Can Dogs Get Colds?

October 16, 2022 / Dog Health / By: Melanie Evans

DVM Chyrle Bonk

Reviewed & Fact-Checked by

Dr. Chyrle Bonk
Veterinarian (DVM)
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Every year, once the warm weather fades away for the year in most parts of the country, most of us expect to end up with a cold or two before the spring. We, resign ourselves to a few days of sniffing, snuffling and coughing. But how about our furry friends? Do dogs get colds? How do dogs get colds? Can they catch colds from us?

The very simple answer is yes, dogs do get illnesses with similar symptoms to our human colds. However, these colds are caused by different infectious agents than human colds, and these illnesses don't cross from humans to dogs and vice versa. 

Dogs and Colds - Can Dogs Get Colds?

Do Dogs Get Colds?

The term "cold" is a very loose one that encompasses illnesses caused by many different viruses. Dogs can get rhinoviruses that are very much like colds. Vets often give it the same generic term as well, to avoid confusion for pet parents, but they are usually referring to one of a specific set of viruses.

These include canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus or Bordetella, which is more commonly known as kennel cough.

How Can Dogs Get a Cold?

American Eskimo white dog in the snow

Most of the conditions we would think of as a dog cold are caused by viruses. Like most viruses they are often caught when the pup is around another infected dog. A few are air transmitted, meaning that a dog needs to be in close proximity  but not necessarily contact to the infected dog.

What does not cause a "cold" in dogs is cold temperatures, that is an old misconception, and it's as untrue for canines as it is for humans.

Illnesses can also be caused by bacteria. Bordetella, aka kennel cough, is one of these. Most of the time, kennel cough will, resolve on its own, but some cases may need a course of antibiotics to treat it.

Dogs can also receive vaccinations to help prevent them from developing Bordetella, and you will usually find that this is mandated if your dog attends doggy daycare, a dog training class or is going to be boarded.

Can a Dog Get a Cold From a Human?

Dogs cannot get colds from humans, and humans cannot catch a cold from their dogs

Other dogs are susceptible, though, so keeping furry roommates separate can help prevent all critters from catching the cold. Sick dogs should not socialize with other pups until they are feeling better. This means no dog parks, obedience classes, boarding or grooming. 

How Do I Know if My Dog Has a Cold?

How Do I Know if My Dog Has a Cold?

Dog cold symptoms are often very similar to human cold symptoms, which means you may notice the following issues:

  • Excessive sneezing
  • Sniffing and snuffling
  • Runny nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Low fever
  • Cough - Bordetella produces a dry, hacking cough, thus why it was termed kennel cough

In a Nutshell

Although most dog colds resolve easily on their own, if your pup becomes overly lethargic, stops drinking, does not eat at all or seems to be in pain he should visit his vet. This is because these signs may indicate a more severe issue that warrants professional treatment.

How Often Do Dogs Get a Cold?

The more time a dog spends around other dogs, the more likely it is he is to catch a cold. 

Of course, most pups like to spend time with their dog friends, but keeping them at a distance during peak 'cold season' may help prevent your pup from getting sick.

Many dogs will get a cold, or even two, every fall and/or winter, just like we do.

How Contagious Is It?

Different viruses that might lend to 'dog cold signs' have different levels of transmission and these can be very hard for even experts to predict.

The one that is proven to be very infectious is Bordetella. It is usually spread very quickly in settings where lots of dogs are together in a small space. This includes, shelters, a boarding kennel or a doggy day care. 

The best protection against Bordetella comes from vaccination. Bordetella vaccination is recommended for healthy adult dogs who come into contact with large groups of other dogs.

For most pups, yearly boosters are enough, although some boarding and doggy daycare facilities may ask that pups get a booster every six months. You should talk to your vet about vaccinating your puppy against Bordetella at the proper age.

How Do You Treat a Dog With a Cold?

How Do You Treat a Dog With a Cold?

The basic treatment of a dog cold is very similar to that a human would follow. You should try to ensure that your pup has tasty, nutritious food to eat, access to plenty of clean water, and has the opportunity to rest as much as possible.

If your pup is cold and shivering, especially during the cooler months of the year, consider getting an inexpensive dog sweater.

If your pup seems congested, adding a humidifier to their sleeping space, or the room where they spend the most time, will often be very helpful. If you can trust them to behave, the steam from your shower can be very soothing as well.

Dogs with kennel cough can be treated in the same manor. More severe cases may require antibiotics or cough suppressants, so be sure to see your veterinarian if your dog has been coughing for longer than a couple of days, isn’t eating, or is running a fever.

Labrador sitting beside a humidifier to help with allergies, breathing and sleeping issues for dogs.

Dogs and Cold Remedies

The viruses we think of as colds in both dogs and humans can't be 'cured'. But that does not stop humans from resorting to all kinds of over the counter medications and home remedies in an effort to lessen their cold symptoms, or shorten their duration. These usually produce varying results.

Some OTC medications mask symptoms well enough that people can function, and some home remedies are very soothing. But that's in humans, how about dogs?

Take Note

To begin with, you should never give your pup any kind of over the counter cold medication that is designed for humans, even in very small doses. Many of the common ingredients in these medications, including Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen and Pseudoephedrine, can be toxic to dogs (and fatal to cats) even in small doses.

As most cold medicines contain a combination of these ingredients not only should they never be given to dogs, any that are kept in the home for human consumption should be kept well out of their reach, and if they are accidentally ingested by your pup a prompt call to ASPCA Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435 is a must.

But what about home remedies? 

You'll find all kinds of dog cold home remedies on the internet, and many of them are either not very helpful or, in some cases, dangerous. You may see honey recommended for dog colds, for instance.

The logic here is that it can be soothing for a human with a cold, so why not dogs? The problem is that even natural honey is very high in sugars dogs don't need.

You may also see aroma based essential oil treatments suggested for dogs with colds. Again, going on the logic that they help some humans with a cold feel better, so why not dogs?

The fact is that you need to be very careful when using essential oils around dogs at all. Dogs navigate their world primarily via their sense of smell. 

Since, dogs have a sense of smell that is over 40 times more powerful than ours, the pungent aroma of essential oils may make a pup even more agitated and upset than they were before.

"Some essential oils can also be toxic if they are rubbed on a dog’s skin, especially if the dog then licks them off. Never use an essential oil on or around your dog without supervision from a vet.”

Dr. Chyrle Bonk, DVM

One older human cold remedy that might very well help your pup feel a lot better if they have a cold is chicken soup. You should not share your soup with them, as it is probably high in sodium and may contain ingredients like onions that dogs should not consume at all.

A store bought dog bone broth is safe though, and may tempt a dog with a cold into eating again while providing him with lots of extra vitamins and minerals he'll benefit from as well.

You can also try making your own bone broth at home, as long as you leave out the extra salt and seasonings you would probably add if you were making the soup for yourself.

How Long Do Dogs Have a Cold?

Most dog colds will last about as long as a human cold, a week or so. If, however, your pup is sick for longer than that, or seems to be getting worse instead of better, you should take him to see his vet.

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Melanie Evans

Melanie Evans is a professional freelance writer based in Scranton, PA, who, enjoys sharing her lifelong knowledge about dogs. When not working, Melanie enjoys playing a wide variety of sports, traveling and hanging out with her energetic boxer dog Bruce.

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