Can Dogs Get a Cold? Symptoms & Care Explained

As pet owners, we hate to see our dogs under the weather. Dogs may exhibit symptoms that appear like the common cold in humans, leading us to wonder, can dogs get colds too? While our furry friends cannot catch human colds directly, they can contract their own version of a respiratory infection. Let's explore the similarities and differences between colds in humans versus dogs, signs to watch for, and how to treat and prevent “colds” in our canine companions.

Can Dogs Get a Cold result

Do Dogs Catch Human Colds?

To understand if dogs can get human colds, we first need to know what causes the common cold. In humans, colds are triggered by over 200 different viruses, predominantly rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. The viruses that cause colds in humans do not directly infect dogs. However, dogs have their own set of cold and flu viruses that lead to similar symptoms.

Dogs have a different immune system than humans, making them resistant to human cold viruses. At the same time, a dog's weakened immunity can allow opportunistic bacteria and viruses to take hold, leading to illnesses with overlapping symptoms. Two of the most common are kennel cough and canine influenza.

So while Fido cannot catch your cold per se, he may exhibit similar symptoms if exposed to dog-specific viruses when his immunity is low. Keeping your dog healthy with good nutrition, proper vaccination, and veterinary care is key to avoiding cold-like illnesses.

Signs Your Dog Has a Cold

How can you tell if your dog has the equivalent of a cold? Here are common symptoms:

  • Nasal discharge: Clear, yellow, green, or bloody discharge from the nose
  • Coughing: Dry hacking cough, sometimes with gagging
  • Sneezing: Repeated forceful sneezing
  • Eye discharge: Yellow or green discharge or crustiness around the eyes
  • Lethargy: Lack of energy and loss of appetite

Additional signs can include wheezing, pneumonia, and fever. The symptoms may appear individually or several together. Colds in dogs tend to be most contagious the first 2-3 days. As with humans, early detection and treatment helps shorten the duration.

Treating a Cold in Dogs

If your dog displays cold symptoms, here are some treatment options:

Home Care

  • Encourage fluids
  • Offer bland, soft foods
  • Use saline nasal spray to relieve congestion
  • Gently wipe eye discharge


  • Decongestants to reduce nasal congestion
  • Cough suppressants to control coughing
  • Antibiotics if secondary infection occurs

Veterinary Care

  • Prescription medications stronger than OTC options
  • IV fluids if dog is dehydrated
  • Lab tests to identify underlying cause
  • Monitoring for serious illness

While many cases resolve on their own, veterinary guidance is recommended if symptoms persist beyond a few days or appear severe.

Preventing Colds in Dogs

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to avoiding colds in dogs:


Keeping core vaccines up-to-date protects against contagious respiratory diseases like kennel cough (Bordetella) and canine flu.


Feeding a high-quality diet supports the immune system. Consider probiotics and omega fatty acids too.


Limit exposure to other dogs when risk of illness is high. Avoid areas with poor ventilation, odors, dust, etc.

Through vaccination, nutrition, and healthy environments, we can help prevent sick days for our furry companions. But if cold symptoms arise, timely treatment will have them back on their paws. Monitoring for changes and working closely with your veterinarian is key to protecting your dog's health.


While our canine companions cannot “catch” human colds, they can develop similar upper respiratory signs. Colds in dogs have a variety of potential underlying causes, like kennel cough and canine flu. Through attentive care and prevention methods like vaccination, nutrition, and environment control, we can help dogs avoid these unpleasant illnesses. If symptoms do occur, veterinary treatment can shorten duration and reduce complications. Paying close attention to your dog's health will keep them happy and active for many play sessions to come.

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