Sniffles and Sneezes: Can Dogs Get a Cold?

As a responsible and caring dog owner, you've likely wondered whether your furry friend can catch a cold, especially when you or other family members are battling a bout of sneezing and sniffles. The short answer is yes, dogs can get colds, but it's essential to understand that the viruses affecting dogs are different from those that affect humans.


Can Dogs Really Catch Colds?


In this article, we'll delve into the world of canine respiratory infections, their causes, symptoms, and how you can help your furry friend recover.

Understanding Dog Respiratory Infections

Just like humans, dogs can experience respiratory infections caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria. These infections are often referred to as "kennel cough" or "canine infectious respiratory disease complex." The most common pathogens responsible for respiratory infections in dogs include:

Canine Parainfluenza Virus:

This virus is one of the primary causes of kennel cough in dogs.

Canine Adenovirus Type 2:

Another common culprit, this virus can lead to respiratory symptoms.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica:

This bacterium often plays a role in kennel cough and other respiratory illnesses.

Canine Influenza Virus:

Similar to the flu in humans, canine influenza can cause respiratory issues in dogs.

Distemper Virus:

Although less common due to vaccination efforts, canine distemper can lead to respiratory symptoms among other severe health issues.


Pneumonia can result from various bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.
Symptoms can include severe coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, fever, and a bluish tinge to the mucous membranes.
Pneumonia is a serious condition and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Kennel Cough (Infectious Tracheobronchitis):

This highly contagious infection is often characterized by a dry, honking cough.
Dogs may cough more when excited or after exercise.
Sneezing, nasal discharge, and a mild fever can also be present.
Kennel cough is commonly seen in environments with many dogs, such as boarding facilities or dog parks.

Fungal Infections:

Fungal respiratory infections, such as aspergillosis, can cause chronic nasal discharge and sneezing.
These infections may be more common in dogs with weakened immune systems or living in specific geographic regions.


Allergies, including environmental and food allergies, can mimic respiratory infection symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.
Itchy skin and ear problems are also common in dogs with allergies.

Dog wearing in scarf sitting on wooden boardwalk. 

Symptoms of Respiratory Infections in Dogs

Respiratory infections in dogs can manifest with various symptoms, and the severity of these symptoms can range from mild to severe. It's important to note that respiratory infections in dogs can be caused by various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Common respiratory infections in dogs include kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis), canine influenza, and pneumonia. Here are some typical symptoms of respiratory infections in dogs:

Coughing: Persistent coughing is a hallmark symptom of respiratory infections in dogs. It can range from a mild, dry cough to a severe, hacking cough. In some cases, coughing can be accompanied by gagging or retching.

Sneezing: Dogs with respiratory infections may sneeze frequently. This can be a sign of irritation in the upper respiratory tract.

Nasal Discharge: Dogs may have nasal discharge that can be clear, watery, or mucoid. In some cases, the discharge may become thicker and yellow or green if a secondary bacterial infection is present.

Lethargy: Respiratory infections can make dogs feel tired and lethargic. They may lack their usual energy and enthusiasm.

Fever: An elevated body temperature is a common sign of infection. A dog with a respiratory infection may have a fever.

Loss of Appetite: Dogs with respiratory infections may lose interest in food or water. This can lead to weight loss if the infection persists.

Difficulty Breathing: In severe cases or if the infection progresses to the lower respiratory tract, dogs may have difficulty breathing. You may notice rapid or labored breathing, wheezing, or even open-mouth breathing.

Eye Discharge: Some respiratory infections can cause eye discharge, which may be clear or purulent (pus-like).

Lack of Interest in Exercise: Dogs may avoid physical activity due to their respiratory discomfort.

Gagging and Vomiting: Severe coughing fits can sometimes lead to gagging or even vomiting in dogs.

Cyanosis: In severe cases, where oxygen exchange is compromised, you may observe bluish discoloration of the mucous membranes, such as the gums and tongue. This is a critical sign and requires immediate veterinary attention.

Tips for Caring for a Dog with a Cold: Treatment and Care

If you suspect that your dog has a respiratory infection, it's essential to consult your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Treatment options may include:

Medications: Your vet may prescribe antibiotics for bacterial infections or cough suppressants to ease discomfort.

Rest: Just like humans, dogs need rest to recover. Ensure your pup has a quiet and comfortable space to rest.

Hydration: Encourage your dog to drink water to stay hydrated, especially if they have a fever.

Isolation: To prevent the spread of the infection, keep your dog away from other dogs until they've fully recovered.

Dog in winter forest

Preventing Dog Colds: Strategies for a Happy, Healthy Pet

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of your dog catching a cold:

Vaccination: Ensure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, including those for distemper, adenovirus, and bordetella.

Good Hygiene: Practice good hygiene and sanitation in your dog's living environment, including their kennel or crate.

Avoid Crowded Places: Be cautious when taking your dog to places with many other dogs, like dog parks or kennels.

Regular Vet Checkups: Schedule regular checkups with your vet to catch and treat any potential illnesses early.

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