Can your dog catch a cold like you do? What can owners do to help their pup get over a runny nose, sneezing, or coughing?

By Jennifer Nelson
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It's sniffling, sneezing, aching, sore throat season for us humans, but do dog owners need to worry that their pooch can catch a cold, too? The answer may surprise you. Dogs can catch doggy colds, but they're not the same type of cold virus we humans get. Don't worry: People and dogs can't pass cold germs back and forth. Whew! That's great to know, but what kind of cold can your dog come down with, and what should you do about it, if anything?

What's a Doggy Cold Look Like?

"Dogs can contract either bacterial, viral, or combination infections that will cause cold symptoms," says Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian at Safe Hounds Pet Insurance. "The most common disease in dogs is the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica or kennel cough." It's an upper respiratory infection similar to the human cold.

What are the Symptoms of a Dog with a Cold?

Typically, symptoms in dogs include sneezing, coughing that sounds like a honking goose, nasal discharge, eye discharge, and increased tiredness. The "colds" dogs have are usually mild and last from 3-14 days. However, Burch explains dog colds can become complicated if your dog develops pneumonia. Symptoms of dog pneumonia include feeling warm to the touch, panting, and loss of appetite.

Sick Dog
Credit: Damedeeso / Getty Images

How Should You Treat a Dog's Cold?

Thankfully, uncomplicated colds in dogs clear up on their own or with a little supportive care from their owners. However, here are some ways you can support your dog's healing process:

  • Try steam therapy. Sit with your dog for 10-15 minutes in a closed bathroom with the shower running on full heat until the room steams up to lessen congestion.
  • Place a drop or two of sterile saline into each of your dog's nostrils a few times per day to help with sneezing and stuffed snouts.
  • If your dog has a heavy cough or is keeping you both up at night, talk to your vet about a cough suppressant.

Most times an antibiotic isn't necessary, but see your vet if your dog is still under the weather after a week to check for pneumonia or other conditions.

Can you Prevent a Doggy Cold?

You can cut down on doggy colds by staying up to date on your pup's DHPP (distemper/adenovirus/parainfluenza/hepatitis) and Bordetella bronchiseptica vaccine, which prevents coughs and minimizes cold symptoms.

"Also, speak with your veterinarian about the canine influenza vaccine. Your veterinarian will know if you and your pet live in a high-risk area and if your dog is at risk for catching the canine influenza virus," says Burch.

You should also keep your dog away from other dogs that have had upper respiratory symptoms within the past two weeks since dogs can still be contagious for days after their symptoms resolve.

Colds in dogs are mostly seen in shelters, doggy daycares, dog parks, or other areas where large dog populations gather. Thankfully, doggy colds are usually minor and resolve with supportive care and extra snuggles.