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Is My Dog Sick? Cold Symptoms in Dogs

Dog sleeping


If your pup starts sneezing non-stop, sleeping more, and eating less, these could be signs your dog has a cold. Although a dog’s cold isn’t quite the same as the one humans get, it can still be as draining. Dogs with colds will likely be less active than normal, but usually, a minor cold might not be a big deal.

However, sometimes more severe canine issues can resemble a cold. Therefore, it’s important to keep your eye out for cold symptoms in dogs. Many times, as with humans, a cold will resolve itself on its own, but it’s still best to see the vet. If your pup’s cold seems to be sticking around or getting worse, then a trip to the vet is critical.

What Are Cold Symptoms in Dogs?

A different virus causes your dog’s cold than the cold you get. This is good news because it means it’s extremely unlikely for you and your best friend to pass your cold to each other. But, even though the sources are different, they still share many common symptoms.

For example, many of the cold symptoms in dogs are what you would experience if you have a cold. 

  • Runny nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Low energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleeping more
  • Fever (anything over 103-degrees warrants a call to the vet ASAP)

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your vet to make sure it’s just a cold. Since colds can mimic more serious problems, like kennel cough and canine influenza, it’s essential to get an accurate diagnosis.

If it’s only a cold, then you will likely be able to care for your pup at home, and symptoms will resolve in about 5 to 10 days. If it’s a more serious cold, you might require vet care to improve your pup’s health.

How to Care for Your Dog’s Cold at Home

In most cases, you can take care of your dog’s cold at home. This is especially the case if your pup is acting normally. In other words, if your dog is still eating and drinking well and acting pretty normal, at-home care is likely all you need. 

Many of the things you would do for yourself when you have a cold, you would do for your pup too. For example, your pup will need lots of rest, fresh water at the ready, and a comfortable environment. 

Make sure your dog stays warm, and if they’re congested, consider letting them stay in the bathroom while you shower. The steam can help keep their nasal passages open and moist. 

Humidifiers can be helpful with congestion and other respiratory-related issues like asthma. But make sure to use a cool-mist model in case your pup knocks it over.

If your dog has nasal discharge, use a soft cloth or gauze to wipe their nose. And if you have other dogs in the house, isolate your sick pup as much as possible. Do not give your dog over-the-counter cold medications unless directed to do so by your vet.

When to Get Veterinary Care for Your Dog’s Cold

If your dog’s cold is more serious, you’ll need to seek veterinary care. Bring your dog to the vet if you notice these cold symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Completely stops eating or drinking
  • Overly tired, lethargic
  • Whimpering or seems to be in any pain

The vet will perform a full examination and run any necessary tests. If they determine it’s a cold, they will recommend the proper care and might prescribe medications, like cough-suppressants.

Alternatively, they might determine that there’s another reason for your pup’s symptoms. Whatever the diagnosis, your vet can ensure you get your dog the right treatment as soon as possible.

Dog at the vet

Other Dog Illnesses That Can Resemble a Cold

Your dog’s coughing, sneezing, and decreased appetite and energy levels might not be a cold. It’s possible your dog has Canine Influenza, Bordetella (kennel cough), Canine Distemper, or even allergies.

It’s wise to keep these possibilities in mind, especially if your dog isn’t vaccinated. Once you know the exact cause of your dog’s symptoms, you’ll be able to give them the best care. 

Parasites, like roundworms or heartworms, can also cause many symptoms that resemble cold symptoms in dogs. Bacterial and fungal infections are other culprits that can make your dog cough, sneeze, and feel tired and miserable.  If left untreated, they can lead to more serious issues like pneumonia.

Tips for Preventing Your Dog from Catching a Cold

Catching a cold is one of those things that’s just inevitable for both dogs and humans. But there’s always a way to reduce the likelihood your dog will catch a cold. At the very least, you can make sure your dog doesn’t get sick often by following these tips.

  • Clean your dog’s stuff. Sometimes, people can lose track of washing their pet’s bowls, blankets, and even toys. It’s essential to wash your dog’s food and water bowls regularly. Likewise, wash their bedding and anything else they have regular contact with.
  • Give your dog fresh water every day. If your dog doesn’t drink all of the water in their bowl, don’t let it sit there. Make sure to dump it out and put fresh water in their dish daily.
  • Feed your dog a nutritious diet. Healthy eating habits make anyone feel better and strengthen the immune system. Make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight and eats a nutritious diet.
  • Make sure your dog gets proper exercise. Daily activity and adequate exercise are essential for overall good health. The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend largely on their breed and overall activity level. But, make sure to keep the leash handy.
  • Keep up with regular vaccinations and vet care. Of course, vaccinations can’t protect your dog from every illness, but they certainly minimize the risk. Regular vet checkups are also key to an overall healthy pet.
  • Stay in the know. Always be aware of what’s going on in your local area or with dog food recalls, etc. If you plan to travel with your pup, make sure you know if there’s anything special you should know (for example, a recent outbreak of kennel cough).

Wrapping It Up

If your pup is sneezing, coughing, has a runny nose, decreased appetite, and wants to sleep more, they might have a cold. But, colds can resemble a lot of other serious conditions like Canine Distemper, kennel cough, and canine flu. It could also be parasites or allergies, so a trip to the vet is necessary. 

If it’s a mild cold, you can treat your pup at home with lots of fluids and rest, and they should feel better in a week or two. Keeping your pet’s belongings clean and serving them fresh water is important. Also, staying up to date on vaccinations and vet care can also help minimize their risk of getting sick.

As your dog’s number-one fan and caregiver, it’s vital to stay informed about doggy health issues. When you know what to look for, you can act fast when problems arise and get your pup the help they need. Check out our blog for more useful tips and resources on how to keep your pup feeling their best


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