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If you’re a dog parent, you probably know about common serious illnesses in dogs like kennel cough and giardia. But what if your pet’s symptoms are less serious? Coughing, sneezing, and watery eyes regularly afflict humans, but can dogs get colds too?
Can Dogs Get Colds?
The answer is yes. Just like the common cold that plagues us all, a dog cold can be similarly transmitted and prevented. While it’s true that there is a slight risk of passing your human cold to your dog, don’t worry too much about limiting your best friend’s cuddles and kisses when sick. It’s much more likely that your dog’s cold was contracted by a playmate at doggy daycare or the dog park, and is a strain specific to dogs, though there may be similar symptoms.
One important note: this article covers cold viruses, but we have noted other cold-like illnesses your dog might catch. These can be much more serious than the common cold, such as canine influenza, or dog flu, so be sure to rule those out if your dog is displaying concerning or severe symptoms. And of course, if you’re not sure if your dog has a canine cold or something more serious, a call to the vet is always a good idea.
Does My Dog Have a Cold?
Colds are airborne viruses that live and breed in our mouths and noses. This is why it’s no surprise that your dog’s oral fixation could be making them sick. Slobbering is kind of a dog’s M.O. Gnawing on toys, sharing water bowls, and wrestling playmates with a drooling mouth may be exposing your dog to germs and viruses that could leave them sniffling the next day. Dogs have no natural immunity to the virus, so it’s important to limit their risk factors and keep an eye out for the following dog cold symptoms:
- Runny nose
- Fever (measure with a thermometer if they’ll sit still!)
- General lethargy
Always consult with your veterinarian if your dog is showing symptoms of illness, especially if your dog is a puppy or elderly. Your dog’s cold-like symptoms could be pointing to another illness.
Other Common Cold-like Illnesses in Dogs
- The Canine Flu (or H3N8 virus) is most similar to a cold and is spread the same way. Dogs with Canine Flu might also experience additional symptoms such as loss of appetite or conjunctivitis.
- Kennel Cough. This highly contagious respiratory infection is recognizable by a dry cough often associated with a honking sound. This sort of cough will sound much different than a wetter cough you’d hear from a dog with a cold or flu. A dog with Kennel Cough should be seen by a veterinarian immediately and avoid contact with other dogs.
- Allergies are annoying for humans and dogs alike. Dogs can experience seasonal and environmental allergies to pollen, dust, and mites. If your dog’s cold symptoms last for weeks, it could be something in the air. If your dog’s symptoms also include skin irritation and upset stomach, consider testing for a food allergy. You could change their life.
- Distemper. Most dogs are vaccinated against Canine Distemper as puppies, but it’s still important to know the signs, as this viral illness can be life-threatening. The virus affects a dog’s lymph nodes and tonsils first, with symptoms similar to a cold, such as lethargy and runny eyes and nose. Other early symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog experiences these symptoms, you should seek medical attention. If untreated, the virus can attack the nervous system, leading to seizures and paralysis.
- Breed-Specific Respiratory Conditions. It’s also important to note that different breeds may be more susceptible to certain ailments. Flat-faced breeds, such as pugs, are prone to Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which can be misinterpreted as a cold. This condition is exacerbated by extreme heat, while colds typically linger in colder conditions.
How to Keep your Dog’s Immune System in Top Shape
- Stay up-to-date on vaccinations. Unfortunately for humans, there is currently no vaccine to protect us from the common cold. Dogs have an advantage here, thanks to the 5-in-1 vaccine, which protects against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. This vaccine won’t completely prevent colds, but it will certainly boost your dog’s immune system and protect against more serious illnesses.
- Keep your dog warm and dry at the first onset of symptoms. Everyone loves a dog in a sweater.
- Clean your dog’s toys, food dishes, and water bowls regularly, especially if they’re shared with other dogs.
- Change the water in the water bowl at least once a day.
- Limit contact with sick dogs. Cold season hits dog populations, too, and it may be on a different schedule than the cold that runs through your office. Keep an eye out for cold symptoms while at the dog park.
- Make sure your dog gets plenty of rest. The average dog needs 12-14 hours of sleep a day. If you’re anything like the average human, this means your dog should be sleeping nearly twice as much as you.
Sometimes just knowing that dogs can get colds makes all the difference. These tips should help you spot the first sign of the common dog cold and keep your dog healthy. Talk to your vet about other measures you can take to prevent your dog from getting a cold. They’re best equipped to give you and your dog the tools you need for a long, happy life.