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Can Dogs Get Colds?

Do dogs get colds from humans?

When cold and flu season arrives, many people get hit with stuffy noses, runny eyes, coughing, and sneezing. It's common for people to wonder whether their dog can catch a cold from them or vice versa.

What Causes Cold Symptoms in Humans?

To determine whether dogs can get colds like humans do, we must first be sure we understand what causes cold symptoms in people.

A cold is a type of upper respiratory infection. That means a microbe (virus or bacteria) has inhabited and caused an infection in a person's upper airways (the nose, throat, larynx, and bronchioles of the lungs).

A huge variety of viruses can infect people's respiratory tracts. One family of viruses, rhinoviruses, is responsible for most colds in people. These viruses are spread from person to person when droplets carrying them are expelled into the air through sneezing and coughing. Those drops then attach to surfaces in the environment, and when someone touches them and then touches their face, the virus can enter their respiratory tract and infect them.

There are some bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections in people, as well, but viral colds are much more common.

What Are Cold Symptoms in Humans?

Humans suffering from a cold often have some or all of the following symptoms, usually for around 7-10 days:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny eyes
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms can include earaches and body aches.

Can Dogs Catch Colds from Humans?

Dogs don't catch colds from humans, who get species-specific cold viruses and bacteria.

However, dogs have their own set of species-specific cold viruses that can cause signs of illness in them that are almost identical to cold symptoms in humans, including:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny eyes
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

In addition, some bacteria can cause cold signs in dogs, most notably Bordetella. This is one of the microbes that can cause tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) in dogs, which is an infection of the windpipe and bronchioles of the lungs. It causes a dry, honking cough and is extremely contagious between dogs. There are also rare cases of cats being infected with Bordetella and even humans who are immune compromised.

Do Dogs Need Veterinary Treatment for Colds?

If your dog is sneezing, coughing, and/or has a runny nose or eyes, it is reasonable to call your veterinarian and describe the signs to see whether he or she advises an examination. If your dog isn't eating, is just lying around, and generally has a poor attitude, he should be seen by a veterinarian right away.

Many viruses and bacteria that cause cold signs in dogs are self-limiting, which means that your dog's body will clear out the infection without medical intervention. However, some bacterial infections do require antibiotics. Additionally, some dogs require supportive treatment if the cold is making them very ill, especially if they stop eating and drinking or experience labored breathing. They might need fluid therapy, cough medicine, oxygen treatment, or other medical treatments to help support their body while they fight off the virus or bacteria.

If your dog has any signs of an upper respiratory infection, you should immediately separate him from other dogs. Don't take him to public areas where he can spread the virus or bacteria to other dogs until his sneezing and coughing are gone.

What About the Flu?

The flu, or influenza, is also a virus that results in respiratory symptoms in people and dogs. However, it causes more severe illness, has greater potential for leading to serious secondary conditions like pneumonia, and often has more widespread effects on the body than colds.

Like colds, influenza viruses are usually species-specific but not always. Flu viruses are known to adapt and jump species over time.

If you have been sick and your dog shows similar signs soon afterward, it's most likely that he's been exposed to a separate, dog-specific virus or bacteria, but using extra diligent hand-washing procedures is always a good idea when you're sick.

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