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Health & Wellness

Can dogs get colds?

We’ll walk you through the symptoms and treatment options

Did you know that dogs, especially young pups with immature immune systems, can catch colds? 

“A dog cold, also known as a respiratory infection, is caused by viruses and/or bacteria,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, tells The Dig. 

Symptoms of colds in dogs usually last between 10 to 14 days, and will most likely go away on their own. But, there are some things you can do to help your pup feel more comfortable while recovering. 

Can dogs get sick from humans? 

Dog colds are passed between pups — a person can’t contract a cold from a dog and vice versa, Dr. McCullough says.

Regardless of if your pup is sick or not, practicing good hygiene around your pet can help to keep them in good health — remember to keep their toys, bowls and sleeping spaces as clean as possible.

Dog cold symptoms

No one knows your dog better than you. It’s why you’re the first to notice when your pet isn’t themselves. Dr. McCullough says to look out for these signs if you think your dog has a cold:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of appetite
  • Coughing (sometimes sounds like retching)

According to Dr. McCullough, symptoms of colds in dogs can sometimes mimic other, more serious, illnesses — like kennel cough, for example. Kennel cough (another respiratory infection caused by viruses or bacteria) should be diagnosed quickly, as it spreads easily amongst pets. 

Cold symptoms (unrelated to a cold) can also signal that your pup has an irritant or foreign material in the airway, eyes or nose, a fungal infection, heart disease or cancer, Dr. McCullough adds. 

Can dogs get the flu?

Dogs can get the pup-version of the flu, otherwise known as canine influenza. Symptoms include a low-grade fever, coughing, sneezing, runny eyes and nose, lethargy, decreased appetite and difficulty breathing (in serious cases), Dr. McCullough says. There’s no specific treatment plan for dog flu, so talk to your veterinarian about the right solution for your pup.

Treatment options for dog colds

There are several ways a vet can determine if your dog has a cold. “Most cases of respiratory infections are diagnosed based on owner-provided information and physical examination,” Dr. McCullough says. “Some respiratory infections require blood testing, X-rays and/or PCR testing for diagnosis.”

Your vet will treat your pet based on their diagnosis. Some dogs may need antibiotics or a stay at the hospital to recover. According to Dr. McCullough, most dog cold cases go away on their own and don’t require any treatment.  

Home remedies for dog colds

There aren’t any vet-recommended home remedies for your dog’s cold, but there are ways you can help encourage their recovery from your house. 

“Some dogs get comfort from extra humidification, such as using a humidifier or letting your dog sit in a steamy bathroom for 10 to 15 minutes,” Dr. McCullough says. The humidity loosens mucus so that it can be coughed up and removed from their airway, she adds. 

How to prevent dog colds

The most effective way to prevent your dog from catching colds is by planning ahead. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent respiratory infections,” Dr. McCullough says. Talk to your veterinarian about the right vaccine for your pup. 

When your dog starts showing signs of a cold, your best bet is to reach out to your veterinarian. After they’ve decided that the sick symptoms aren’t a sign of an underlying illness, you'll know how to help your dog feel more comfortable. If your dog has cat siblings, read our article about cat colds

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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