Sick as a Dog

It’s that time of year: the coughing, sniffling, sneezing season when germs cause infections to run rampant. But what about dogs? Do dogs get colds? Yes, dogs can catch viruses that make them sneeze and sniffle like humans. Where do you think the expression “sick as a dog” comes from? So, how do you know when your dog has a cold and how do you treat its symptoms?

Canine cold symptoms are much like humans’: coughing, sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. Your best friend may seem lethargic and not like its normal furry self. Another telltale sign is pinkeye and loss of appetite. As with its human form, canine colds are not usually serious; they’re just uncomfortable and will likely pass after a week. But since dogs are unable to tell you how they feel, you will have to monitor your pup closely to ensure the bug doesn’t evolve into something more serious.

You can treat a doggy cold pretty much the same way you would a human cold. Owners should give their pups lots of liquids, make sure they rest—heck, even serve up some warm chicken soup (as long as the meat doesn’t contain any bones they could choke on). Limit exercise, especially in cold weather. Loosen up their sinuses by filling the bathtub with hot water and letting them lay down in the bathroom—not in the tub—so the steam can ease congestion. If you suspect it may be more than a cold, talk to your vet immediately.

Now that you know dogs can catch colds, you might be wondering if dogs can catch human colds. It is very unlikely that dogs and humans can swap cold viruses. The viruses that cause cold-like symptoms rarely jump from one species to the other. However, they can move within a species, so play it safe and keep your dog out of canine society until it is feeling better.

Sadly, there is no vaccine for the common canine cold, just like there is no vaccine for the human cold. The best preventative measure is keeping your canine as fit and healthy as possible, to boost its immune system and give it the energy to fight any viruses or bacteria it may face.

That means providing a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of exercise (at least once a day), regular vet check-ups and up-to-date vaccinations. It’s best to keep your dog warm and away from rain and draughts. Also, remember to allow access to a plentiful supply of fresh water.

Sometimes just knowing that dogs can get colds makes all the difference. These tips should help you spot the first sign of the common dog cold and keep your dog healthy. Talk to your vet about other measures you can take to prevent your dog from getting a cold; they’re best equipped to give you and your dog the tools you need for a happy, healthy life.