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Can Dogs Catch a Cold? How to Tell and What to Do

Can Dogs Catch a Cold? How to Tell and What to Do

Ah, winter. The season for hot chocolate, snowball fights, cozy blankets, and lots of tissues. Yes, the change in weather often brings more colds. You might prepare yourself by stocking up on meds, soup, and, of course, tissues, but what about your pup? Can your dog catch a cold? 

Your four-legged friend can most certainly catch something that resembles a cold, but it's not the same virus that causes a cold in humans. Also, he won't pass it on to you (nor can you pass your cold on to your furry pal). How is this possible? 


All Colds Are Not the Same

First off, your cold isn't the same as a dog cold. Even though your pup might show a lot of the same cold symptoms as you do, like sneezes and sniffles, his "cold" is not the same as the one humans experience. You also can’t pass your cold onto your pup (or vice versa). So, if you or your pooch are feeling under the weather, there’s no need to stop the snuggles!


The Dog Flu

One of the most common ailments in pups that resembles a cold is Canine Influenza or Dog Flu. This illness is specific to the species, so it’s not the same as the flu humans get. However, you could potentially pass the dog flu on to another dog. The virus that causes Canine Influenza only lives for a few minutes on your skin, but it can live for about a day on clothes. So if your pup is infected and you go around another dog, you could pass it along. 

Likewise, if you have contact with an infected pooch, then interact with your pup, you could get him sick. Therefore, if you come in contact with a sick pup, it’s best to change your clothes and wash your hands before engaging with your dog. Plus, if your dog has contact with an infected dog, your pup will likely catch the flu if he isn’t vaccinated. If you feel your dog needs to be vaccinated, for example, he’s going to a boarding facility, spending a lot of time at dog parks, or there’s a recent outbreak of Canine Influenza, talk with your vet.


Other Dog Illnesses That Resemble a Cold

In addition to the Dog Flu, several other typical dog illnesses might make you think your pooch has a bad cold. These include Kennel Cough, allergies, Canine Distemper, and certain respiratory conditions. 

 black lab puppy with a cold

How to Tell If Your Dog Has a Cold

If you think your pup might have a “cold,” it may because he’s exhibiting specific symptoms associated with some of the illnesses mentioned above. Kennel Cough is typically marked by a dry cough that sounds like a honking goose. If your dog’s coughing sounds like this and is frequent, you need to contact your vet immediately. Certain allergies can cause your dog to react in a way similar to how you would with your own allergies (like non-stop sneezing). If you aren’t aware of your pup’s allergies, you could easily misinterpret these symptoms as a dog cold.

What to Do If Your Dog Has a Cold

Like with humans, a dog cold can often get better on its own. Therefore, if your pup is acting normally, eating and drinking well, and has his typical energy, you can probably rest easy. He most likely will be as good as new in a few days or a couple of weeks (much like humans). 

However, it’s always critical to keep a close eye on your pup, especially when he feels under the weather. Therefore, if he starts to show more serious signs of illness, you can recognize this change right away and act fast. If your pup doesn’t want to eat or drink, isn’t acting like himself, or has trouble breathing, then you need to bring him to the vet as soon as possible. 

Your vet will perform a full examination, ask you about your pup’s symptoms (another reason you always want to monitor your dog carefully), and she might run some tests. It’s vital to diagnose the exact cause for your pooch’s troubles so that you can get him the proper care. Depending on your vet’s findings, she will either prescribe medications like antibiotics or cough suppressants, or she may recommend putting your dog on fluids. 


Can Your Dog Take the Same Cold Medicine as You?

You should never give your pup any human cold medications as they can cause serious issues for your pup. When it comes to any kind of medication, the best thing to do is talk with your vet, and only administer medicine to your pup that your vet recommends. 

sick dog in the street with a cold

What's the Best Way to Keep Your Dog from Catching a Cold?

Of course, you never want your dog to feel bad, but sometimes getting a “cold” is inevitable. However, there are several things you can do to ensure you keep your dog as protected as possible from viruses and bacteria and other elements that cause various illnesses and problems. 

  • Keep your dog updated on all of his vaccinations. For example, Canine Distemper is easily avoided through proper vaccinations. While your puppy’s shots might not be able to protect him from everything out there in the world, they certainly can minimize his risk of catching a host of diseases.


  • Keep your dog’s belongings clean. Many people often forget about washing their pup’s blanket, dog bed, dog bowls, and other belongings like favorite toys and even leashes. All of these items can pick up bacteria and germs like everything else, so make sure to clean them regularly. It’s also essential to give your pup fresh water every day and not let water stand for long periods in his bowl.


  • Your mom was right. Drinking lots of water, eating nutritious food, and getting lots of rest go a long way to helping your pup feel his best. 

While staying vigilant during cold and flu season is important, it’s also essential to note that your pup can exhibit any of these symptoms at any time. Kennel cough, allergies, and other ailments don’t just infect dogs in the winter, no more than colds only infect humans when the weather is cold. 

However, when temps drop, don’t forget to protect your pup against other potential problems like hypothermia. Depending on your pup and how frigid it gets outside, you might need to get him a dog coat to keep him warm. Even certain larger breeds, like slim-bodied greyhounds, can have a rough time when the weather gets too cold. 


Winter is a fantastic time for spending some quality time together with your pooch, enjoying walks in the snow, hiking through a frosty forest, or even snuggled up by a campfire. Don’t let unchecked cold symptoms put an early end to your fun! Check out our blog for more ideas and tips to help keep your pup happy and healthy this season and all year round!

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