Humans and dogs have a lot of things in common. From some of the foods that we enjoy to the natural tendency to long for companionship, we really share a lot with our furry friends. Unfortunately, even the diseases or illnesses that we thought were exclusive to humans have now been proven to be present in dogs, too. When we catch colds, it is inadvertent that our pooches will catch colds, too. Or is it? Can dogs get colds?

Defining Colds

Strictly speaking, common cold is defined as an infectious disease that is caused by a virus infecting the upper respiratory tract especially the nose. However, it is not uncommon that the sinuses, throat, and larynx can also be involved. It’s essential to note that while viruses are the principal culprits of common colds, there are some bacterial species that can also produce cold-like symptoms.

And in case you’re wondering why it is called ‘cold’, the reason is that its symptoms are somewhat similar to being exposed to cold weather. You’d also be surprised to learn that the condition is already present since ancient times with the earliest records seen in Egyptian Ebers papyrus describing the symptoms and outlining its treatment. This puts the common cold as ancient as 16th century BC. However, the term ‘cold’ was only coined in 16th century AD because of its similarities to getting exposed to cold weather. More surprising is that it is only in the 1950s that we have identified the cause of this health condition.

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dog with cold

Causes of Colds in Dogs

There is no single virus that causes the common cold, although the most common cold-producing viruses among humans belong to the family of rhinoviruses. It should be noted that respiratory syncytial virus, metapneumovirus, and parainfluenza virus can also produce common cold in humans.

We have to emphasize this because, while infection between species – man to dog and vice versa – has been relatively nil, there have been reports of influenza viruses being shared by humans and dogs. This underscores the changing morphological characteristics of viruses. It is now possible that the viruses that we firmly believe cannot be transmitted to and cause infection in dogs can be easily transmitted from humans. That being said, it is very possible that the viruses that cause common cold in humans can also be transmitted to dogs and infect them. Again, take note of the word “possible”.

The following microorganisms have been implicated in the development of cold in dogs.

  • Canine adenovirus type 2
  • Canine parainfluenza virus
  • Canine respiratory coronavirus

Signs and Symptoms of Canine Colds

Just like common cold in humans, a dog that has colds will typically exhibit any of the following clinical manifestations.

Differential Diagnosis

It is important to remember that cold is both an infection and a manifestation of some other disease. If it can be ascertained that the manifestations you see in your dog are caused by a virus or another microorganism that can produce such an infection, then it is safe to say that it is common cold in dogs. However, if the cause is other than viruses or microorganisms that typically cause cold, then your dog might have any of the following conditions:

  • Kennel cough – This is often caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica, although canine reovirus, canine herpes virus, and canine distemper virus have also been implicated.
  • Dog flu – This is caused by the canine influenza virus which is transmitted by airborne droplets for up to 20 feet away. The symptoms are very similar to human flu.
  • Canine distemper – This is a life-threatening infection caused by canine paramyxovirus, a kind of virus that is almost similar to measles virus. What makes it deadly is that the infection affects multiple organ systems at the same time making it exceptionally difficult to treat.
  • Canine bronchitis – This can be both a manifestation and a disease at the same time. As a manifestation it can point to congestive heart failure, lung tumors, pleural effusion, and interstitial lung disease. As a disease, it can be brought about by a number of microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and parasites such as Oslerus osleri, Neospora caninum, and Dirofilaria immitis or heartworm disease.
  • Allergies – The classic signs of allergic rhinitis can mimic the manifestations of colds in dogs.

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sick dog

What You Can Do?

Just like any viral infection, supportive care is important in case your pooch has colds. Symptomatic treatment may also be advised by your veterinarian, although under no circumstance are you supposed to give human medications to your pooch.

Can dogs get colds? Yes, they can. And they will also need your maximum support for them to get better.

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Olivia Williams
Olivia is our head of content for, mum of one and a true animal lover. With 12 different types of animal in her family, it's never a dull moment. When she isn't walking the dogs, feeding the cats or playing with her pet Parrot Charlie, you will find her product researching and keeping the site freshly updated with the latest products for your pets!


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