Introduction to How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Cold? What to Do About It?
When people talk about catching a cold, they are actually referring to a wide range of viruses.
All of these viruses are grouped together as cold viruses because they cause similar symptoms, such as sneezing, sore throat, runny eyes and nose, and general malaise.
In people, the most common viral cold agents are the rhinovirus, more than 50 percent of colds in humans, and also the corona, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, and parainfluenza viruses.
The causes of colds in dogs are similar.
There is not one specific virus that gets the label “cold virus.” Instead, several different viruses can cause cold symptoms in dogs.
Some of these are more serious than others, which is why it is important to treat your dog’s cold symptoms with a little more gravity than you might treat a cold in yourself.
Human and dog colds share similarities.
Each is caused by a variety of different viruses that bring on some of the same symptoms. But the viruses that cause colds are generally species-specific.
In humans, the most common virus that causes colds is the rhinovirus.
In dogs, the most common viruses are canine adenovirus type 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica.
What Are the Symptoms of Colds in Dogs?
You may recognize some of your own cold symptoms in the symptoms of colds in dogs.
Common cold symptoms include:
- Runny or congested nose
- Watery eyes
These symptoms could be the result of a dog cold virus, but they could also be symptoms of more serious conditions, for example, kennel cough, influenza virus (dog flu), the parainfluenza virus, bronchitis, or even canine distemper.
In some breeds, even the common cold can be serious. Brachycephalic, or flat-faced breeds, are more prone to breathing problems.
In these dogs, symptoms of the common cold are more extreme and include:
- Increased snoring
Because of the different structures of the nose and nasal passages, these breeds become much more congested, and trapped mucus will more likely become a secondary infection like pneumonia.
If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, your safest option is to call your veterinarian for advice.
If your dog is also experiencing a change in appetite, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or any other changes in normal behavior, your dog could be suffering from a more serious disease that requires veterinary treatment.
How Will You Know If It’s More Serious than a Cold?
The first thing to do if you think your dog has a cold is to figure out how serious it is. It could be more serious than a cold if you observe any of these symptoms:
- Kennel cough has a honking or hacking sound, which could be kennel cough, especially if your dog has been on board.
- Canine flu may also cause additional symptoms like vomiting, fever, and discharge from the eyes and nose.
- Parasites may also cause diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, changes in appetite and coat, and constant coughing.
- Canine influenza may cause fever, lethargy, hacking cough, discharge from nose and eyes, and lack of appetite.
- Bronchitis may cause coughing, difficulty breathing or wheezing for an extended period of time, and vomiting or retching.
- A fungal infection may cause fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, eye discharge, eye inflammation, difficulty breathing (coughing or wheezing), and skin lesions.
- Canine distemper begins with a watery discharge from the eyes, fever, nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, lack of appetite, and vomiting.
It’s always a good idea to take your dog to the veterinarian if you suspect a respiratory infection. A doctor can rule out anything more serious. A cold can also become life-threatening in an old or very young dog as their immune systems are either compromised.
Cold or Kennel Cough?
Kennel cough (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly infectious respiratory disease in dogs. It gets its name from its most commonplace transmission kennels. At kennels and other places where large numbers of dogs congregate, it is easy for dogs to catch and transmit viruses. Kennel cough is treatable, and most dogs recover, but it can have more serious consequences in puppies and dogs with compromised immune systems.
The most distinctive characteristic of kennel cough is the dry, honking cough that dogs develop. Some people equate it to the sound of a honking goose.
Other symptoms of kennel cough include sneezing, a runny nose, lethargy, appetite loss, and a low fever. Since many of these symptoms can also be found in dogs with colds, it is important always to consult your veterinarian.
Are There Other Causes of Cold Symptoms?
Viruses aren’t the only cause of cold symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, or runny eyes and nose.
Coughing could also be the result of bacterial, parasitic infections such as heartworms and roundworms.
Fungal infections and allergies can also cause cold-like symptoms and can lead to damage to the lung tissue and possibly pneumonia.
How Are Dog Colds Treated?
If you suspect your dog has a cold, the first thing you should do is call your veterinarian.
While a mild cold is probably not a cause for concern, it is very important that you rule out any other causes of your dog’s symptoms.
Treating a dog’s cold is very similar to treating a human cold (except dogs don’t have to drag themselves into work):
- Keep your dog warm and dry.
- Limit exercise, especially during cold weather.
- Give them healthy food that’s easy to digest, like boiled chicken and brown rice. You can also make bone broth yourself.
- Use a warm mist humidifier near your dog’s bed.
- Try to get your dog to drink more water.
- Use a grooming cloth to wipe away nasal discharge.
- Try some natural treatments to help their breathing like these nose drops for congestion, runny nose, and sneezing, or this one for coughing.
- Use soothing balm if your dog’s nose is chapped.
- Add honey and coconut oil to your dog’s food for its infection-fighting qualities.
- Let your dog rest as much as possible.
- Give your dog a multivitamin.
Never give your dog human medication without checking with your vet first.
Most over-the-counter pain pills, like aspirin, paracetamol, and Ibuprofen, are toxic to dogs.
If your dog’s cold persists, your vet may prescribe antibiotics.
It’s a good idea to always consult with your veterinarian if you think your dog is sick.
Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam of your dog to listen to his heart and lungs and may suggest running a series of diagnostic tests to make sure your dog does not have a more serious condition.
Radiographs, fecal analysis, and blood work can help isolate the cause of your dog’s cold symptoms and lead to the best treatment plan for your dog.
Treatment for your dog’s cold will depend on the underlying cause.
While mild colds typically resolve on their own, if your dog’s cold turns out to be an infection such as kennel cough.
Your veterinarian will recommend a treatment protocol that could include rest, antibiotics for secondary infections, cough suppressants, and fluids, especially if your dog is a puppy or immune-compromised.
Can Dogs Get Colds from Humans?
The chances of dogs contracting a cold from humans are extremely low.
The viruses that cause cold-like symptoms in humans and in dogs rarely jump from one species to the other, so you can rest easy about giving your dog your case of the sniffles.
Likewise, you probably won’t catch a cold from your dog, but other dogs in the household or neighborhood could be at risk of contracting whatever virus is causing your dog’s cold, so play it safe and keep your dog away from other dogs until he is feeling better.
Can You Prevent Your Dog from Getting a Cold?
Sadly, there is no vaccine for the common dog cold, just like there is no vaccine for human colds, thanks to the sheer number of viruses that can cause cold symptoms.
Some causes of cold-like symptoms, however, do have vaccines.
The vaccines for kennel cough, distemper, and canine influenza viruses can help reduce your dog’s risk of contracting these diseases.
Veterinarians generally recommend that all dogs be vaccinated for distemper.
Talk to your veterinarian about whether or not he or she recommends any other vaccines to keep your dog healthy.
As a dog owner, you can also keep your eyes and ears open for mention of outbreaks of dog diseases in your communities and during those times avoid taking your dog to places where other dogs congregate.
When to Seek Veterinary Care
The first step in deciding whether your dog needs medical care lies in recognizing his or her symptoms.
Once you’ve determined that your dog may have a cold, you must decide whether it’s worth a trip to the vet.
Although some respiratory infections do get better on their own without medical intervention, it’s difficult for a layperson to judge just how severe a dog’s illness really is.
The general rule of thumb is that puppies and senior dogs should both be examined by a vet any time they have cold-like symptoms.
This is because their immune systems are usually weaker than those of healthy adult pets, and a cold is more likely to progress into pneumonia.
With that said, many owners prefer to err on the side of caution and take all sick dogs to the vet for a professional opinion.
Always seek veterinary care if:
- The symptoms become more intense.
- The dog develops a rattle in its chest.
- The dog is in obvious discomfort.
- The dog stops drinking liquid.
In many cases, a vet will prescribe an antibiotic to treat the illness.
While it’s true that antibiotics are not effective against viruses, these medications can destroy invading, opportunistic bacteria that make a dog even sicker while its immune system is fighting off the original virus.