Can dogs get a cold ? A must-know answer for every dog parent

can dogs get a cold

Changing seasons bring a refreshing vibe in our lives. But sometimes they also make us pile up tissues and tablets. And, when you catch a chill or fall sick, as a responsible person, you may be worried about the potential risks for others at home including your four-legged friend. But can dogs get a cold or flu?

I have put together this guide which has everything you need to know about colds and flu in dogs to help you understand your fur baby in a better way.

What is a cold in dogs ?

When someone says they have a “cold”, they are actually referring to a group of viruses that cause common symptoms, usually sneezing, runny nose and eyes, coughing, congestion, sore throat, and/or general malaise.

In humans, the most common virus causing a cold is usually a rhinovirus, though there are a few other culprits – like the corona virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, and parainfluenza virus.

In dogs, the symptoms of cold are similar to those of a human cold, however, the virus causing the cold in dogs is different.

So when we say that a dog has a cold, we are talking about canine viruses. In dogs, there is not one specific virus that can be labelled as the cold virus but there are many canine viruses responsible for colds and flus in dogs.

The canine respiratory viruses include canine herpesvirus-1 (CHV-1), canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), canine adenovirus 2 (CAV-2), canine parainfluenza virus(CPiV), canine distemper virus (CDV), canine pneumovirus, canine influenza virus (CIV), or, Bordetella (commonly known as kennel cough).

Some of these canine viruses are life-threatening, which is why it is extremely important for you to treat your dog’s cold more seriously than you might treat a cold in you.

Can dogs get a cold ?

Yes, dogs can catch a cold and their symptoms are just like a human cold. They get infected with canine viruses that makes them sneeze and sniffle just that way we do.

When a dog catches a cold, it may have wet sneezes, watery sad eyes, a liquid discharge from the nose, blocked nasal passage, restless breathing due to congestion, coughing, fever, extra napping, and loss of interest in food.

The symptoms of canine cold in a sick dog will last around 4 to 10 days, and the cold is treatable and rarely life-threatening.

However, the dog cold has a different cause and the symptoms could also be the result of a more serious disease.

So, if your dog has a cold, do not take it lightly. Never try to give your dog over-the-counter medicines. Rather, speak to a vet and clearly explain the symptoms of cold in your dog.

Also read – Calcium deficiency in dogs : Causes, symptoms & treatment

Can dogs get a cold from humans ?

If you are infected with a cold and you are wondering can your dog catch your cold, then the answer is – no. This is because some viruses are ‘species specific’, which means that certain viruses that infect dogs do not infect humans.

‘Dog cold’ is specific to canines and if a dog is infected with a cold then it can infect only other dogs and not humans.

So, if your dog is infected with a cold and you are wondering can you get a cold from your dog, then, again the answer is – no.

However, in the recent COVID-19 pandemic, you must have read about cases where some people had infected their dogs with the coronavirus when in close contact. This is extremely rare, and in most of the cases the dogs had a mild infection.

Nevertheless, if you show symptoms of COVID-19 and test positive for the same, it would be best if someone else could care for your dog until you recover.

It is always better to protect your pets when you are sick.

Symptoms of cold in dogs

How do we know if a dog has a cold? Watch out for these common cold symptoms in dogs:

  • Sneezing
  • Sniff slightly or repeatedly
  • Snorting
  • Shivering
  • Glassy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Watery discharge from the eyes
  • Coughing (A dry cough with a goose honk sound could mean kennel cough)
  • Low energy and less activity
  • Loss of interest in food
  • Rapid or troubled breathing
  • Fever (Specifically, a fever indicates the dog flu)

These are some common signs when a dog experiences a cold or flu. However, sometimes it is not easy to differentiate a cold from other respiratory infections or the flu, so it is important to ask your vet for advice.

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How to treat it ?

If you see any signs of a cold in your dog and he is off his food, you should first call your veterinarian. Though a mild cold may not be a major concern, you should get your sick dog checked at the vet to rule out any other serious cause.

At the clinic, the veterinarian will examine your dog’s heart and lungs first. Based on the condition of your dog the vet may suggest to get some tests to make sure your dog does not have anything serious like dog flu or kennel cough.

Blood tests, x-rays, and fecal matter analysis can help find the cause of your dog’s cold symptoms and guide the vet to provide the best treatment for your ill dog.

Depending on the test results, if your dog’s cold turns out to be a contagious infection such as kennel cough, the vet will first suggest to keep away other dogs at home from your sick dog.

As a treatment plan, he would likely advise some cough suppressants, antibiotics, fluids, and plenty of rest for a speedy recovery.

Home treatment

A cold in a dog is considered ‘mild’ as long as the dog is breathing normally, eating and drinking regularly and still seems to have the same energy levels.

Generally, dogs with a mild cold go back to feeling normal within a few days to a week and they can be taken care of at home with minimal care.  

Here are some tips you can follow at home to help your dog recover from a mild cold:

  • Give your dog warm and fresh food – A cold may cause a congestion in the nose and your dog might not be able to smell the food and enjoy it. Warm foods are more aromatic. So, always serve fresh and warm food to make it easier for your dog to smell and enjoy.
  • Increase fluid intake – Remaining hydrated is an important step when recovering from a cold. So, keep a check on the water intake and make sure your dog is getting plenty of fluids. Warm chicken and vegetable broth is an easy way to help your sick dog maintain his fluid levels.
  • Avoid long walks – Allow your dog to get plenty of rest when he is recovering from a cold and keep daily walks at a comfortable pace. Use a harness during walks as collars can irritate a dog’s trachea. Avoid running, wild plays, excessive exercises, and encourage quiet play sessions.
  • Extra snoozes – While your dog is recovering from a cold he might sleep more than he usual does. This is quite natural as a dog’s body is fighting the cold germs and hence needs plenty of rest during this time.
  • Cleanliness – Wash your dog’s sheets and blankets regularly to get rid of the germs. Also, keep clean toys and other objects your dog is constantly in contact with. Clean your dog’s runny eyes and nose at least twice daily and use sterile cotton pads and warm water to soften any dried matter on the eyes or nose.
  • Use a humidifier – A humidifier helps to loosen up some congestion. Likewise, your dog can benefit from being in the bathroom while you shower. The steam from the hot water will relieve your dog’s sinuses making it easier for him to breathe, especially where they are sleeping.
  • Monitor body temperature – A fever is sign of something more serious than just a cold. So, when your dog has a cold, keep a check on his temperature levels. Don’t depend on the wet nose/dry nose trick, it doesn’t work to indicate a fever.

The only way to figure out your dog’s internal temperature is to use a pet digital thermometer by inserting it in his rectum. I know, this may come as a shock to you, but this is how the vets do it and it is comfortable for the dog when done correctly.

Start first by masking up and wearing clean disposable gloves. Second, lubricate the tip of the thermometer with some petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Third, place your dog on a table or gently keep him between your legs while you’re standing, and now gently lift his tail up and carefully insert the thermometer about 1 inch into your dog’s rectum. If possible, ask someone to assist you with your dog mainly to prevent your dog from sitting during this time.

Once the digital thermometer beeps, gently pull out the thermometer.

Finally, note the temperature and sterile the thermometer with gauze and disinfectant. Encourage your dog with treats for being so patient and quiet.

If your dog has a temperature of 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, it is normal. Anything above this denotes a fever, and a fever may indicate your dog might be developing pneumonia. He needs to go to the veterinary hospital immediately.

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Preventing cold in dogs

Now since we know the answer to can dogs get a cold and flu, it is better to learn about ways to prevent it.

Here are a few things we can do to minimize the risk of our dogs catching a cold:

  • Keep vaccinations up to date – Dog vaccinations can significantly reduce the risk of getting certain illnesses like kennel cough, and other contagious diseases like parvovirus, canine distemper, leptospirosis and infectious canine hepatitis. Talk to your veterinarian about important vaccines to keep your dog healthy.
  • Clean their things regularly –To prevent the spread of dog cold wash your dog’s food and water bowls, toys, bedsheets and blankets regularly. Do not let them share these with other dogs at home.
  • The key is to rest –Just like kids, dogs needs to sleep between 10-14 hours a day, especially if they are pups. To prevent your dog from falling ill, always make sure that they’re getting enough sleep throughout the day.
  • Balanced diet – A good quality and complete diet helps to boost a dog’s immune system and prevent them from falling sick.
  • Outbreaks and epidemics – As a responsible dog owner, keep an eye out for any mention of possible outbreaks of dog diseases in your area. During those times your dog should be kept inside and you should avoid taking him to places like day cares and dog parks. Call your local vet and find out if any further vaccines are required during the epidemic.

Other causes of cold symptoms

Besides viruses, bacteria and parasites are also known to cause cold symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or watery eyes and nose in dogs.

Generally, if a dog is coughing and doesn’t have any other symptom of a cold, it can be coughing as a result of bacterial, parasitic infection such as heart worms and roundworms.

In addition to this, allergies and fungal infections can also be reasons for cold-like symptoms in dogs which can damage to the lung tissue and possibly cause pneumonia.

Also read – Seizures in dogs : Know the Signs, Causes and What you can do


Can dogs get a cold? Yes, they can. Cold in dogs is mostly treatable, but if your dog stops eating and drinking, breathes abnormally, and/or gets a fever, your dog needs to visit his veterinarian ASAP. If your dog is coughing, let the vet know about it in advance, as many of the canine infections are very contagious to other dogs.

Share this very informative and important article with all the dog lovers out there.

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