How Do Dogs Get Colds and How to Treat Them

How Do Dogs Get Colds and How to Treat Them

How Do Dogs Get Colds and How to Treat ThemDo dogs get colds, flus and other respiratory system problems like us, people? Yes, they absolutely do. But how should dog owners treat dog colds?

Even though researchers have found that dogs can prevent colds in human babies[1], our loyal canines themselves are still susceptible to germs and viruses and can easily catch a cold or other illness in many different ways. Cold symptoms will appear much the same in dogs as they do in people including runny nose, lethargy, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing.

Even though the usual quick trip to Rite Aid for a cough syrup won’t be a solution when your dog has a cold, most of the time you can still provide your pet with the kind of care s/he needs to recuperate from the illness as soon as possible. And you don’t need to seek any veterinary assistance either (in most regular cases).

The following information should tell you everything you need to know on how do dogs get colds, how to tell if your own canine caught a cold or something more serious based on symptoms, and how to treat it before it becomes a real problem.

How do dogs get colds?

Although we share many of the same common cold symptoms, dogs don’t get the same germs and viruses that we do. Likewise, we can’t pass our illnesses onto our pet and they cannot pass theirs onto us, so there is no need to worry about your dog catching your cold or vice versa.

However, the germs can and will be passed from one dog to another in close contact, so if you think your pet may be ill, make sure to separate them from any other animals in the home.

Your dog will exhibit many of the same symptoms that you would if you had a cold. Some of the symptoms may include:

How Do Dogs Get Colds and How to Treat Them
Boxer’s photo by Craig Hodgson
  • Occasional coughing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasal discharge
  • Trouble breathing through the nose
  • Fever
  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Common dog cold symptoms like these can make your pet uncomfortable, but they are not life threatening. Most healthy dogs will be able to get over a cold on their own within a few days to a week.

With that being said, if your dog has other pre-existing conditions or their symptoms seem to be getting worse, you should definitely call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.

How to prevent colds in dogs

Before we discuss how to treat a cold of your own canine, you should be aware of the best ways to prevent your dog from getting sick in the first place.

Keeping your dog’s overall health in top shape is the best preventative medicine. That includes:

1. Feeding them a healthy diet (with natural or even organic dog food)
2. Making sure that they always have a fresh supply of drinking water
3. Keeping them active on a daily basis
4. Go for regular check-ups at your local vet clinic

* After consulting with the vet, you can also start them on a regular vitamins and minerals supplement routine, which will boost their immune system.

By following just these four steps above, you can drastically reduce their chances of becoming ill. Additionally, you can always try to follow some great tips mentioned in #DogHack here and in this article.

How to treat colds in dogs

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a canine cold. As always, preventing the cold in the first place should be your primary concern. However, if you dog did get in trouble despite all your efforts to prevent the cold, the best thing you can do at that point is to take some supportive measures, give them extra attention, and monitor their symptoms.

Make sure that your dog is in a well-ventilated, lukewarm (not hot or even too warm; bacteria spreads better in such environments), and dry environment as often as possible. Limit their time outside in cold weather, because cold air isn’t good either – it will make their airways contract, which can make it even more difficult for them to breathe.

If your dog has lost their appetite, try coaxing them to eat with some nutritious foods like brown rice or boiled chicken. You can also try adding broth to their dog food to make it more appealing. It is important for them to continue to eat so they can keep their strength up, and it will give their immune system the support it needs to fight the illness.

It’s also important to remember that you must not overfeed them, as tempting as it may be.

Too much food will not only make them gain extra weight, but also force the body to expend extra energy on digesting food which your dog didn’t need in the first place. All of your dog’s energy should be spent on boosting the immune system and fighting the bacteria inside. During such illnesses, your dog will also move around less, thus expending less energy. Try to stick with your dog’s daily calorie requirements.

You should also encourage your dog to drink as much fluid as they can. You may try adding low sodium broth to their water as well to try to persuade them to drink.

What if the problem isn’t the common cold?

Since puppies and senior dogs tend to have weaker immune systems than healthy adult dogs, they should always be examined by a vet whenever they show cold-like symptoms. Although respiratory infections can sometimes clear up without medicine, it is hard to judge how severe the illness is and it is better to be safe than sorry.

If your dog’s symptoms intensify, if there is a rattling in their chest, if your dog completely stops drinking fluids, or if your dog is obviously uncomfortable – they should be taken to the vet immediately.

In some cases, what appears to be cold symptoms can actually be the symptoms of a number of respiratory infections. Some infections will go away on their own, but others can develop into very serious illnesses if they are left to fester.

The following illnesses can start out looking like your dog’s common cold but later turn into something much more extensive:

Parainfluenza. The most common and highly contagious cold-type illness in dogs. There is an inoculation against this virus.

Adenovirus Type 2. One of the main causes of kennel cough. There is an inoculation, but it doesn’t guarantee a 100% protection for your pet. It can, however, greatly lessen the severity of the virus.

Kennel Cough. This is a rasping cough accompanied by coughing up phlegm. It can also include discharge from the nose and eyes.

Canine Distemper. It’s a serious illness that can be fatal to your pet. Dogs are routinely vaccinated against distemper.

Fungal infections. Such infections are found most often in dogs’ lungs and can cause scarring of the lung tissue and sometimes lead to pneumonia.

If you notice that your dog is regularly having cold symptoms or that s/he always seems to get colds around the same time of the year, they might actually be suffering from allergies.

Again, just like with people, there are seasonal allergies that affect dogs. In addition to that, it could also be an allergy to food or household products. Similarly, dogs can also suffer from asthma, which may be the root of their respiratory problems. In either case, you should check with your veterinarian to find a solution.

Keep in mind that colds are not usually as simple as they seem, and even if they are, if you do not care for your pets properly while they have a cold, it could grow into an even bigger problem as mentioned above.

Any health issues that your dog is having should be taken seriously and you should always monitor your pooch’s behavior so you can tell when something is not right. You can nip a lot of issues in the bud just by being observant.



  1. Eija Bergroth, Sami Remes, Juha Pekkanen, Timo Kauppila, Gisela Büchele, and Leea Keski-Nisula. Contact with dogs during the first year of life is associated with decreased risk of respiratory illness2013; 16:4 103

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