Can Dogs Get Colds?

A black and white dog lays on its bed.

When you’ve caught a cold, it’s all too clear. Your runny nose, cough, sore throat, and overall weariness tell you it’s time to slow down, sip some chicken soup and take care of yourself. But did you know that your dog can also come down with a cold, and needs just as much TLC as you do when he’s under the weather? Read on to learn how to recognize the symptoms of a cold in your dog and how to help him feel his tail-wagging best in no time.

Dog Colds

Like viruses in humans, multiple viruses can give dogs a cold. But there’s no need to worry that you can give a cold to your dog or your dog can give one to you. There has never been a documented case of a dog cold being transmitted to a human or vice versa.

Colds in dogs are more likely in the winter time. While frosty temperatures don’t themselves cause colds, they do set the stage for illness. More time spent indoors in closer quarters increases the transmission of colds between dogs, especially for dogs in daycare. Also, cold temperatures can weaken the immune system of dogs and people, making infections more probable. When you start wearing a winter coat to ward off the chill, consider that your best friend may need a dog coat as well.

Symptoms Of Colds In Dogs

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes

Like cold symptoms in humans, the symptoms of the common cold in dogs are uncomfortable and unpleasant, but generally mild. Observe your dog closely to be sure his cold symptoms don’t worsen and he appears to be on the mend. More severe symptoms or symptoms that linger indicate your dog may have a more serious illness and should be taken to the veterinarian.

The following illnesses have symptoms that resemble a cold, but could require more care and precautions:

  • Kennel Cough The cough will be dry, frequent, and produce a honking sound. Though it often clears up on its own, kennel cough is highly contagious and dogs with the illness should be kept away from other dogs until the symptoms have passed.
  • Asthma or Allergies – Watery eyes, coughing and other respiratory symptoms may indicate your dog has asthma or allergies. If these symptoms persist or coincide with allergy season, tell your vet about them at your dog’s next checkup.
  • Canine Influenza Virus H3N8 is relatively new, first identified in 2004. While some dogs get only mild, cold-like symptoms from the virus, others develop a high fever and are prone to pneumonia. If your dog has a fever, take him to the vet immediately and keep him separated from other dogs.
  • Fungal Infections or Parasites – Your dog’s symptoms will be exclusively respiratory if he gets a fungal infection or parasite in his lungs. Any ongoing, repetitive coughing should be checked by a veterinarian.

Quick Tip: A dog who is vomiting repeatedly, has a high fever, or is experiencing difficulty breathing should be taken to a veterinarian or veterinary hospital immediately.

How To Prevent A Cold In Your Dog:

Keeping your dog healthy overall can help his immune system stay hearty enough to fend off cold viruses in the first place. Give him plenty of fresh water every day, cleaning his water bowl daily to prevent the growth of bacteria. Make sure he eats a healthy diet in the right proportions for his size and age. Ensure he gets enough exercise, without overdoing it.

What To Do When Your Dog Has A Cold:

If your dog is a puppy, elderly, or has a compromised immune system, take him to the veterinarian even if you are fairly sure he has only a mild cold. Your vet may prescribe medication to help him fight off the virus.

These measures will help restore the spring to your healthy adult dog's step:

  • Make sure your dog drinks water – Plenty of clean, fresh water in your dog’s bowl is extra important when he’s under the weather. He may also benefit from chicken soup free from bones. In fact, chicken or beef broth could entice your dog to take in fluids if he’s ignoring his water bowl during his illness.
  • Make sure your dog rests – Avoid taking your dog for long walks when he’s sick. Short walks to relieve himself are plenty. And though dogs sleep a lot in general, expect him to snooze even longer while his body is fighting an infection. A comfortable dog bed will help them rest easier.
  • Give your dog the spa treatment – If your dog is very congested or has a runny nose, steam can help relieve his symptoms. Bring him into the bathroom, close the door and have him sit near the tub for 10 minutes while you fill it with hot water. The bathroom will quickly become a steam room that can help loosen his congestion.
  • Quarantine your dog – If you have a multi-dog household, use a dog gate to keep your sick dog away from his buddies until he is better. Be extra cautious that he doesn’t drink or eat from your other dog’s bowls.

After a few days, ample water, and loads of loving care, your dog should be a lot less sniffly and a lot more energetic. If that isn’t the case, it’s time to take him to the vet. If he is back to his old, exuberant self, take a walk and enjoy the playtime you’ve both been missing so dearly during his recuperation.

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