So your dog is sniffling and sneezing, but can dogs get colds? Can you give your dog a cold, or can you catch one from them? What can a pet parent do to treat cold symptoms in dogs?

Before you get too nervous, read on about colds in dogs, how to spot them, and how to treat them.

Can a Dog Catch a Cold?

Can a dog catch a coldWhen you think about a cold, it is usually in reference to the symptoms it brings. Sniffling, congestion, runny eyes, dog coughing, and sneezing are universal signs of a cold in humans and mammals. That goes for dogs and cats too!

Can dogs get colds? Yes, they can. 

Although many cold symptoms may cross-species lines, the viruses and bacteria that cause “cold” symptoms in humans and dogs are different.

Can Dogs Get Colds from Humans?

Typically, the human common cold is a rhinovirus that is not contagious to dogs. Vice versa, most viruses that cause cold symptoms in dogs are species-specific, like canine influenza and parainfluenza.

So, long story short, no, the common cold virus is not transferable to your dog, just as their colds are rarely contagious to humans.

There are, however, several zoonotic viral, bacterial, and fungal infections that can transfer between species like:

  • Ringworm
  • Mumps
  • MRSA
  • Salmonellosis
  • Parasitic diseases

H1N1 was a particularly detrimental version of the flu that emerged in 2009 and was later transferred from humans to cats.

There have even been a few cases of Covid symptoms in dogs. However, the likelihood of these types of cases is small and extremely rare.

Viruses, bacterial, and fungal infections can result in cold symptoms in dogs. Allergies and irritation can also show similar signs and symptoms as colds in dogs.

Here are some ways you can prevent your dog from getting a cold:

  • Avoid other dogs with cold symptoms
  • Avoid boarding facilities and doggy daycares
  • Stay current on vaccinations
  • Isolate sick furry family members from others in the home
  • Wash your hands well between petting sick and well animals

Where Can Dogs Get Colds?

Where can dogs get coldsBecause many of the known causes for colds and upper respiratory infections in dogs are species-specific, they often come from other animals sharing a play space or area.

Upper respiratory infections like kennel cough find their best opportunity to strike in places that lack proper air circulation or ventilation and house many dogs at one time.

The dogs who are most at risk of catching a cold are:

  • Dogs who go to a lot of playdates
  • Dogs that are boarded often
  • Dogs who frequent doggy daycare
  • Dogs who recently came from an animal shelter
  • Dogs left outside in cold conditions

How Can Dogs Get Colds?

As mentioned above, dogs typically get colds from other infected dogs. As with humans, most colds in dogs come from exposure to viral and bacterial agents via:

  • Direct contact via sneezing, coughing in the vicinity of or rubbing faces with an infected dog
  • Environmental exposure via shared toys, bedding, and food and water bowls

How to Keep Dog Colds at Bay

What to DoWhy?
Pick up poop regularly
  • Poop carries parasitic diseases
  • Keep dogs from eating random poop
Wash your hands
  • An obvious but very important reminder, as most viral agents can be spread via direct contact
  • Whether you or your dog are sneezing, wash those hands!
Vaccinate
  • Most core vaccinations are due only every three years
  • When it comes to vaccinations, just do it
Limit contact when sick
  • Of course, you want to cuddle with your pup when you’re sick, but be cautious of spreading your illness to them, especially if you have the flu
Prevent scratches and bites
  • Sometimes, these things happen, but don’t be careless
  • Stay up to date on vaccines
  • Consult your vet if your dog has been bitten or scratched

Dog Cold Symptoms

Dog cold symptoms

  1. Dog sneezing and runny nose
  2. Dog sniffles
  3. Dog cold, wet nose
  4. Stuffy nose and wheezing
  5. Dog cold ears
  6. My dog feels cold and is lethargic
  7. Runny eyes
  8. Anorexia

Dog Sneezing and Runny Nose

Dog’s experience sneezing and nasal discharge for several reasons such as:

  • Allergies
  • Irritants
  • Infection
  • A blockage in the nasal cavity

Noting other symptoms and possible irritants and allergens present in the dog’s surroundings will aid in finding the culprit responsible for nasal secretions.

Dog Sniffles

Dog sniffles are different from dog snuffles.

All dog parents know the sound of their dog’s interested, curious sniff. The quick and steady investigative breaths searching for the scent they have discovered – hopefully not the roast chicken resting on the kitchen counter!

Sometimes, however, dog sniffles signify something more serious, often accompanying sneezing and runny nose symptoms.

Dog Cold, Wet Nose

Before you say it, yes, dogs’ noses are often wet and cold, but in that case, the moisture is not coming from within. You see, dogs lick their noses to keep them moist. Wet noses aid in the dog’s sniffing abilities.

A dog nose wet with nasal discharge is quite a different story. If you notice your dog has fluid running from its nostrils, consult your vet.

On the other hand, a dry nose can be almost as problematic, indicating possible dehydration, fever or a simple reaction. Either way, a vet visit is in your future!

Stuffy Nose and Wheezing

Congestion is a common symptom of colds in humans as well as canines. Wheezing often comes along with congestion if the congestion has moved further into the chest. Wheezing can be a sign of a cold or indicative of something more severe like heart disease.

Dog Cold Ears

Dog’s ears are often colder to the touch than the rest of their body; in fact, hot ears are more indicative of an infection, not cold ones. However, if your dog’s ears feel colder than usual, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Has your dog been in cold weather or conditions recently?
  • Is your dog showing other signs of a cold?

Dogs left in extreme cold temperatures for more than a few minutes may be at risk for frostbite. The ears are a particularly vulnerable area because they are chock full of blood vessels. Cold temperatures cause the blood vessels to constrict, impeding blood flow and causing cold ears. To prevent frostbite, keep your pup snug as a bug inside when the temperature drops too low outside.

My Dog Feels Cold and is Lethargic

Lethargy in dogs is always a tell-tale sign that the immune system is being tested in one way or another. Lethargy is often a sign of a more serious underlying condition like pneumonia in dogs, an infection, or a disease.

If you notice that your dog is not enjoying activity like it used to or seems depressed and uninterested, consult your vet immediately.

Runny Eyes

Eye discharge is often a sign of a viral infection or allergies. Bacterial infections like canine infectious tracheobronchitis can often cause goopy eyes and discharge of many shades of yellow and green.

Lack of Appetite

A dog that doesn’t want to eat is usually indicative of a more significant issue. What dog doesn’t want to eat?

Of course, you know your dog’s eating patterns, so if things seem off to you, they probably are. Consult the vet.

Dog Cold Medicine

Dog cold medicineDog cold medicine can vary from prescribed antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to home remedies to natural antimicrobials and antioxidants.

When it comes to treating colds in dogs, 90% of the dog’s recovery is in the hands of the pet parent, while 10% or less will be left up to the veterinarian and medication.

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Cold?

First things first, stay calm. Stress won’t be helpful for anyone. 

What you may want to do if your dog is experiencing cold symptoms is to consult your vet. Although prescription medications are not always necessary to cure a cold, seeking their expertise is never a bad idea.

Some respiratory viruses can clear up with only supportive care from the owner, while other bacterial infections may require antibiotics.

4 Steps for Dog Cold Treatment

  1. Supportive Care
  2. Antibiotics
  3. Anti Inflammatories
  4. Cough Suppressants

Supportive Care

As mentioned above, the bulk of recovery from dog cold rests in the hands of the pet parents. You must ensure that your fur baby is receiving the things needed for proper healing. These basic but essential elements are crucial for improvement:

  • Proper nutrition
  • Adequate hydration
  • Rest
  • Warmth

Antibiotics for Dog Colds

If the infection is bacterial, like Bordetella bronchiseptica, antibiotics will be necessary to eradicate it.

One of the most popular antibiotics for treating upper respiratory infections in dogs is doxycycline. Doxycycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, meaning it can treat many different things, and it is typically well-tolerated by dogs. Hence the appeal.

Anti Inflammatories

Canine cough can be a harrowing ordeal, causing swelling of the trachea and pharynx, making each hack more painful than the last. Your veterinarian may suggest anti-inflammatories for a pup who has trouble breathing, sleeping, or swallowing due to swelling.

Cough Suppressants

Dog cough medicine is a viable option when coughing is hindering sick pups’ good night’s rest. Without quality rest, other treatments won’t be as effective. Rest is crucial to keep up a healthy immune system for fighting illness.

Antitussives are a category of typically addictive cough suppressants that offer relief by shutting down the coughing receptors in the brain.

Dextromethorphan is a popular antitussive with fewer side effects without the same addictive qualities that veterinarians sometimes use to quiet a dog’s bothersome cough.

What Can I Give My Dog for a Cold?

What can I give my dog for a cold

  1. Honey
  2. Humidifier
  3. Soup/bone broth
  4. Steam it up
  5. Eliminate irritants

Honey

There is a lot of talk about honey around here, but that’s because it is one of nature’s best ingredients!

Honey is packed with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Raw honey has been known for healing wounds since ancient times and has even killed antibiotic-resistant bacteria and prevented them from coming back.

Time to get scientific.

Scientists have been researching honey and its viability in the medical field for a long time. It turns out there are 32 known organic acids in honey, making it more acidic than one might think of the sweet substance. Acidity equals a lower pH, and a lower pH equals an unfavorable environment for microbial growth.

Are you beginning to see all of the fantastic benefits of this naturally occurring substance?! To get the best out of honey, you need the purest, rawest honey you can find. So punch in “local raw honey” in your search box to find a sustainable, ethical bee farm.

Humidifier

If you own a humidifier, it can come in handy for treating a dog’s cold. Consistently emitting moisture into the air surrounding a sick dog can help break up congestion and offer some relief for a dry, scratchy throat.

Be sure to keep your humidifier clean as they can grow fungus if unmaintained and cause more problems.

It may be tempting to put some smelly oils in the humidifier, but keep it simple. Dogs may also be sensitive to aromatherapy and possibly more susceptible if they have a cold. Do your dog a favor and keep the air as clean as possible.

Soup/Bone Broth

That’s right; you’re not the only one who likes a nice soup while they’re sick. Dogs can benefit from a simple bone broth that offers electrolytes and a tasty way to healthy hydration.

Use low-sodium bone broths or one bouillon cube per large bowl of water. It will add enough flavor to keep them intrigued but not as much salt as your typical human chicken noodle soup.

Steam It Up

Steam therapy is a tried and true home method for clearing congestion in humans and dogs alike. To make your own home sauna follow these steps:

  1. Clear a space in the bathroom for your pup with a familiar blanket, towel or dog bed
  2. Run the hot shower to create a steamy home sauna right there in your bathroom
  3. Bring your dog into the bathroom and sit with them
  4. Go ahead and turn off the shower once the steam has filled the room
  5. Sit with your pup for as long as they’ll let you!

Eliminate Irritants

Second-hand smoke is a known harmful irritant for everyone, but particularly those who didn’t choose to smoke like kids and pets. The FDA says that eliminating second-hand smoke can extend your pet’s lifespan and contribute to better health.

When is it Too Cold to Walk Your Dog?

When is it too cold to walk your dog“Too cold” is subjective and dependant on several variables:

  • Is your dog acclimated to cold weather?
  • Is your dog currently sick, or do they have cold symptoms?
  • How thick is their coat?
  • How big are they?

You can use the table below and your own common sense to decide if it is too cold to walk your dog or to leave your dog outside at night. 

What Temperature is Too Cold to Leave a Dog Outside?

What temperature is too cold to leave a dog outsideAs a general rule, If you’re cold outside, then your dog probably is too. Ideally, dogs shouldn’t sleep outside for many reasons, but if they must, keep a close eye on the temperature.

TemperatureOkay for Dogs?
80°F & upKeep an eye on dogs for signs of heatstroke depending on breed, coat, size and exercise.
45°F – 65°FIdeal for most dogs
40°FOkay for most dogs but small dogs might be sensitive
30°F – 40°FDangerous for small dogs but okay for dogs with heavy coats
15°F – 30°FDangerous territory for dogs. Don’t stay outside more than necessary.

How Do I Know If My Dog is Cold at Night?

Some signs of a cold pet are apparent, while others may be wreaking havoc under the surface.

To know if your dog is cold at night, you need to monitor them while they are outside. It is recommended to bring animals in at night regardless of the weather. However, if your pet has gotten too chilly, watch out for these signs and symptoms of hypothermia in dogs.

Signs of Hypothermia:

  • Shivering
  • Inaudible heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Fixated or dilated pupils
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle stiffness

How Cold is Too Cold For My Dog to Sleep Outside?

Ideally, domesticated dogs will have shelter and an indoor area to sleep at night, whether the conditions are warm or cold. However, if you choose to leave a dog outside overnight, here are some things to consider.

  1. It’s colder than you think
  2. A pet is exposed and vulnerable outdoors
  3. If they must sleep outside, offer shelter
  4. Minimal interaction = unsocialised
  5. It’s unsafe

It’s Colder Than You Think

Sure, dogs can generally withstand cooler temperatures than humans, but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. 40°F can feel pretty cold after a few minutes with only a thin layer of fur. It can get chilly after the sun goes down, even in the fall and spring months when the weather is temperate.

Dogs with longer or thicker coats like Huskies and Akitas may really enjoy the cold weather. However, shelter, warmth, food, and water are still necessary for even the best cold weather pups.

Consider if you would be comfortable sleeping outside in only a fur coat. If not, then get that doggy inside!

A Pet is Exposed and Vulnerable Outdoors

Many nocturnal critters roam neighborhood yards in search of food. Raccoons are one of the most common in the U.S., and although these masked chubby animals look cute and cuddly, they typically aren’t.

A dog chained up in the backyard while everyone is in the house presents a possibly dangerous situation for the dog. Even a mild fight with a wild animal can lead to infection and disease.

Stinging insects and ingesting sticks or stones or other random things a bored dog might find outside can also pose dire consequences when left unattended.

If They Must Sleep Outside, Offer Shelter.

If your dog must sleep outside at night, the dog must have ample shelter. Here are a few things to remember about your dog’s outdoor shelter:

  • The shelter must shield your dog from extreme heat and cold and offer ample space to move around

*Dog crates are never a suitable permanent environment for a dog.

  • Food and drinking water must be readily available, but if the water is freezing, it’s probably too cold to keep your dog outside for too long
  • A dog jacket can offer an extra layer of warmth.
  • Offer interactive games and toys, as dogs get bored quickly and need to keep their mind occupied, or anxiety may surface
  • Have a separate sleep and play area
  • Keep an eye on the temperature!

Minimal Interaction = Unsocialised

Dogs are social and loving creatures who need connection with other animals as well as humans. Failure to allow this type of socialization can end badly, causing temperament issues and aggression.

Do not chain up your dog and ignore it for long periods

Dogs should not be chained or restrained for long periods, especially unsupervised. Restraining a dog outside for long periods can lead to injury, impeding movement. and, in turn, abnormal behavior.

Conclusion: Dogs Are Family

Pets offer something priceless to their humans, giving unconditional love, trust, and devotion. As pet owners, we have the power to make our pets’ lives glorious. Because let’s be honest, they don’t ask for much.

Pets deserve your best. Remember, they didn’t ask to be adopted, but it’s your job to offer them the best life possible now that you have them. They will reciprocate with warmth, love, and joy that only a pet is able to give.