Do Dogs get Colds? What's Important to Know

Do Dogs Get Colds? What's Important to Know

Annual checkups at the vet are fairly affordable. Unexpected trips, however, can cost quite a bit more than many pet owners are expecting. In fact, unexpected trips to the vet cost an average of $700 to $1500, depending on where you live. 

For that reason, it can be of great benefit for dog owners to know a thing or two about doggy illnesses. We often hear the question, "Do dogs get colds?" 

Of equal importance is the question, "When should I take my dog to the vet for a cold?"

We'll cover the colds your dog can catch, available home treatments, and signs that a trip to the vet is in order.

Do Dogs Get Colds?

The short and simple answer is that yes, dogs do get colds. Let's take a look at some of the most common canine colds and where they come from.

Kennel cough is something that almost every dog owner has heard of. We call it "kennel cough" because it is an airborne virus that is transmitted from dog to dog. In other words, if your dog is in close quarters with an infected dog (perhaps in a kennel), they can end up catching this virus.

In actuality, there are a few viruses that end up under the "kennel cough" umbrella. The first is Bordetella bronchiseptica. The second is the canine parainfluenza virus. These viruses infect the trachea and upper bronchi.

Another common infection is the canine coronavirus. This infection attacks the upper two-thirds of a dog's small intestine and can spread to the lymph nodes. It is highly contagious for both wild and domestic dogs and is transmitted through contact with the feces of an infected dog. 

It has long been believed that dogs cannot catch human viruses, but it's not common at all. There have been rare cases of dogs catching the human parainfluenza virus when exposed to it in large doses. 

Symptoms of Canine Colds

When dogs catch colds, they exhibit symptoms that look a lot like ours!

Some of the most noticeable symptoms are stuffy or runny noses, loud breathing caused by congestion, and watery eyes. Dogs are also prone to developing a sore throat when sick, although you won't know that that is the case unless they also begin to cough.

Sneezing is also a common symptom of the canine cold. We don't mean a sneeze here and there, which could be caused by a number of passing irritants. Instead, we mean steady or consistent sneezing that lasts for several hours or even days.

Dogs can also develop headaches or feel achy all over. When this occurs, they will be less active and excitable. If your pooch doesn't even perk up at the suggestion of a walk or a romp in the backyard, they're probably feeling pretty sore.  

What to Do When Your Dog Gets Sick

If the cold seems mild, there are a few things you can do at home to ease their symptoms and speed up their recovery.

Provide your dog with a balanced diet. There are certain amino acids that dogs need to build up strength and to stay healthy. These amino acids are required to keep their immune system functioning properly and a strong immune system is one that can fight viruses effectively! 

Let them sleep. Just like humans, dogs are going to feel pretty KO'd when they have a cold. This is a time when the old saying, "Let sleeping dogs lie," is particularly true. 

Make sure your dog is drinking plenty of water. This will help flush some of that yucky mucus out of their system! If she doesn't seem interested in her water bowl, try giving her ice cubes or lukewarm water and see if that's more appealing.

Use a wet cloth to keep her eyes and nose clear. All of that runny gunk is uncomfortable!

Finally, boosting humidity levels is a great way to relieve some of your dog's symptoms. Keep a humidifier running and encourage your dog to lay in the bathroom when you shower so that she can inhale some of the steam.

If she's willing to sit still for a while, fill a large bowl with hot water and place it in front of her front paws. Cover both her head and the bowl with a towel, creating a steam tent. You may want to sit with her on the floor so she feels comfortable and won't run away or tip over the bowl!

In spite of what you may read online, do not give your dog over-the-counter medication designed for human consumption. Unless a vet gives you exact instructions on what to use and how to administer it, you run the risk of giving your dog a dose of something that isn't good for her. 

Signs That Your Dog Needs to Go to the Vet

At what point does a canine cold escalate into something more serious? There are a few tell-tail signs that it's time to take your pooch to the vet's office.

Extreme Low Energy Levels

As we mentioned earlier, it's normal for your dog to catch a few extra z's when she's sick. However, she should still get up to use the restroom, eat, drink, and maybe even snuggle. 

If none of these things are enticing your dog to get up for a few minutes, there is the unfortunate possibility that something internal is crashing. 

Unusual Bowel Movements

If your dog is experiencing unusual bowel movements, this may be a sign that the virus is spreading to her intestines or that the source of all of her misery is some kind of blockage. 

Unusual bowel movements include diarrhea and constipation. You may also notice oddly colored or textured stool. Finally, she may not be constipated but is having difficulty releasing stool. 

Cough-Induced Vomiting

The various types of kennel cough do, of course, lead to coughing. Increasing her fluid intake and creating moisture in the air she breathes should loosen up the irritants in her throat and relieve some of this painful hacking.

If your dog reaches the point where coughing is leading to gagging or vomiting, she needs more than home remedies. Between the virus itself and the acid in vomit, her trachea is undergoing some serious damage. Prescription medication is necessary to alleviate these symptoms more quickly.

Refusal to Take Food or Water

It's normal for dogs to become somewhat disinterested in food and water when they're sick. They may not have as much of an appetite or find that substances hurt or irritate their throat.

However, if your dog isn't interested in even the most exciting food (like a favorite treat), there may be more going on than meets the eye. Even if she's just being stubborn, issues like dehydration are no laughing matter. A vet may need to administer IV fluids.

Symptoms Lasting Longer Than a Week

Minor cases should clear up in a matter of days. In fact, it's fairly common for dogs to go back to their normal, energetic selves after only two or three days of sickness.

If your dog is still showing signs of sickness after six or seven days, it's time to go to the vet. This applies even if the symptoms aren't getting worse over time. A prolonged illness is a sign that your dog's body isn't strong enough to fight off the virus on its own and medication is necessary.

Preventive Measures

If you're worried about your pup catching a cold, there are a few preventative measures you can take.

First of all, keep their vaccinations up to date. Most kennels will require that your dog has had a kennel cough vaccination before you board them.

However, remember that dogs are social creatures and they don't have to be surrounded by other dogs for days on end to catch kennel cough. Even a trip to the dog park can lead to contagion. 

If one of your dogs has caught a cold, keep them separated from the rest until it's cleared up. Make sure you pick up the infected dog's poop and throw it away immediately.

Finally, practice the basic rules of sick-person hygiene when you've caught a cold. Like we said before, it's unlikely that your dog will catch what you've got. However, the jury is still out on that and it's best to keep your hands clean before petting your dog.

Healthy Dogs Are More Resistant to Colds

Do dogs get colds? The answer is a resounding yes!

The best way to prevent them from catching a cold is keeping them healthy. Good food provides the nutrients they need to keep up a strong, bacteria-fighting immune system. 

Take a look at our plant-based dog food options. They're made with the best and highest quality ingredients. Your dog will love it and so will their body!

We are Wild Earth

Thank you for stopping by! We're Wild Earth, a dog nutrition company that makes dog food and treats that contain zero animal ingredients. We make a high protein, high fiber dog food that has everything your dog needs and nothing they don't. Dogs love the taste and you can rest easy knowing you are giving the healthiest, cleanest food on the market. We also have treats that come in peanut butter, banana & cinnamon, and strawberry & beet.