The common cold is a nuisance and an all too frequent occurrence in humans, but can dogs catch a cold? The short answer is yes, though not the same types of colds that humans get. Various viruses can affect dogs and cause colds very similar to human colds. Like human colds, dog colds will usually be inconvenient and irritating, but they are rarely dangerous. Keep a close eye on your dog’s symptoms and behavior, and if necessary, consult a vet for proper treatment and advice.
All dogs can get a cold, but some dogs are more prone to respiratory issues and resulting complications. Dogs with “pushed-in” faces or “smashed nose” breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Shar-Pei are more likely to develop respiratory issues and diseases, which can make it difficult to properly diagnose and treat a cold at home. It can also result in complications even if it turns out to be a simple cold. If you have a “smashed nose” breed of dog, be especially aware of colds and other respiratory issues.
Usually, dog colds will have similar symptoms as human colds. These include sneezing, coughing, watery or gooey eyes, a runny or congested nose, and generally acting a bit off or different. Occasionally, a dog’s cold will come with more serious symptoms such as a lack of appetite, less energy, fever, or vomiting. These can be symptoms of something more serious than a cold, so closely observe your dog’s behavior.
Some more serious conditions can initially manifest with simple cold symptoms. Conditions such as distemper, canine influenza, parasites, or fungal infections can be the culprit of a dog’s cold symptoms. Dogs can also get allergies just like humans, so if a dog starts exhibiting cold-like symptoms, check for sign of an allergic reaction like skin irritation, rashes, or inflammation. If they are scratching, chewing, or rubbing along with their sneezing and runny nose, it may be seasonal or environmental allergies.
There are a few respiratory diseases that can look and sound very similar to a cold before they become more serious. Kennel cough is a common and highly infectious disease in dogs that can resemble a cold. This is more likely if your dog spends time boarding or around other dogs. It is usually treated with antibiotics, but if left untreated, it can be much more serious than a common cold. Listen for a dry, hacking cough along with cold symptoms. Another possible disease is Bronchitis. Though it starts with cold-like symptoms, it can cause difficulty breathing and coughing worsening to gaging and vomiting. When in doubt, call or visit your vet to ensure that the symptoms are not a sign of something more serious.
Though human and dog cold symptoms are very similar, the viruses that affect dogs and humans are usually different. Cold viruses are almost always species-specific, meaning that human cold viruses will not get dogs sick and vice versa. This means that you don’t have to shy away from petting or cuddling your dog if either of you is sick. Though transmitting colds between you and your dog is unlikely, take proper precautionary measures like washing your hands if either you or your dog are sick.
If your dog’s symptoms are not serious, a cold can usually be treated relatively easily at home. Offer your dog plenty of water to keep them hydrated and give them their regular meals without changing their diet while they are sick. If there is discharge from the nose or eyes, use a warm cloth to clean their face and keep them comfortable. If your dog is especially congested, using a humidifier or putting them in a room with a hot bath or shower can help clear their sinuses. Most importantly, let your dog rest. Limit strenuous or high energy activities. If they feel up to it, short walks can help them keep their energy up and get their exercise in.
Various natural remedies can help your pup feel better. Healthy foods like boiled chicken, rice, or low-sodium chicken soup can help, especially if your dog has lost some of their appetite. Adding honey or coconut oil to your dog’s food can help fight infections, as can various multivitamins and herbal remedies such as Vitamin C and various flower extracts. Holistic veterinarians can give advice on how best to use natural remedies and foods to give your dog the safest recover options.
If your dog’s symptoms worsen or you want to ensure that it is nothing more serious, take your dog to the vet. This is especially important for younger or older dogs with weaker immune systems or dogs prone to respiratory problems. The vet will perform a physical exam, and if they deem it necessary, there are various tests to check your dog’s health including fecal analysis and blood work to determine the seriousness of the disease and what treatments are best. Even if the tests indicate that it is only a cold, your vet may still prescribe cough suppressants or antibiotics to help eliminate discomfort and prevent further diseases.
In order to prevent your dog’s cold from spreading to other dogs, prevent close interaction with other dogs. Keep them out of doggy daycares and away from dog parks for a week or two. If you have multiple dogs and only one is sick, avoid sharing water and food dishes, beds, or toys while sick. Once your dog is on the mend, clean any dishes, blankets, beds, or anything else they were in contact with while sick. This will help prevent repeat infections or spreading to any other dogs.
Unfortunately, there is no shot or vaccine to help prevent a dog cold. However, ensure that your pet is properly vaccinated for other common diseases to keep your pet as healthy as possible. This provides more peace of mind, for if a dog does get cold-like symptoms, it helps minimize the possibility that it is a result of a more serious disease. The more they are protected from more dangerous diseases, the easier the recovery from simple sicknesses. Limit your dog’s contact with other sick dogs, and clean their toys and environment frequently to keep them from getting sick.
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