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Can Dogs Catch Colds? Depends On What You Consider a Cold...

By Dr. Patty Khuly

Can my dog get a cold?

Here’s a common scenario: Dog comes to the vet after a few days of coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, upper respiratory congestion, and general malaise. His person asks, “What’s up with him, Doc? Does my dog have the flu?

After a physical examination reveals nothing more illuminating than the above-mentioned symptoms, I’m typically forced to explain that he probably has something more akin to a cold than the flu. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to confirm it. At that point, the somewhat deflated dog person probably wonders why they bothered to bring the dog in if the vet can’t tell them for sure what’s going on.

If you think about it, that’s pretty much what happens when you drag yourself to your family doctor when experiencing the same symptoms. The doc will typically look at you and say, “Sorry you feel so bad, but there’s not much we can do. You probably have a nasty cold bug and all you need is rest, fluids, Tylenol, and other symptom-specific treatments like decongestants or cough suppressants.”

It’s easy to conclude that, seeing as dogs suffer the very same symptoms when exposed to similar kinds of germs, they too can get “colds.”

Symptoms of Colds in Dogs

Many of the symptoms humans experience when going through a typical cold are reflected in the canine world, as well.

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny or unusually dry nose
  • Watery eyes and discharge
  • Lethargy

Keep in mind that a vet visit is always a good idea if you think your dog is undergoing something more serious than your average cold. More serious symptoms can include changes in appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea.

What can I do if my dog has a cold?

If you believe your dog has a cold it is time for a vet visit. At this visit the vet will typically do an overall physical check to ensure there are no underlying issues. If the cold is caused by a certain type of infection it may be able to be treated with antibiotics or fluids. If it is a more subtle cold then keeping an eye on your dog’s behavior, as well as eating and drinking habits, and encouraging rest can help get them back on track.

Is Kennel Cough a Cold?

Seeing as many of the symptoms of the cold are the same as kennel cough’s, and given that what we refer to as “kennel cough” (or more correctly, “kennel cough complex”) can be caused by a variety of germs, this is an excellent question.

Again, the answer depends on your definition of a cold. Most veterinarians would agree that kennel cough qualifies as a “cold.” Which makes the kennel cough-causing bugs (like canine adenovirus type 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica) cold-causing organisms.

Can my dog catch my cold?

It’s not an unfair question, many people ask, “can my dog catch my cold?” or vice versa.

While we can’t attest to the impossibility of transmission, the cold-causing viruses tend to be very species specific. While highly transmissible from dog to dog or human to human, they don’t like to jump from species to species. The influenza viruses, on the other hand, have been known to be a little less discriminating, albeit only rarely.

Not surprising, right? Not at all. In fact, colds are equal-opportunity evils plenty of animal species suffer. Here’s hoping that one day we’ll manage to vanquish the creatures once and for all. Or at least make their presence less uncomfortable.

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