Can Dogs Get a Cold?

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Introduction

Achoo! A sore throat, runny nose, coughing and sneezing — the dreaded feeling of coming down with a cold is all too familiar to most of us. Unfortunately, the common cold is also an ailment that can affect our canine companions, even producing many of the same symptoms in dogs as it does in us. 

Human colds and dog colds are two completely different beasts, however, and there's no need to worry about sharing your germs with your pooch. That said, colds can still cause plenty of discomfort and difficulty for your four-legged friend, so it's important to be aware of what you can do to stop your pet from getting a nasty case of the sniffles.

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Colds

There's often not a great degree of difficulty associated with realizing that your dog has a cold. After all, many of the symptoms of doggy colds are identical to the ones you experience when you're feeling under the weather.

At the top of the list is a runny or congested nose, which is sometimes accompanied by slight breathing difficulty through the nose. Sneezing and coughing are also common symptoms, and it's pretty easy to notice as your dog coughs and splutters their way around the house (and sometimes all over you!). Along with runny eyes and a dripping nose, it can make your dog look like a complete mess.

You may notice that your dog is lethargic, a little weaker than normal, or perhaps reluctant to get up and get moving. This may be accompanied by a reduced appetite, which is a very common indicator that your dog is not feeling its best. 

If your pooch will sit still long enough to let you take their temperature, you may also notice that they're running a slight fever. However, the good news is that cold-like symptoms in your dog are usually nothing to stress about and can be easily managed with a little extra care at home.

Body Language

Your dog's body language may include a range of clues that indicate they have a cold, such as:
  • Panting
  • Sniffing
  • Weakness
  • Yawning
  • Dropped Ears

Other Signs

Other signs of doggy colds include:
  • Runny or Congested Nose
  • Runny Eyes
  • Coughing and Sneezing
  • Mild Fever
  • Reduced Appetite
  • Lethargy

The Science of Dog Colds

There's no one specific virus that can be called the "common cold virus" for dogs. Instead, there are several different viruses that can produce cold-like symptoms in our furry friends. Cold viruses are also species-specific, so you don't need to worry about passing your cold on to your canine companion (or vice versa).

In many cases, the symptoms are relatively mild and your dog will be able to fight off the virus without any need for special treatment. However, there are several other illnesses and conditions that can produce similar symptoms but which are much more serious, so it's important to be aware of when you need to take your dog to the vet. Other illnesses to be aware of include:

  • Kennel Cough. A highly contagious virus that causes a distinctive "honking" cough, kennel cough gets its name because it's commonly spread in boarding kennels. Speak to your vet about how you can vaccinate your dog against kennel cough.
  • Influenza. Mild cases of the flu can produce a moist or sometimes dry cough and a runny nose, and will usually go away on their own within 10 to 30 days. However, severe cases can produce a high fever and also cause pneumonia to develop.
  • Parasites. Several types of parasites can get into your pet's lungs or trachea and cause a chronic cough, so seek veterinary assistance if your dog has a persistent cough.
  • Allergies. It may also worth considering whether your dog's illness may be caused by allergies. For example, if your dog's symptoms last for an extended period of time, they may be caused by environmental allergens such as dust or pollen. If they're accompanied by skin problems and even an upset stomach, they could be caused by food allergies.

Treatment and Prevention of Dog Colds

Just like human colds, canine colds often don't require much in the way of treatment. Instead, the focus is on managing the symptoms and helping your pet stay as comfortable and healthy as possible so they can fight off the virus. 

However, if you have a puppy or an older dog with cold-like symptoms, their immune system may not be as strong as possible so it's a good idea to seek veterinary help. You should also visit your vet if your dog is showing severe cold-like symptoms or doesn't show any signs of improving after a few days.

Your vet will be able to perform a physical exam and potentially run a variety of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your dog's ailment. Treatment will then depend on what is causing the cold-like symptoms for your pooch.

Mild colds will usually resolve themselves within a week or so with a little extra love and TLC from you. Give your dog plenty of rest, give them plenty of water to drink, and make sure they're eating a healthy diet.

However, if your pet is diagnosed with kennel cough, for example, treatment could include rest, administering fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary infections, and cough suppressants.
Whatever the cause of your dog's runny nose, cough, and other cold-like symptoms may be, your vet will be able to put together a treatment plan to get your dog back to full health as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Colds

  • Due to the wide range of viruses that can cause cold-like symptoms in our pooches, there's no vaccine that can protect your dog against colds.
  • There are vaccinations for some serious conditions and illnesses that cause cold-like symptoms, such as kennel cough, distemper, and influenza. Speak to your vet to find out how to protect your pet, and make sure you always stay up to date with your dog's vaccinations.
  • If your dog is showing any cold-like symptoms, make sure to keep them warm and dry to help their immune system fight off the germs.
  • Avoid sick dogs. Keep your ears peeled for news of any doggy disease outbreaks in your local community and try to limit your dog's contact with sick dogs.
  • Do whatever you can to boost your dog's immune system, such as feeding a balanced diet, providing fresh and clean water, maintaining a healthy weight and giving them plenty of rest.