If your dog is coughing, has a runny nose, or is slightly off-colour, you may be inclined to think they have a cold. However, the human cold is not contagious to dogs. So the short answer is no, your dog doesn’t have a cold.
There are other viruses that can affect the respiratory system which can lead to a runny nose and cough. A common viral cause (usually has a bacterial component as well) is a canine cough. This is sometimes known as ‘kennel cough’ although this can be misleading because dogs can certainly catch a canine cough outside of a kennel environment as it is very contagious.
The canine cough usually causes a cough that sounds like your dog has something stuck in their throat. In fact, this is a common presentation ‘dog has something stuck in throat’ – that turns out to be a canine cough. It is a dry, retching cough that can be followed by gagging.
Other common causes of a cough in older dogs include canine bronchial disease and cardiac disease. Less commonly a cough can be due to heartworm, pneumonia or neoplasia (cancer). Other common causes for a runny nose include allergic rhinitis, dental disease, nasal foreign bodies and neoplasia (however, the latter usually causes a unilateral and more profuse nasal discharge). If you are concerned about sneezing, some common causes include allergic rhinitis, dental disease and nasal foreign bodies.
Signs Your Dog May Have a Cold
At its simplest, a cold is an upper respiratory infection, and it produces the following symptoms:
- Nasal congestion and discharge
- A little difficulty breathing through the nose
- Occasional coughing
- Mild fever
- Runny eyes
- General lethargy
- Loss of appetite
How to Treat a Cold at Home
Whether you’re dealing with dogs or people, there’s still no cure for the common cold. However, you can provide some supportive measures to make your dog feel more comfortable during the duration of his or her cold.
- Keep your dog warm and dry.
- Limit time spent outside during cold weather. Cold air tends to make the bronchial tubes constrict; this makes it more difficult for your dog to breathe.
- Provide extra nutrition like boiled chicken and brown rice to coax your dog to eat. This will keep his or her strength up and provide immune system support.
- Run a cool mist vaporizer near your dog’s sleeping area to help keep the bronchial tubes moistened.
- Encourage your dog to drink liquids, even if you have to tempt your pet with low sodium chicken broth. This will help keep nasal secretions thin and less likely to clog your dog’s nose.
You can administer children’s cold medicine as long as the type and dosage are approved by your veterinarian. This won’t cure your dog’s cold, but it may help ease the symptoms and make him or her more comfortable.