Can dogs catch a cold from you? What should you do if your dog is sick? Take a look at our guide to learn the answers to these questions and more.
New dog owners might not know the ins and outs of a dog’s wellness. Can dogs get colds? Is a fair question, but anyone who has had dogs for long enough knows they are prone to sickness.
The better question, though is can dogs get colds from humans? Ahead, we’ll take a look at the differences and similarities between colds in dogs and humans, as well as give you some advice regarding treating and caring for a sick dog.
Nobody wants to see their dog suffer, but there are some steps you can take to prevent them from contracting a cold or severe illness. Follow along with our guide for more information about treating and preventing colds, as well as some causes of dog illnesses that are more serious.
Defining a Cold
Before we can answer the question, “Can dogs get colds?” we have to explore the definition of a cold a bit further. Humans contract viruses that cause the common cold, and spread them to one another through contact.
We tend to characterize colds as causing runny noses, sore throats, congestion, and coughs. Dogs can experience similar symptoms as well.
Can dogs get colds? In short, the answer is yes. If you’re asking whether or not a dog can catch a cold from a human, though, the answer is not the same.
Dog Colds Vs. Human Colds
The viruses that cause colds in humans are different from the viruses that cause colds in dogs. This means that you won’t get your dog sick when you have a common cold, and your dog won’t get you sick when they are presenting similar symptoms.
Cold viruses are almost always specific to a particular species. The viruses that infect our bodies aren’t the same as the viruses that affect dogs.
There are few - and very rare - exceptions to this rule that involve the flu. There have been some studies surrounding this that point to evidence showing inter-species infections to be possible in some cases.
Still, you shouldn’t worry very much about getting your dog sick. You can still have your good boy or girl keep you company while your resting in bed without worrying that they’ll catch your sickness.
As we’ve covered, though, dogs are not immune to illnesses. Dogs might not be able to catch a cold from humans, but they can certainly catch a cold from another dog.
Canine infectious respiratory disease, better known as kennel cough, is a relatively common viral infection that dogs experience. As you can probably tell from the name, a lot of dogs get this sickness when they’re in a kennel or other pet boarding facility.
Dogs don’t observe the same hygiene considerations as humans do. There’s no covering their mouth when they sneeze, and drooling is just a part of life.
For that reason, dogs that are near one another often share germs. Kennels and pet boarding houses are hubs for viruses, just as daycare facilities are hubs for germs in children.
You will notice a deep cough-like sound coming from your dog. You should consider kennel cough as the likely cause of your dog’s illness if you’ve boarded them in the past. They also may have contracted the virus from another dog that has recently spent time in a kennel, so it’s important to be aware of which other dogs your pooch is playing with.
Canine influenza, or dog flu, is another sickness you might notice in your dog. The symptoms of this illness include a soft cough, lack of appetite, and reduced energy.
If the flu is severe enough, it might also lead to high fever in your dog. Elongated bouts of dog flu can also lead to pneumonia if you don’t seek proper treatment.
There are a couple of different flu strains that cause dog flu, just as there are multiple strains of flu that infect humans. One of these flu types, H3N2, can infect cats as well, which is important to know if you have both animals in your house.
You should take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis if your dog starts presenting flu-like symptoms. While the mortality rate for dog flu is less than 10%, it will still warrant a checkup in most cases.
What Else Could be Causing Symptoms?
Dogs express similar cold and flu-like symptoms as humans do, which can make it easy to dismiss a harmful infection like a common cold.
Colds aren’t the only problems that cause these symptoms in dogs, however. You might be dealing with something more serious if your dog’s cough persists for longer than it should.
Your dog could be experiencing a parasitic or fungal infection in their lungs or throat. These infections will also cause coughing and wheezing like a cold will, but are far more serious and should be treated immediately.
It’s even possible for your dog to contract pneumonia from long-term problems with their lungs. These alternative diagnoses are other reasons why you should visit the vet when your dog is sick. It might be nothing, but it might be life threatening as well.
It’s also possible that your dog could be experiencing an allergy to something in the environment. Dogs express allergies much as humans do, and they seem like cold symptoms until they last for too long.
These allergies could bring bouts of coughing and sneezing that persist for longer than a cold will. Visit the vet if your dog starts coughing or sneezing irregularly. You will want to test them for allergies or asthma and keep them safe from these allergens in the future.
Caring for a Sick Dog
Going to the vet as a precautionary measure is usually a good idea, even if your dog is only expressing mild coughing and sneezing symptoms. You can treat them at home for the first few days, but you should bring them in if you don’t start to see improvement.
Other than that, the treatment of a dog’s cold is very similar to the treatment of a human cold. You’re going to want to have your dog drink lots of water, get some rest, and stay away from healthy dogs they can infect.
This is easier said than done if you have multiple dogs, but try to split them up if you can. There’s a high chance that your dog will infect other dogs they play or sleep with.
It’s also a good idea to bring a humidifier into your dog’s sleeping area. This is easy if your dog usually shares a bed with you or sleeps in your room. Try to guide them to the area with the humidifier for sleeping, which means bringing toys and cuddle partners for your pooch.
You should always visit the vet at the first sign of illness if your dog is very young or very old. Both groups of dogs might have compromised immune systems that don’t allow them to fight the virus as they should. In these cases, your vet will likely prescribe your dog antibiotics to help fight off the sickness.
Preventing Colds in Dogs
Winter is the riskiest time for your dog’s health - just as it is for humans. There’s more of a chance that they’ll catch a cold during the winter months, so it’s a good idea to keep them warm and indoors to let their immune system flourish.
Of course, you can’t keep your dog inside at all times. You still need to let them out to go to the bathroom and release some energy. You should limit the outdoor adventures during cold weather, if you can.
The same goes for rainy days. Limit the amount of time your dog spends outdoors to give them a fighting chance against any viruses they encounter.
Just like humans, keeping your dog’s body fit is another way to protect them against infection. Keep your dog active and happy and let their immune system do the rest.
Healthy food and water is another element that can prevent sickness. Make sure you change your dog’s water bowl at least once every day and splurge a little bit on the healthier, organic dog food options at the pet store.
Visiting the Vet
Some dog owners might be apprehensive about bringing their dog to the vet. It’s a costly visit and sometimes comes with a diagnosis of rest and fluids. It feels like a waste of time and money when your vet diagnoses a common cold, but it’s not always that simple.
Dogs that present cold-like symptoms for long periods should always visit the vet. There might be an allergy or fungal infection that are causing these symptoms and may threaten the life of your dog if not properly diagnosed.
We advise that you visit a vet if your dog’s cold lasts longer than a week. Even if the diagnosis is a simple cold, your dog’s immune system might not be strong enough to fight it off. In these cases, your vet will prescribe antibiotics to assist the body.