Do dogs get colds? Baby it’s cold outside!

Do dogs get coldsIt’s doubtful that you will have escaped the common cold. Most of us have experienced at least one in our lifetime, and some of us will suffer them repeatedly, especially in the winter. The symptoms can range from light to severe but nearly always make us feel miserable. But do dogs get colds?

The simple answer is yes. If you suffer the sniffles regularly and share your life with a dog. Then it’s worth knowing how to cope with your dog’s cold.

How do dogs catch cold

Dogs catch a cold in the same way that we do. The virus is transmitted by airborne droplets or by direct contact with an infected dog or object. The good news is that our dogs can’t catch human colds from us or vice versa. The cold virus that infects humans and dogs is different, as is the environment (our bodies) in which they thrive. However, a warning for any cat lovers out there. This isn’t true for your feline friends, so if you do have a cold, no kissing your cat!

If you’ve had the viral infection yourself, then you will know although it may make you feel uncomfortable, it normally clears up within a week. Our dogs are similar. If they are kept warm and hydrated, they should be back to their old selves within a few days.

Cold Symptoms, what to look for?

The symptoms of dog colds will be similar to our own. The virus affects the upper respiratory tract, so look out for the following dog cold symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes and nose
  • Mild fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing

Since colds can be passed from dog to dog, doggy daycare or hounds that are social butterflies are more likely to catch and pass on the infection. If you suspect that your dog is unwell, it’s best to keep them away from other dogs. This helps to prevent your dog from spreading the infection further.

can dogs get a cold

How to look after a dog with a cold

When fighting an infection, have you ever just felt like staying in bed and curling up while someone brings you hot soup? Well, our pets may feel the same. While a cure for a common cold is still a long way off, there are things that you can do to make your pet more comfortable.

Firstly keep your dog warm and dry. Change their bedding frequently, so it’s clean and fresh, and restrict their walks and the time that they are spending outside. This is especially relevant in cold weather. Because when cold air is inhaled, it constricts the bronchial tubes, which will make it harder for your dog to breathe. Some dog breeds, particularly those with short snouts or squashed faces like bulldogs, may be affected more than others.

Ensure that your dog has plenty of fresh drinking water as fluids are vital. If your dog has gone off food, you can give your dog chicken broth (low salt). As it will not only increase their fluid intake but will also help clear nasal congestion. Also, it will give your dog’s immune system a boost if they are not eating.

Running a hot bath or using a vaporizer can also help with breathing difficulties, just as we would put our heads over a bowl of steaming water if we are congested.  Moist air can help open the bronchial passages and clear the nose.

Even if your dog is always on the go, encourage them to rest. Their immune system will be busy fighting the infection, and your dog may not have the energy to play or walk as they would normally. You may have experienced it yourself when trying to do too much when unwell; it prolongs the infection and makes you feel worse. So downtime is vital for a poorly dog.

When is a cold not a cold?

Occasionally cold-like symptoms can indicate more than a simple upper respiratory infection. Several other illnesses share similar symptoms but are potentially more serious. These include kennel cough, allergies, and dog flu.

So how can you tell the difference? It’s not always easy if in any doubt do seek veterinary advice, but here are a few pointers;

Kennel cough

An extremely infectious and persistent infection. Often described as a deep honking cough, it can appear that your dog is trying to clear their throat or is gagging.

Despite the noise that your dog may be making, they are less likely to go off their food than with a cold.  They are also less likely to have a runny nose if it’s Kennel cough. What’s more, it will usually clear up of its own accord. However, if you are concerned or are unsure, then do check in with your vet.


Dogs can get allergies just as we can. If you are a hay fever sufferer, then you will know the misery of this seasonal sneeze fest.

Watery eyes, running nose combined with difficulty breathing it’s often mistaken for a cold. If your dog seems to have a cold at regular intervals, it’s worth thinking about whether it’s actually an allergy.

Not only are dogs affected by seasonal allergies, but they can also have allergic reactions to food and household items like carpets and carpet cleaners.

Canine Flu

Two types of flu virus affect dogs, and the symptoms are similar to that of a cold, but typically the dog will develop a fever. The difficulty with recognizing whether your dog has the flu is that a percentage of dogs do not show any symptoms at all. What’s more, it can range from a mild to severe infection.

A flu vaccine is available, but this is a preventative shot and not appropriate once your dog has developed an infection. For dogs with known breathing difficulties, such as pugs and English and French bulldogs, it may be worth discussing the vaccine with your vet further as a precautionary measure as Canine flu can be life-threatening.

When you need to visit your vet

In general, an otherwise healthy dog should improve within a couple of days. Indications that your dog needs veterinary care would include:

  • A rattling sound when your dog breaths
  • The symptoms become worse
  • Your dog is in severe discomfort
  • They stop drinking
  • Your dog hasn’t eaten for more than a day

However, if you want to err on the side of caution, then take your dog for a check-up as soon as you notice any symptoms. Since puppies, elderly dogs, and dogs that already have impaired immune systems can be more vulnerable to cold viruses and complications, it’s advisable to take them straight away to be on the safe side.

Do dogs get colds?

Yes, they do,  and just like us, they can feel miserable when they get sick. Although colds are not uncommon, especially in dogs that spend a lot of time with their canine counterparts, you should never ignore a dog’s symptoms of an infection.

Some dogs need extra monitoring either because of their age, older dogs and puppies being more vulnerable, or because of their breed, squashed face dogs being more susceptible. If you notice your dog is off-color, especially if they are in a vulnerable group, do take them to your veterinarian for a check-up where the vet can confirm the diagnosis and offer you advice on the best care for your dog.

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