Can Dogs Get Colds? Symptoms & Care

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Everyone has had a cold before and you know just how annoying and uncomfortable it can be, with your nose running, eyes watering, and entire body aching. If you own a dog, you may have seen them sneezing before, but is it a cold or something else? Do dogs get colds at all? How do you know if your dog has a cold?

Unfortunately, like us humans, dogs can also be susceptible to viral infections like colds. However, it is important to note that your dog’s cold symptoms may also be indicative of a more serious underlying illness. A range of canine medical conditions can be mistaken for a cold, from kennel cough to allergies. Make sure to keep your vet updated whenever you notice your dog sniffling and congested, so they can get a proper diagnosis and start the correct treatment as soon as possible.

In this blog post, we will take a look at dog cold symptoms, what to do if your dog has a cold, how to take care of a dog with a cold, and more.

What Is A Cold?

A cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the nose and throat.1 A host of viruses have been lumped under the category of “colds”, because they produce similar symptoms. Colds are generally mild and harmless but easily transmissible. In addition, despite how prevalent colds are, there is yet to be a complete cure for them due to the diverse and ever-changing nature of cold viruses. 

So, when your dog has a cold, is it the same as a human cold? This is a somewhat complicated question. While the symptoms in humans and dogs are similar, dog colds stem from a different group of viruses. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about catching a cold from your dog or vice versa. Even when you are sneezing, coughing, and completely miserable due to your cold, your dog can still snuggle up and comfort you without harming their own health.

How Do You Know If Your Dog Has A Cold?

Canine cold symptoms

The cold symptoms that manifest in dogs are very similar to those humans get. Just think of how you feel when you have a cold. If you see your dog exhibiting many of the same signs, it’s very likely that they are suffering from a cold. Here are some dog cold symptoms to watch out for:

  • Watery eyes
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Low energy
  • Body aches
  • Sore throat

Keep in mind that these symptoms are also common to many other canine illnesses, so it’s always good to get an opinion from a vet. It’s also possible for colds to come with changes in appetite, gastrointestinal issues, and low-grade fevers at times, which is around 103° F in dogs.2 However, if you notice any more serious symptoms or if your pup just doesn’t seem to be feeling better, seek veterinary attention immediately. 

Other Canine Illnesses That Can Resemble A Cold

Other canine illnesses that can resemble a cold

Do dogs get colds? Yes, but it’s very tricky to figure out whether your dog has the common cold or something else. There are a variety of other canine illnesses that can resemble a cold, many of which are either more serious or more chronic. Some of these illnesses include:

  • Distemper: Canine distemper is a contagious disease that all dogs should be vaccinated against starting at around 6 weeks old.3 It is caused by a virus that seriously affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. Compared to dog cold symptoms, the symptoms of distemper are much more severe. You may see your dog develop a high fever, muscle twitches, convulsions, and even paralysis in addition to the cold-like symptoms of a runny nose, coughing, and lethargy. A clear early sign that your dog may have distemper is watery discharge from their eyes. Keep your canine’s vaccines up-to-date to prevent distemper.3
  • Kennel Cough: How do you know if your dog has a cold? Other illnesses like kennel cough also produce respiratory symptoms like sneezing, cough, and a low fever. Unlike the common canine cold, however, kennel cough, like its name suggests, has a very distinctive cough. A dog with kennel cough will make an almost honking noise, sounding similar to a goose. The coughing will also last much longer than a cold, potentially staying for several weeks. Due to this coughing, your dog may also wheeze and have swollen tonsils. 
  • Dog allergies: Dog allergies are much more difficult and complicated to diagnose. Veterinarians often have to rule out any underlying causes first, and the allergen can be hard to pinpoint. In addition to sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and other dog cold symptoms, a dog with allergies may also have skin rashes or hives. While colds come and go, there is no cure for any type of allergies. The best way to help your canine friend ease their symptoms is by getting an accurate diagnosis and avoiding the allergen all together. 
  • Influenza: We often mistake our colds for flus and the other way around as well. Likewise, dog colds and canine influenza are hard to differentiate, but there are a few key differences. Canine influenza is only caused by specific Type A influenza viruses — H3N8 and H3N2.4 Compared to colds, flus can be more serious. Some dogs with the flu may develop a secondary bacterial infection that can result in pneumonia or even death.

What Should I Do If My Dog Has A Cold?

When you notice your dog exhibiting any signs of having a cold, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on them. The best thing you can do to safeguard their health is to contact a veterinarian for advice. While your pup may just sneeze and have low energy for a few days, they could also be at risk of a more serious illness. 

Your veterinarian will ask you a few questions about your dog’s recent health and then perform a physical exam. They may also request a few diagnostic tests like bloodwork or a urinalysis to help them rule out any other conditions. If it is confirmed that your dog only has a cold, your vet may not prescribe anything at all as colds typically resolve on their own. In case of kennel cough or influenza, however, your vet may add some antibiotics, fluids, and coughing medication to your pup’s treatment.

How To Take Care Of A Dog With A Cold

Here are some tips for how to take care of your dog with a cold. The below tips will help your pup better recover and feel more comfortable.

Hydration

If your dog has a cold, it’s very important to keep them hydrated. With their runny nose and watering eyes, they are losing a lot of fluids very quickly. Make sure your dog has a filled water bowl. Even if it is filled, change out the water every so often, so they always have fresh water to drink. Since your dog isn’t feeling well, they might not want to drink water at all. Entice them with wet food or dog-friendly chicken soup to help them replenish their lost fluids.

Warm Food

When your dog is sick, it’s likely they won’t have their usual appetite. Even if they are a foodie or food obsessed, they simply may not have the energy to crunch on dry kibble. Feed them wet food that is easier to eat and digest. You can even warm up their food, so they can get a better whiff of its fragrance through their congestion. Nutrition is especially important when your dog has a cold. 

Rest

Rest is the best remedy when your dog has a cold. Relax their usual exercise routine to make more time for rest. Sleeping more will help their immune system better fight off the cold. Staying up for too long can make them even more lethargic and groggy.

Use A Humidifier

Congestion can make it very difficult to breathe. Adding more humidity to the air can make it easier for your sick pup to breathe. It will also help their sore throat and even their dry skin as a result of the cold.

Can Dogs Get Colds?: FAQs

Do dog colds go away on their own?

Yes, dog colds typically go away on their own. If your dog has a cold, with enough rest and careful care from you, they may just cough and sneeze for a few days. However, keep in mind that dog cold symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of other canine illnesses such as kennel cough, distemper, and even allergies. If you suspect your dog has a cold, it’s always best to get advice from a trusted vet. 

Can dogs catch a cold from humans?

While dog colds and human colds share virtually the same symptoms, you don’t have to worry about your pup catching a cold from you. Dogs usually can’t get colds from humans as the viruses that affect dogs are different from those that affect humans.

What medicine can I give a dog for a cold?

If you think your dog has a cold, speak with a veterinarian. Diagnosing your dog with a cold yourself can be dangerous as their cold-like symptoms could actually be indicative of a more serious illness. Do not give your dog medication for a cold without consulting your veterinarian first. 

Dog that just finished sneezing standing on a field of fallen leaves

Final Notes

Can dogs get colds? In general, the answer is yes. Dogs can get colds just like humans can, and they also experience sneezing, coughing, low energy, body aches, and sore throats. If you want to make sure your dog’s symptoms aren’t due to another underlying illness, a Dutch vet can help. Dutch is an online vet service that you can access from the comfort of your own home. Dutch provides personalized treatment plans for every pet and unlimited follow-ups as much as they need. 

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References

  1. "Common cold." Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/symptoms-causes/syc-20351605.

  2. Allen, Andrew J. "Fever of Unknown Origin in Dogs." Merck Veterinary Manual, Oct. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/metabolic-disorders-of-dogs/fever-of-unknown-origin-in-dogs.

  3. Creevy, Kate E. "Canine Distemper." Nov. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/generalized-conditions/canine-distemper/canine-distemper.

  4. "Key Facts about Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/other/canine-flu/keyfacts.html.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

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