Can Dogs Catch a Cold?

The average person catches two to four colds each year, but is the common cold as big of a deal for dogs as it is for us? Our canine companions are no strangers to sneezing and runny noses, but it turns out that their version of a cold is a bit different than the ones that their pet parents can catch.

Can My Dog Get a Cold?

The short answer is both yes and no. It’s true that your dog can get infections that seem like a typical cold, but the illnesses they may suffer from are different than the ones that humans experience.

For both dogs and pet parents, catching a cold can refer to a wide range of viruses and other infections that all cause similar symptoms – coughing, sneezing, etc. There is no single “cold,” just a lot of different reasons that will lead to runny noses, scratchy throats, and a desire to lay in bed for a while.

Your four-legged friend can face a similar situation. Although your dog won’t be bothered by rhinovirus, influenza, or other cold agents that affect humans, there are several other viruses that are lumped into what people may refer to as “dog colds.” These illnesses also vary in how serious they can become, which is why it’s very important to treat these infections before they become a more serious problem.

Can Dogs Get Colds from Humans?

Have you ever wondered if you got your dog sick, or vice versa? The good news is that you don’t have to feel bad about being contagious around your furry best friend.

According to experts, it is extremely rare for dogs to catch human colds. Over time, viruses that cause various types of colds have adapted to target either people or dogs. Because of that, the virus that causes upper respiratory infections in people is very unlikely to affect your dog. The same scenario applies to people – you aren’t likely to catch dog-based colds from your best friend.

Dog Cold Symptoms

While dogs and humans catch different infections, they do share a lot of the same symptoms. Cold symptoms can last for several days, sometimes even longer than a week. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms, especially during cold season:

  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Labored breathing from congestion
  • Red, watery eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever

Dog colds are typically mild and can be cared for at home. Unfortunately, these symptoms can also signal that your dog is dealing with a more serious issue, such as one the following conditions:

  • Canine influenza
  • Kennel cough
  • Canine distemper
  • Bronchitis
  • Fungal infections
  • Heartworm, roundworm, and other parasitic infections

How to Treat a Dog with a Cold

Whether you think your dog has a cold or something else, the first step you should take is to contact your veterinarian. It’s important to try and rule out more serious health issues if you notice your dog exhibiting any cold symptoms. A physical exam along with other tests will help you make sure exactly what your dog is dealing with and have a treatment plan in place for happier and healthier days.

If your dog is dealing with a regular cold, make sure to isolate them from any healthy pets. Apart from that, it’s important to keep them comfortable and give them what they need to recover. That includes doing the following:

  • Get their bed or some other sleeping area ready and let them rest as much as they need to recover.
  • Have fresh water available to keep them hydrated.
  • Wipe off any discharge from their nose or eyes if you notice it.
  • Try to keep them nice and warm and keep bathroom trips outside short if it’s cold.
  • Put your dog in a room with a humidifier or in the bathroom while you run a hot shower if they seem congested.

With plenty of rest, your dog should begin to feel better in a few days. If your dog’s health isn’t improving or you start to notice additional symptoms, check in with your veterinarian for help.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Getting a Cold

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent your dog from catching a cold. The best way to help protect your dog is to limit their exposure, especially during cold season. If you know that other dogs have a case of the sniffles or hear news about potential outbreaks, it’s best to keep your dog at home. Save playtime at the park for another day or go somewhere that just you and your dog can enjoy time together.

There may be no vaccine for some dog colds, but there are options for more serious issues that share dog cold symptoms. Vaccines are available for distemper, canine parainfluenza, and other illnesses, so talk with your veterinarian to see if they recommend any measures to help protect your best friend.

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