Can dogs get colds?

Can dogs catch a cold? While winter might bring on a case of the sniffles for us, can it affect our dogs in the same way? Petplan vet Brian Faulkner has the answers.

Hearing your dog start to cough, or seeing them with a runny nose and looking under the weather, is a worrying time for pet parents. But do dogs catch the same type of colds that we do?

Can my dog catch a cold?

You may be wondering, ‘can dogs catch a cold from humans?’ or even ‘can I catch a cold from my dog?’ Thankfully the answer to both these questions is no. While there’s a lot of confusing information on the internet, dogs can’t catch a cold from humans as they are not susceptible to the same common cold virus that affects us.

But you may notice that your dog has similar symptoms, including a dripping nose, sneezing, watery eyes and a persistent cough. The cough can sound quite frightening (like a honking goose) and each bout usually ends with your dog gagging or retching. These are actually the classic symptoms of kennel cough, an infection of the upper airways.

How do dogs catch kennel cough?

Kennel cough is typically caused by a type of bacteria called Bordatella Bronchiseptica and/or parainfluenza virus infection. Kennel cough is highly contagious and is spread from dog to dog through minute droplets of saliva or by contact with surfaces an infected dog has touched or been close to. An infected dog can shed the infection for weeks. It can be picked up at any time of year, from anywhere that brings your dog into contact with other dogs – such as the park, or after a stay at a kennel, as the name suggests. Symptoms of kennel cough will usually appear between three and 10 days after exposure to the infection.

Can kennel cough be prevented?

Yes, there’s one simple way to protect your pet from most strains of kennel cough: a yearly vaccination. Puppies can have their first vaccine from as young as eight weeks old. Your vet will give your dog the kennel cough vaccine in the form of nasal or oral drops that help protect them from 90% of kennel cough strains. Bear in mind that you’ll need to budget for this small yearly cost, as vaccines aren’t covered under most dog insurance policies.

You can also help your dog fend off infections and keep their immune system strong by feeding them a good diet and ensuring they get plenty of exercise.

Can kennel cough be a risk to a dog’s long-term health?

Kennel cough is very common and many dogs will suffer from it at some point in their lives. In the vast majority of cases it won’t cause any further problems. The honking cough lasts about two weeks and most dogs get better without any treatment. But if your dog is older, or has a pre-existing heart or lung condition, you’ll need to watch them carefully and speak to your vet about possible treatments.

When should you consult a vet about kennel cough?

In most cases, kennel cough will clear up on its own, but you’ll need to ask your vet for advice if your dog coughs persistently for more than three days and isn’t showing any signs of improvement, if they aren’t eating, or if the cough causes them to vomit. Your vet may recommend a cough suppressant or anti-inflammatory drugs to ease the cough and help your dog to sleep and eat. Antibiotics won’t usually be prescribed unless your vet believes your dog has developed a secondary infection in their lungs – which is less likely, but can happen.

How should kennel cough be treated at home?

You can ease your dog’s symptoms by encouraging them to drink lots of water. You can also consider keeping them in a quiet place, such as a bedroom, so their surroundings are as calm as possible. Ensure they have no cause to bark, which can bring on a bout of coughing.

If you do need to take your dog outside, swap their collar for a harness, since pulling on the neck can make coughing worse. A well-ventilated, smoke-free home will also help reduce the urge to cough.

Keep your dog away from other dogs, including any dogs you may have in your household, while they are ill and for at least a week after the coughing has cleared up. This will help to prevent the infection from spreading.

Has your dog ever been affected by kennel cough? What helped ease their symptoms? Share your tips with us on our Facebook page.

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