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Can Dogs Get Colds? + Symptoms, Treatments & More | Pupford

October 6th, 2023

Filed under Health + Wellness

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It's that time of the year again. When the trees start to lose their leaves, and we have to defrost the car each morning, we know one thing for sure – cold and flu season is on the way.

Of course, common colds crop up everywhere in people, but can dogs get colds, too?

The short answer is yes. So keep reading to discover symptoms that may indicate your four-legged friend is feeling under the weather, plus tips on preventing and treating dogs with a cold. We've put together this guide to tell you everything you need to know about dog colds to help you better understand your pet.

In this guide, we'll discuss the following:

  • Can dogs catch human colds?
  • Other dog-specific illnesses like colds
  • Dog cold symptoms
  • Common cold vs. kennel cough in dogs
  • How to treat a dog with a cold
  • How to prevent dogs from catching colds
  • Can dogs get sick from humans?
  • Final Thoughts

Let's get right to it. 👇


not one recognized virus has been identified as the common cold virus

When humans catch a cold, there are many potential viruses they might have caught (though rhinovirus causes more than half of the cases). We group these ‘cold’ viruses because they usually cause similar symptoms, like runny eyes and nose, sore throat, fatigue, and sneezing.

When it comes to dogs, not one recognized virus has been identified as the common cold virus.

However, there are several types of viruses that a dog may catch that causes them to exhibit cold-like symptoms. These viruses range in severity, so you must pay close attention to any symptoms your doggo may be experiencing.


Just like in humans, there's a variety of conditions that might seem like dog colds and flu. The most common "cold-like" illnesses in dogs include:

  • Kennel cough
  • Dog allergies
  • Canine distemper
  • Respiratory conditions

Let's look at each one below. 👇


This highly contagious respiratory infection is recognizable by a dry cough often associated with a honking sound. This sort of cough will sound much different than a wetter cough you'd hear from a dog with a cold or flu.

A dog with Kennel Cough should be seen by a veterinarian immediately and avoid contact with other dogs.


Your four-legged friend can suffer from seasonal and environmental allergies, similar to how humans get hay fever.

Allergies are annoying for humans and dogs alike. Dogs can experience seasonal and environmental allergies to pollen, dust, and mites. If your dog's cold symptoms last for weeks, it could be something in the air.

If your dog's symptoms include skin irritation and upset stomach, consider testing for a food allergy.


Most dogs are vaccinated against Canine Distemper as puppies, but it's still important to know the signs, as this viral illness can be life-threatening. The virus first affects a dog's lymph nodes and tonsils, with symptoms similar to a cold, such as lethargy and runny eyes and nose.

Other early symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog experiences these symptoms, you should seek medical attention. If untreated, the virus can attack the nervous system, leading to seizures and paralysis.


It's also important to note that different breeds may be more susceptible to specific ailments. Flat-faced breeds, such as pugs, are prone to Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which can be misinterpreted as a cold.

This condition is exacerbated by extreme heat, while colds typically linger in colder conditions.

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watery eyes is a cold symptom in dogs

So, what are the signs of a cold in dogs, and how can you identify if your dog has a cold that you can treat from home or if something more serious is going on?

Common dog cold symptoms:

  • Runny nose with fluid discharge
  • Frequent sniffles and wet sneezes
  • Watery eyes
  • Fatigue (extra naps, lower energy)
  • Stuffy, congested breathing

Cold symptoms in dogs typically last between five and ten days. Colds can often be treated at home with some extra care from you.

Here are the recommended steps to help treat a dog with a common cold:

  • Isolate sick pets from healthy pets
  • Allow your dog to rest as much as possible
  • Give them plenty of water
  • Place your dog in a room with a humidifier or leave them in the bathroom while you shower to expose them to warm, humid air
  • Wipe off discharge from their nose

If your dog has trouble breathing, is extremely sluggish, shows signs of pain, or stops eating or drinking, take them to the veterinarian to be checked out.

Likewise, if your dog lacks appetite or respiratory symptoms worsen or increase in frequency, seek veterinary care. You should also seek veterinary care if you do not see daily improvement.


the difference between kennel cough and colds in dogs

Kennel cough, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious disease that dogs can catch and is a more severe cause of cold-like symptoms in dogs.

Kennel cough targets the upper respiratory system and causes inflammation in the trachea. The infection usually has both a bacterial and viral component. It can be caused by bacteria or a virus and is easily spread by dogs, thus the name kennel cough, because many dogs get kennel cough after exposure to other sick dogs. Dogs can also pick kennel cough from an environment where infected dogs are.

Common signs of kennel cough in dogs include:

  • Mild fever
  • Runny nose
  • Dry, harsh coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Decreased appetite
  • Trouble breathing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Severe congestion
  • Fatigue

Kennel cough's most prominent symptom is usually dry, harsh coughing, which may end in retching or gagging. If you notice that your dog is experiencing a dry, severe cough or they are retching or gagging, contact your vet as soon as possible.

Antibiotics from the veterinarian can only help with the bacterial component; the viral component needs time and supportive care. Without treatment, kennel cough can become more serious, like pneumonia, and lead to severe complications or even death.


make sure your dog always has access to water

If your dog is showing symptoms of a cold, reach out to your veterinarian so that they can perform a physical exam and rule out other possible causes. In addition, your veterinarian may examine your dog's heart and lungs and perform other diagnostic tests to rule out other possible causes.

For example, dogs can experience cold-like symptoms resulting from parasitic infections, like roundworms and heartworms, as well as fungal infections. In addition, coughing may indicate infection, so your veterinarian might want to check your dog for parasites to rule them out before proceeding with a treatment plan.

If your dog has kennel cough, the vet will likely prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection. They may also provide you with other medication, such as a cough suppressant. Regardless of the type of cold virus, your dog will likely need extra fluids, plenty of rest, and time to recover.

You can manage most dog colds at home as long as your dog is breathing normally and eating and drinking.

While mild dog colds will generally go away on their own, there are a few steps you take to help your pooch feel more comfortable in the meantime:

  • Consider feeding foods with an added liquid, such as low-sodium chicken or beef broth (make sure it’s dog friendly). Like us, fluid intake is important so your dog stays hydrated.
  • Make sure there is fresh, clean water available all the time.
  • Your dog's sense of smell will be affected, so offer foods with strong odors to encourage him to eat. For example, you can add some salmon or beef liver meal enhancers over the top of their food.
  • Some dogs will benefit from being in the bathroom while you shower. This helps steam your dog's sinuses and loosen up congestion.
  • Consider switching from walking your dog on a collar to using a harness so the trachea is not irritated.
  • Keep your dog quiet so the trachea and lungs can heal—no running or wild play.
  • Keep a watchful eye on your other dogs, as they may develop symptoms, too.
  • Clean any discharge off your dog's eyes and nose at least twice daily, and use a warm compress to soften any dried discharge.
treatment of colds in dogs

If the cough continues and your dog can't rest comfortably, ask your veterinarian for some cough medicine for relief. Some human medications are unsafe for dogs, and canine-specific cough remedies are available instead. However, do not use these without checking with your vet first!

A fever and/or difficulty in breathing means this is more than ‘just a cold.’ Your dog might be developing pneumonia. He must go to the veterinary hospital because he may need antibiotics and supplemental oxygen therapy.

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Some viruses that cause cold-like symptoms are preventable with canine vaccines. For example, the 5-in-1 vaccine protects against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza.

This vaccine won't completely prevent colds, but it will boost your dog's immune system and protect against more severe illnesses. Depending on your dog's health and age, your veterinarian may recommend these core vaccines to help prevent disease.

While there is no vaccine for canine colds, there are still plenty of ways to promote your dog's health and wellness and reduce his chances of getting sick.

make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations

Ensure your pooch is up-to-date on all his immunizations to keep additional health issues at bay. During the colder months, take extra care to keep your dog warm and dry to reduce his chances of getting sick.

Check out our Dog First Aid Course in Pupford Academy+ to learn more about vaccines and first aid.

Cleanliness is also crucial. Clean your dog's toys, food, and water bowls regularly, and make sure the dog isn't skipping any baths.

Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, too. In fact, many mental health issues will appear in physical form. Keep an eye on your dog's disposition, and ensure he gets plenty of sleep (about 12-14 hours).

Cold or rainy weather can put your dog's health at risk. Once exposed to extreme frosty temperatures, they can catch dog colds. While certain dog breeds are more equipped to handle the cold than others, be cautious to keep your dog safe during extremely cold weather.



Cases of zoonotic disease —any disease or infection transmissible between pets and humans — are rare. Whether you have a cold or your dog has a cold, it's unlikely that either of you will transmit the virus to the other because common ‘cold’ viruses rarely transfer from one species to another.

So, if you have the sniffles and want to cuddle with your dog, rest easy knowing that your dog is at a very low risk of catching anything from you.


dog parent wanting the best for their dog

If your dog shows signs of a cold, consult your veterinarian about your next steps. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your vet may want you to bring your dog in for a check-up to rule out more significant medical problems, like parasites and kennel cough.

Also, note that older dogs can have symptoms of a cough that are actually from collapsing trachea or heart disease and are not viral/bacterial related.

Now you know the answer to your question - Can dogs get colds? You can now get extra careful in maintaining cleanliness and avoiding the causes of the disease.

If things get out of hand, remember that a veterinarian's help can always be on the way. With a bit of rest, relaxation, healthy meals, lots of water, and maybe some medicine, your dog will return to his regular, playful self in no time!

And if you want to give your pup's immune system a daily boost, be sure to check out our Gut Health + Immunity Booster Supplement here!

Let us know how you care for your pup in the comments.

🐶 Don't miss out on giving your pup's immune system an extra boost with our specially-formulated supplement. See today's deal here!


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