Can a Dog Get a Cold?

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We all know the signs: a blocked or runny nose, lots of sneezing, and generally feeling under the weather. Most of us will get a cold at least once a year, usually in the winter months when our defenses are down. Dogs get colds too!

The symptoms are almost identical to human colds, but the viruses that cause similar infections in dogs are different. 

Read on to find out what to do if your dog has a cold and how you could help prevent your pet from getting one in the first place.

Can Dogs Have a Cold?

There is not one specific “cold virus.” Several can lead to cold-like symptoms in dogs. Some can be more serious than others. That’s why you should consider your dog’s cold symptoms a bit more seriously than you might treat a human cold. The signs of a cold in a dog can include:

  • Sneezing and/or coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • A congested or runny nose

Although these can be symptoms of a dog cold virus, they may be the result of more serious conditions. These include:

  • Kennel cough or canine parainfluenza
  • Influenza or “dog flu” 
  • Bronchitis 
  • Canine distemper

The best advice is to consult a vet if your dog has similar symptoms to a cold so that they can rule out these more serious illnesses. This is especially true if you also notice a change in appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or any other unusual changes in your dog’s behavior.

It’s not only viruses that can cause cold-like symptoms. Bacterial or parasitic infections caused by heartworms and roundworms may also be the culprits. Allergies and fungal infections could be to blame too. They can lead to damage to lung tissue and potentially to pneumonia.

The risk of dogs contracting a cold from people is very low indeed.  It’s incredibly rare for any of the viruses that cause cold-like symptoms in humans and dogs to jump from one species to the other.

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Is It a Cold or Is It Kennel Cough?

Kennel cough is a highly infectious respiratory disease. It gets its name from the place dogs will typically pick it up. Anywhere dogs get together in close proximity increases the risk of transmission. 

Kennel cough is treatable and most dogs will recover completely. However, it can cause serious complications in puppies, senior dogs, and those with compromised immune systems.

The key characteristic of kennel cough is a dry, honking cough. Some people like to compare it to the sound of a honking goose. Other symptoms include sneezing loss of appetite, a slight fever, lethargy, and a runny nose. Because so many of these symptoms are common in dogs with colds, you should discuss them with a vet.

How Should I Treat a Dog with a Cold?

If you think your dog may have a cold, you should contact a vet in the first instance. Although mild colds tend not to be too much of a cause for concern, it is crucial to discount any other potential causes of your dog’s symptoms.

Your vet will usually want to carry out a physical exam of your dog. They’ll check their  heartbeat and lungs and may want to run some diagnostic tests to ensure your pet isn’t suffering from a more serious condition. 

Bloodwork, radiographs, and fecal analysis may help to diagnose a more serious issue that needs a more complex treatment plan.

If there is a more serious infection such as kennel cough at play, your vet will recommend lots of rest, a course of antibiotics to treat potential secondary infections, cough suppressants, and plenty of fluids, particularly if your dog is still a puppy or if their immune systems have become compromised. 

Helping Your Pet Through a Mild Cold

A mild cold will typically get better on its own. Your dog will need plenty of rest and you should discourage your dog from any extremely vigorous exercise until they have recovered. 

You should ensure your dog eats well and drinks plenty of fresh water. This will help boost their immune systems so that they’re better able to fight off the infection. You can keep your dog more comfortable by wiping their nose and eyes regularly using a warm, damp cloth. You may also want to warm their favorite food a little.

In an effort to alleviate congestion, you could use a humidifier or take your dog to the bathroom when you’re taking a hot, steamy shower.

You should never give your dog over-the-counter cold remedies developed for humans. Some, such as ibuprofen, can be extremely dangerous when given to dogs. And, it’s a good idea to keep your pet away from other dogs until they’ve made a complete recovery.

Like humans, dogs will benefit from a little TLC when they are suffering from cold-like symptoms. So, keep them comfortable and warm.

Preventing Colds in Dogs

There is no vaccine for the common dog cold. However, vaccines for canine influenza viruses, distemper, and kennel cough will help mitigate the risk of your dog contracting any of these diseases. 

You should also be mindful of any outbreaks of canine diseases close to where you live. Keeping your dog fit and healthy is going to help them develop a robust immune system to fend off infections. 

So, ensure you’re up to date with your dog’s vaccines. Feed them a high-quality balanced diet, enable them to take plenty of exercise, and keep them relaxed and happy. 

You should also groom your dog regularly, dry them off quickly should they get wet, and prevent them from eating snow or ice in the colder months.

When You Should Contact a Vet

It’s particularly important to seek the advice of a vet if your dog has a cold, cold-like symptoms and:

  • Stops eating or drinking normally
  • Seems uncomfortable
  • Has trouble breathing
  • Continues to have symptoms with little improvement after a week or so

We have a team of highly qualified vets available to offer you help and advice. Book a timeslot today with one of the team and get expert advice in an instant.

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