How To Tell If Your Dog Has A Cold


Taylor A Ritz

We all want our dogs feeling their best, so when our canine companions are feeling less than 100%, we do everything we can to help them feel better. While you may have heard your dog sneeze or cough a time or two, have you ever seen your dog suffer from a cold? Can dogs get colds as we do? 

1. Can Dogs Catch Colds?

The short answer is yes, dogs can catch colds. But do they catch colds just like we do? While your dog may experience similar symptoms when they catch a cold, they do not typically experience the same colds that we humans get.

2. What Is a Cold?

The term “cold” can refer to many different kinds of sicknesses. A cold can be caused by a virus or even a few species of bacteria. So what causes a particular sickness to be constituted as a cold?

Even though colds are caused by various sicknesses, they are typically characterized and grouped together by a list of similar symptoms.

3. What Are the Symptoms Your Dog Has a Cold?

Clinical signs that your dog has a cold are very similar to the symptoms humans experience when they get sick. These include:

  • Runny nose
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Watery eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite

Though we experience many of the same symptoms as our dogs when we catch colds, the infectious agent is often different.

4. Can Dogs Catch Human Colds?

According to the Center For Disease Control, or CDC, many different respiratory viruses can result in the “common cold.” The viruses that cause colds in people are generally species-specific, meaning that our dogs cannot catch colds from us and vice versa. In most cases, dogs cannot catch colds from humans.

Maybe dogs can’t catch our colds, but can they catch the flu from us? Dogs can catch the flu, but it’s usually a canine influenza virus. This means that dogs usually don’t catch the flu from humans. However, there have been rare cases of humans and dogs becoming infected with the same influenza virus strains. We are constantly learning more and more about sicknesses in dogs and how they affect both our dogs and us.

5. How Do You Treat a Dog with a Cold?

If your dog has a cold, it’s natural to want to get them back to their healthy, happy selves as quickly as possible. But how do you make that happen? If your dog is showing some of the symptoms mentioned above, they may have a cold. 

The first step is to assess your dog and his or her behavior. Usually, the first sign your dog has a cold is that they are lethargic or acting a little “off.” If your dog is still eating and drinking normally, you can probably treat their symptoms yourself at home. 

To treat your dog at home, make sure they rest, eat, and drink plenty of water to keep their immune system strong and able to fight off whatever infection they have. If your dog has a runny nose or eyes, you can use a warm, damp cloth to wipe their face. If your dog seems congested, consider using a humidifier or take your dog into the bathroom while you run a hot shower to make them more comfortable. Monitor your dog to make sure they do not get worse or develop new symptoms.

Never give your dog any human cold remedies without explicit permission from a licensed veterinarian. Human medicine can be harmful or even toxic to dogs.

6. When Should You Take Your Sick Dog to the Vet?

If your dog is experiencing severe symptoms, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Such symptoms include:

  • Your dog is not eating or drinking well.
  • They appear to be experiencing discomfort.
  • They have difficulty breathing.
  • Your dog has symptoms that have not improved for over a week.

If your dog experiences any of the above symptoms, take them to a licensed vet. Your dog’s doctor can try to figure out what is causing the sickness. Reasons for their symptoms might include pneumonia, allergies, irritants, fungal infections, a foreign body in the nose, or nasal mites.

7. What Does a Vet Prescribe for a Dog with a Cold?

If your veterinarian determines your dog has a viral or bacterial infection that can be classified as a cold, they will prescribe medication. The medication you receive will be based on what kind of infection or cold your dog has.

For a bacterial infection, your vet might prescribe antibiotics. For a viral infection, antibiotics won’t do you any good. Instead, your veterinarian might provide cough suppressants, decongestants, and anti-inflammatories. These medicines will hopefully make your dog feel better until their body fights off the virus.

8. Are Dogs with Colds Contagious?

While we may not be able to catch most colds from our dogs, they can get other dogs sick. If a dog is congested, coughing, or sneezing, they can easily make other dogs sick if they come into contact with them.

While your dog is experiencing these symptoms, try to keep them away from other dogs. This includes avoiding kennels, dog daycares, dog parks, and anywhere else you might encounter other canines.

9. What Causes Colds in Dogs?

While our human colds are most often caused by rhinovirus, canine colds are often caused by one of three possible viruses: canine adenovirus type 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, and canine parainfluenza virus.

10. When Are Colds Dangerous?

Like many sicknesses, the common cold can affect certain dogs worse than others. In some cases, a common cold can even be life-threatening for a dog.

A brachycephalic dog, one with a flat face like a Pug or Bulldog, is particularly susceptible to complications as a result of catching a cold. These breeds already suffer from difficulty breathing due to the structure of their nasal passages. The additional strain caused by congestion on a flat-faced dog’s breathing can be downright dangerous.

If you have a brachycephalic dog, they may experience worse cold symptoms than the average canine. Be on the lookout for snorting, wheezing, and increased snoring. If your dog experiences any of these symptoms, take them to a veterinarian to get checked out before their symptoms worsen.

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Taylor Ritz

Taylor has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. She is a former zookeeper and animal trainer. She has her own dog, Dobby, with whom she has bicycled across the U.S. and thru-hiked the Long Trail.

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