Can Dogs Get a Cold?

by Sundays

Tired puppy sleeping in bed

The answer is yes, but also no. Dogs can catch “colds,” but not the same ones we do. 

Everyone’s had a cold before, so you’re probably pretty familiar with all the symptoms. So when your dog has the sniffles, or keeps coughing, or seems a little warm or run-down, the first thing you wonder is whether dogs can get a cold. It seems like the same symptoms, so it must be a doggy cold, right?

Can a dog get a cold? Can they catch it from humans?

The answer is yes, but also no. Dogs can catch “colds,” but not the same ones we do. 

What is a cold, anyway? We all know the symptoms, but what causes those symptoms? When we talk about colds, we’re actually talking about tons of different viruses that can infect people. But to narrow it down, rhinoviruses cause more than half of the colds in humans. So there really isn’t one “cold” that we can catch. 

The same is true for dogs. They can definitely catch viruses, but they’re different from the ones that cause our colds. There are several types of viruses as well as bacterial infections that can cause cold-like symptoms in dogs. 

The culprit could be canine parainfluenza, canine influenza virus (dog flu), canine adenovirus type 2, distemper, canine respiratory coronavirus, or Bordatella bronchiseptica. On top of that, a dog could also have a case of heartworms or roundworms that can cause coughing.

What are some symptoms of dog colds?

You’re probably looking for the same symptoms in your dog that you’ve had before when you had a cold or flu. Your dog’s symptoms can give you a clue about the type of infection. If your dog has a type of virus or bacterial infection, you could see these symptoms:

- Nasal discharge or runny nose

- Having trouble breathing

- Sneezing

- Coughing

- Watery eyes

- Low energy

- Not eating as much

You will see other symptoms if your dog’s illness is caused by parasites like roundworms or heartworms. Roundworms can cause:

- Diarrhea

- Vomiting

- Weight loss

- Worms in your dog’s poop

- Coughing (if they’ve gotten into your dog’s lungs)

If your dog is infected with heartworms, you could see:

- Not eating as much

- Weight loss

- Ongoing dry cough

- Being tired after walks or playtime

- Trouble breathing

Most common types of dog colds

Dogs can be infected by any of these viruses or bacteria, which can cause very similar symptoms.

Canine parainfluenza: A viral respiratory disease that’s highly contagious among dogs. Main symptoms: coughing, nasal discharge, and fever.

Canine influenza: Also a viral respiratory disease that is very contagious. Main symptoms: cough, nasal discharge, fever, and eye discharge.

Bordatella bronchiseptica: This is a bacterial upper respiratory infection that is very contagious. Main symptoms: sneezing, nasal discharge, congestion, and cough.

Canine adenovirus type 2: Highly contagious viral respiratory infection. Main symptoms: fever, nasal discharge, and cough.

Distemper: A serious viral disease that’s also contagious. Main symptoms: eye discharge, fever, nasal discharge, cough, not eating, vomiting.

Canine respiratory coronavirus: A contagious viral respiratory disease. Main symptoms: coughing, sneezing, and trouble breathing.

How are dog colds treated?

There’s no way for you to know which viruses or bacteria are to blame for your dog’s symptoms. It might even be something else that’s causing your pup to feel not so great. The safest bet is to get them in to see their vet as soon as possible.

If it is one of the many doggy colds, you’ll probably be able to treat it at home, and it shouldn’t last too long. Here’s how to take care of a dog with a cold (after you’ve seen the vet and confirmed the cause):

- Try to wipe their nose crusties with a warm cloth several times a day to relieve congestion.

- Let them rest, which means they don’t go on their usual walks except for short potty breaks.

- Make sure they are drinking enough water. Clean their water bowl several times a day to keep it fresh and enticing. 

- Also make sure they are eating enough, because they might not have much of an appetite. Try adding a tasty topper to their meals. 

- Run a cool humidifier to help clear up congestion overnight or wherever your pup naps.

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