs, diagnosed with swine flu after apparently contracting it from their owners.
While it's extremely unlikely that your dog will ever be able to catch your flu, this is still yet another good reason to practice good hygiene whenever you're not feeling your best.
Protecting Your Dog Against Colds
Want to protect your dog from the discomfort of a cold? There are plenty of simple things you can do to help your dog avoid the sniffles, but the most important area to focus on is keeping your pet as fit and healthy as possible. Stay up to date with vaccinations, keep Fido's immune system in top condition, and make sure he has plenty of energy to fight off any nasty viruses or bacteria that may be headed his way.
Feed a balanced diet, make sure your dog has plenty of exercise, and don't forget to provide plenty of fresh water. Regular veterinary check-ups will help you stay on top of any health problems, and make sure your dog is kept warm and dry during the colder months.
When it comes to treatment, in many mild cases all you need to do is manage the symptoms of your dog's cold and try a few home remedies. Encourage your dog to rest, give him lots of fresh water, and make sure he eats plenty of food. Wipe down a runny nose and eyes with a warm, damp cloth every now and then to help him stay comfortable, and consider inviting him into the bathroom while you have a shower so that the steam can help clear out some of the congestion. Also, take steps to ensure that your pet is always warm and dry.
However, if your dog is struggling to breathe, refusing to eat or drink, or hasn't gotten over their cold after a week or so, book him in for an appointment with your veterinarian. A thorough check-up will allow your vet to rule out anything potentially serious, and then recommend the best course of treatment. If your dog does have a cold, treatment could involve antibiotics, cough suppressants, decongestants, and even anti-inflammatories to help your pet get back on his feet.
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 02/20/2018, edited: 04/06/2020