No one likes having a cold. It’s the exact kind of illness that makes you feel bad but that you can’t really complain about, a miserable condition that does no one any good but that has no real cure. It’s a fact of human life, of course, but does the same thing hold true for dogs?
This is a tricky question if you think about it. While we absolutely know that dogs can sneeze, have runny noses, and feel bad, it’s harder to figure out if they can catch a common cold. In fact, we really need to stop and look at our dogs when they have these symptoms because what we think of as a cold could be something more. This is absolutely the kind of subject that requires a closer look by those who care about the health of their pets.
What is a Cold, Anyway?
One of the biggest problems with answering this question actually starts with the question itself. A cold can mean many different things to many different people simply because there are a huge number of different viruses that we tend to group under the heading of ‘colds’. All of these viruses have very similar symptoms and tend to present in the same way, though they run their courses differently and don’t always have all that much to do with one another, biologically speaking.
Generally, we assume that people who talk about catching colds are talking about something that’s specifically referred to as a rhinovirus. This what causes most true colds in people, and it’s not usually a big deal. Rounding out the other usual suspects are various types of the flue, coronaviruses, and other similar bad actors.
It’s probably not too surprising to note that the same basic principles hold true when it comes to dogs. Dogs can get a whole host of different viruses that will end up causing the symptoms we think of when we think of colds, though some of the viruses a dog might get are an awful lot more serious than you might think. In fact, cold symptoms in a dog are symptoms that you need to keep a careful eye on no matter what else is going on.
Symptoms of Colds in Dogs
The great news about recognizing cold symptoms in dogs is that you probably have some of the same symptoms when you get a cold. Dogs’ symptoms include most of the usual suspects – coughing, sneezing, congested noses, and watery eyes. The big problem, though, is that all of these symptoms are likewise the symptoms of some of the more serious problems that your dog could get – including a dog flu, kennel cough, or even distemper.
Because the symptoms of a cold in dogs are so similar to the symptoms of more serious issues, you do need to call your vet if you notice that your dog has any of them. You should also be on the lookout for behavior changes in your dog, especially if they include changes in his or her bowel movements or the amount that your dog eats. Don’t just write off these symptoms as part of a cold – there could be something serious going on here.
Cough Symptom or Kennel Cough?
Canine tracheobronchitis, commonly known as kennel cough, is one of those dog illnesses for which you should always be on the lookout. So named because of the illness’s easy transmission among dogs, it’s a treatable illness that doesn’t usually have any long-term impact on your pup’s health. With that said, it is something you need to be very careful about if you have a puppy or a dog who already has immune system issues.
So, how do you know if it’s a kennel cough instead of a regular cold? For the most part, you’re going to listen for a distinctively dry, honking cough. While your dog might have a whole host of other symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing, it’s really the cough for which you want to be on the lookout. If you notice this cough, you’ll want to contact your vet right away.
Other Cold Symptom Causes
There are many different causes of cold symptoms in dogs. You’re not just looking out for viruses here – even issues like heartworms and roundworms can cause your dog to cough. Other problems like allergies can lead to cold-like symptoms as well. Always closely monitor your dog if he or she starts coughing.
Treating a Dog Cold
With all of that said, it’s just as important to note that you should be aware of how dog colds are treated. Once you notice the symptoms of the cold, you’ll want to call your vet. While he or she is going to let you know that you have little to worry about if there are only basic symptoms, it’s always a good idea to get your vet at least some basic information right away.
If your vet decides that your dog needs to come in, he or she will almost certainly perform a basic physical exam. If there are any breathing issues, you may also need to think about having some diagnostic tests run to help figure out the problem. As you might expect, this can be the kind of issue that really puts your pet insurance to the test.
The actual treatment process isn’t all that exciting. If your dog just has a standard cold, you will just have to wait for it to go away. If it’s an infection, though, you’ll get some kind of medication that you can give to your dog. It’s important that your dog spends a fair bit of time in bed rather than running around if he or she does get a diagnosis, though, as rest is almost always part of a vet’s treatment plan.
Can Humans Give Dogs Colds?
You shouldn’t worry too much about giving your dog your cold. The good news is that the colds that impact us aren’t the ones that impact dogs, so there’s no real chance of the illness jumping the species barrier. What you may need to worry about, though, is your dog infecting other dogs. If your dog has any visible cold symptoms, you may want to isolate him or her from the rest of your pets until he or she feels better.
Are Dog Colds Preventable?
Sadly, you can no more prevent your dog from getting a cold than you can prevent yourself from getting a cold. There are simply too many viral variations out there for any kind of vaccine to be effective. You can, however, protect your dog from getting other illnesses like kennel cough or distemper by having him or her vaccinated each year. Most vets recommend these vaccines and they’re more than worth the cost.