We all know the horrors of a cold. Common though they may be, the sniffly nose, the headache, the tickly throat, and the week-long recovery process are never anything but a nuisance. Even more so if it’s your dog whose affected… While we’re all too aware of how quickly a cold can spread and how easily we can catch one ourselves, what some pet owners don’t know is that our four-legged friends can be just as vulnerable to their infectious misery as we are.
The one good thing is that most diseases and illnesses are species-specific – human colds are most commonly caused by the virus rhinovirus, while in dogs, cold usually results from canine adenovirus type 2, canine respiratory coronavirus, canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica. That said, just because you can’t catch your dog’s cold, and your dog can’t catch yours, doesn’t make either one any easier to bear. Fortunately, help is at hand. While we can’t do very much about your coughs and sneezes except advice resting up and drinking hot tea, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve to help combat the misery of a cold for your dog. First up, of course, is learning how to spot if they have one in the first place.
Symptoms of a Canine Cold
Although the viruses that cause cold in dogs are different from the ones that trigger ours, they present themselves in many of the same ways. Here are ways to tell if your dog has a cold:
- A runny nose
- A blocked nose
- Teary eyes
- Lack of appetite
- Decreased activity
- Lethargy and tiredness
Before you write off any of these symptoms to the common cold, be aware that they can sometimes (albeit rarely) be a sign of something far more serious. As PetMd notes, Illnesses like kennel cough, parasites, dog flu, canine parainfluenza virus, canine bronchitis, fungal infection or canine distemper can also display very similar symptoms, albeit with a few variations and a few extra issues:
- Kennel Cough: If your dog has recently had a stay at a boarding kennel, or if you’ve just bought your new pup home, kennel cough may be to blame if they develop a hacking cough, or if their cough sound more like a honk than a splutter.
- Canine Flu: While colds may cause a lightly watered eye and runny nose, be aware that canine flu, a much more serious variant on a cold, can also cause discharge from the eyes and nose, although the discharge is usually heavier and accompanied with a fever and vomiting.
- Parasites: Like a cold, parasites can cause a loss of appetite in a usually ravenous dog, as well as a cough. However, you can usually spot the difference by the additional symptoms of diarrhea or constipation and a change in the condition of their coat.
- Bronchitis: A cough may signal a cold, but heavy, prolonged wheezing, a shortage in-breath, and retching or vomiting could be a sign of bronchitis.
- Canine Distemper: If your dog’s watery eyes, lethargy, loss in appetite and cough are accompanied by a fever and vomiting, they may be suffering from canine distemper, rather than a cold.
- Fungal Infection: a low appetite, and eye discharge could simply be a cold, but if you notice your pet is struggling to breathe, has inflammation of the eyes, has a fever, and develops skin lesions, they may have a fungal infection.
As so many of the symptoms of a cold are shared by diseases of an altogether nastier variety, it’s vital to stay vigilant and speak to your vet as soon as possible, especially if you dog is showing any signs of respiratory distress.
Even if your vet rules out any other illnesses, it’s important to continue to monitor your pet to make sure their cold doesn’t lead to any secondary infections. Brachycephalic/ flat-faced breeds such as pugs and boxers can be susceptible to breathing problems even at the best of times- problems that, as you can imagine, tend to get a whole lot worse once you throw a cold into the mix. Watch out for signs of snorting, wheezing, or heavy snoring- these types of symptoms often point to trapped mucus, unpleasant enough in itself, but even more problematic if it develops into pneumonia, as it’s sometimes want to do.
It’s not only flat-nosed dogs that can have bad reactions to cold: in very young, very old, or already unwell pets, a cold can comprise already fragile immune systems and lead to some unpleasant, potentially life-threatening, complications.
How To Cure A Cold
Well, first thing’s first, you can’t. A cold stem from a virus, and unless it results in any secondary infections, most of the time it’s just going to be a case of waiting for it to run its course… which in the vast majority of cases it will, quickly and easily enough. There are, however, certain things you can do to lessen your dog’s misery and support them as they get better,
- Keep them warm and dry and avoid extended exercise. It may seem a no-brainer, but making your dog suffer through long walks (especially if the weather is less than ideal) when they’re feeling poorly is rarely a good idea.
- Keep food simple, warming and nutritious. As Pets Lady notes, a bowl of chicken broth doesn’t just work miracles on humans- keep it low sodium and skip the noodles and you’ll be surprised how effective it can be on dogs too. Otherwise, stick to simple, nourishing fare like boiled chicken and rice.
- Encourage them to drink. Just as doctors advise us to keep hydrated when we’re under the weather, so the same applies to dogs. If they’re reluctant drinkers, up their fluid intake by adding extra stock to their food: it’ll not only increase their water consumption, it’ll add a healthy dose of nutrients as well.
- Try some herbal remedies. While you can’t get rid of a cold with medication, you can help ease its symptoms- although you may prefer to stick to natural remedies to forcing unnecessary medication on your pet. Most pet store’s carry a good stock of natural remedies for sneezing, coughing and congestion, although as ever, consult with your vet if you’re in any doubt as to what to try.