Can Dogs Catch a Cold?

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The winter months bring worries of catching colds to people but our since our dogs are also susceptible to many diseases we often worry about them, too. Dogs can contract some of the diseases that people get so knowing what precautions to take can help to keep your dog healthy and safe.

What Is the Common Cold?

The common cold that people get is due to a variety of different viruses that cause respiratory symptoms. Over 200 different viruses can cause a cold in people but most of them are types of rhinoviruses. Runny nose, coughing, sneezing, congestion, sore throat, and other symptoms are indicative of a cold but can also be signs of other, more serious, diseases. The common cold is easily transmitted from person to person but only lasts about a week or so. Most people don't need to seek medical help and manage symptoms at home with over the counter medications and remedies.

Can a Dog Catch a Human Cold?

Human colds can only affect humans (and perhaps some monkeys) so no, your dog cannot catch your cold. Cold viruses are species specific and humans and dogs are not the same species. Dogs don't get colds but there are many infections that dogs can get that cause similar symptoms as a cold.

Can Dogs Give Each Other a Cold?

While dogs can't technically catch a cold, infections that cause symptoms similar to a cold in a human can be contagious to other dogs. Sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose can pass an infection from one dog to another. Because many infections are so contagious, a dog with a respiratory disease should be kept away from other dogs until they have been treated and no longer showing symptoms.

Respiratory Diseases Dogs Can Get

Dogs develop a variety of diseases and issues that may have symptoms like a cold.

Bordatella

This bacteria is one of the most common causes of "kennel cough" in dogs but it isn't the only one. Bordatella bronchiseptica does not cause a problem in people but if dogs get it, a number of respiratory symptoms, including coughing, can ensue. If left untreated, pneumonia can even develop. A vaccine is often used to help decrease the likelihood of a dog getting this highly contagious disease if your dog is at risk for this disease.

Distemper

This virus can cause respiratory and other serious symptoms and is highly contagious between dogs. The distemper vaccine is one of the core vaccines that all dogs should regularly get since there is no cure for this disease. Coughing and difficulty breathing eventually leads to paw pad changes, pneumonia, seizures, and other symptoms until death ultimately occurs.

Parainfluenza

Also known as CPIV, canine parainfluenza is not the same as canine flu but it is still highly contagious between dogs. Like bordatella, the parainfluenza virus can be a cause of "kennel cough" resulting in respiratory symptoms such as coughing and a runny nose. It is often included as part of a combination vaccine with several core vaccines but is not considered a core vaccine itself. Dog owners should discuss vaccinated their dogs for parainfluenza with their veterinarian if their dogs are exposed to other dogs.

Adenovirus

Adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) is a disease that causes manageable respiratory symptoms similar to those of a person with a cold. A vaccine is available that also offers cross protection from the more serious adenovirus type 1 (CAV-1) which can cause hepatitis in dogs. Because of this, the adenovirus vaccine is a core vaccine.

Canine Flu

Like the common cold, dogs cannot catch the flu from a person but dogs are susceptible to canine influenza, more commonly known as the dog flu. Two viruses are responsible for canine fluenza - H3N2 and H3N8. These viruses cause respiratory symptoms in infected dogs but fatalities are rare if the disease is treated. Vaccines for both flu virus strains exist and may be recommended for dogs regularly exposed to other dogs through boarding, daycare, and shows.

Respiratory Coronavirus

While rare, a form of coronavirus in dogs can cause respiratory symptoms. It is not the same as the human coronavirus disease, COVID-19. The infection is typically mild with typical respiratory symptoms including coughing and sneezing. It may be seen concurrently with other respiratory infections that cause "kennel cough."

How to Treat Respiratory Diseases in Dogs

Medications to manage the symptoms of a dog with a respiratory disease may include antibiotics, bronchodilators, steroids, cough suppressants and more depending on your dog's symptoms. Occasionally oxygen therapy may be necessary for more severe cases but many dogs do well at home with a couple of medications prescribed by their veterinarians.