Dogs Get Cold Sores from Humans? Expert Answers!

Did you know that dogs can get fever blisters from humans? It may come as a surprise, but it's true. Canine Herpesvirus (CHV), also known as herpesvirus or CHV-1, is a common viral infection affecting our furry friends, especially young and newborn puppies. This highly contagious virus can cause various symptoms and health issues in infected dogs, similar to flu viruses.

Dogs Get Cold Sores from Humans
Dogs Get Cold Sores from Humans

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are contagious viral infections caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). In humans, HSV-1 typically causes lesions around the mouth and lips. As pet owners, a common concern is whether our dogs can catch diseases from us. This article explores whether dogs can get human cold sores and how to prevent transmission.

Topics covered include:

  • What are cold sores
  • Can humans transmit cold sores to dogs
  • Symptoms of cold sores in dogs
  • Diagnosing cold sores in dogs
  • Treating cold sores in dogs
  • Preventing transmission from humans to dogs

What Are Cold Sores

In humans, cold sores are caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-1 typically causes lesions around the mouth and lips while HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes. However, either virus can cause sores in both locations.

Once infected with HSV, the virus remains latent in the body for life and can reactivate, causing recurrent outbreaks. Cold sores are contagious even when no visible sore is present. The virus spreads through direct contact with lesions or bodily fluids. Sharing drinks, food, or kissing someone with active HSV can transmit the infection.

Common symptoms of cold sores in humans include:

  • Tingling, burning, or itching before blisters appear
  • Small fluid-filled blisters, usually on or around the lips
  • Oozing or crusting blisters
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever, muscle aches, sore throat

Can Humans Transmit Cold Sores to Dogs

Sometimes, humans and dogs can get sick from viruses that make their skin hurt. Luckily, humans cannot give their virus (HSV) to dogs. But this does not mean dogs cannot get their own virus (CHV) that is different from humans.

CHV is a kind of virus that is related to HSV, but not the same. CHV can make adult dogs have trouble breathing, but it can be very bad for baby dogs. More than 8 out of 10 baby dogs can die from CHV.

So even though humans and dogs cannot share HSV, we still need to be careful to stop dogs from getting CHV from other dogs.

Symptoms of Cold Sores in Dogs

The canine herpes virus can cause cold sore-like blisters and lesions on a dog’s mouth, lips, skin or eyes. Other symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Ocular and nasal discharge

Puppies may display breathing difficulties, seizures, and lack of energy before dying suddenly. Seek urgent vet attention if these signs are observed.

In adult dogs, the virus typically manifests as upper respiratory infection or ocular lesions. Most cases are mild and self-limiting but may need symptomatic treatment.

Diagnosing Cold Sores in Dogs

To confirm canine herpes infection, vets utilize:

  • Medical history – exposure to other infected dogs
  • Clinical signs – blisters, respiratory distress
  • Diagnostic tests:
    • Viral culture
    • PCR testing
    • Serology – detection of antibodies
    • Biopsy – histopathology

Puppies that die suddenly should undergo post-mortem examination to determine the cause.

Differential diagnoses for oral blisters include other viral infections, autoimmune disease, cancer, and chemical/thermal burns. Vets must rule these out through diagnostic testing.

Diagnostic TestMethod
Viral cultureGrowing virus from sample in lab
PCR testingDetecting viral DNA
SerologyMeasuring antibody levels
BiopsyMicroscopic analysis of tissue sample

Treating Cold Sores in Dogs

Sadly, there is no cure for CHV infection. Treatment focuses on supportive care and managing secondary issues:

  • Antiviral medication – to slow viral replication
  • Antibiotics – to treat secondary infections
  • Anti-inflammatories – reduce swelling and pain
  • Eye drops – relieve ocular inflammation
  • Intravenous fluids – combat dehydration

Maintaining good nutrition and reducing stress also helps recovery. Prognosis is grave for infected puppies whereas adult cases usually resolve within 7-10 days.

Preventing Transmission of Cold Sores from Humans to Dogs

Symptoms of CHV in Adult Dogs

While humans cannot directly transmit HSV to dogs, preventing any cross-contamination is sensible. Recommendations include:

  • Practicing good hygiene around dogs when cold sores are active
  • Not sharing food, water bowls or toys with the dog during an outbreak
  • Avoiding close contact like kisses and cuddles
  • Keeping the dog away from infected humans where possible

Stopping canine-to-canine transmission of CHV is also crucial:

  • Isolate dogs infected with CHV
  • Quarantine new dogs before introducing them
  • Socialization for puppies – but avoid dog parks
  • Promptly treat infected dogs

Routine vaccination helps prevent some strains of canine herpes infection. Discuss options with your veterinarian.


To sum up, humans cannot give our kind of herpes virus to dogs, but we should still be careful not to share things with them.

Also, we should keep dogs safe from the dog herpes virus by keeping them away from sick dogs, letting them play with healthy dogs, giving them shots, and taking them to the vet if they get sick.

Cold sores in humans and dogs are not the same, but both need us to watch out for them and keep our pets healthy.

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