There are no straightforward answers to this question. If you look at the causative organisms that produce the common cold, then the answer is in the negative. Dogs cannot get colds the way humans do. However, if you are going to focus more on the signs and symptoms of the health condition, then it is possible that dogs can get colds, too.
Understanding the Common Cold
The common cold is a very general term that people use to describe a set of symptoms that can include runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, and watery eyes. There can also be headaches, coughing, and body aches. It can also accompany flu symptoms like fever.
The main type of microorganism that produces the common cold is a virus. This makes it a more contagious disease than bacterial infections. The most common virus that causes colds is the rhinovirus. Other viruses can also produce the common cold. These include the parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus, coronavirus, and influenza virus. There are also subtypes of these viruses that can produce cold-like and flu-like symptoms.
One has to understand that common cold is a contagious disease. It can spread to other people. Most people are very contagious a day before the very first symptoms of cold appear. They remain contagious until about a week of having the symptoms.
Cold viruses can get transmitted to another person via droplets. When a person coughs or sneezes, he expels some of the virus into the air. These viruses will not get that far since come suspended in droplets. When these virus-laden droplets land on mucus membranes or open wounds, they can enter the body of a new host. These droplets can also contaminate surfaces. If you touch any of these surfaces and then rub your hands in your eyes, there is a chance that you will get the cold virus, too.
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Is it Possible for Dogs to Get Colds?
If we are to follow the mode of transmission of the cold virus, it is easy to see that your pet dog can also suffer from the common cold. The droplet can land in the dog’s eyes or nose. The virus in the droplet can then enter the dog’s body and cause colds.
However, there are no data available to show whether the common cold also affects man’s best friend. One of the possible explanations for this is that the strains of microorganisms that produce cold in humans have no effect on dogs. Many of the viruses that bring cold to people do not produce illness in canines. The reason for this is that these viruses show specificity to certain species.
This is quite different from other types of human infections. There are recent studies that show dogs can also get infected with the same type of virus that causes flu in humans. It is possible that the manifestations pet owners see from their dogs are due to an influenza virus and not a cold virus.
So, is it possible for your beloved canine pet to get colds? If you are going to base it on the causative organism of the disease, then the answer to this is no.
Manifestations of Colds in Dogs
Most pet owners do not look at the causative organism to determine if their pet has colds or not. Many will look at the symptoms that their pet dogs have to help them identify the presence of colds. Some of these manifestations of colds in canine pets include sneezing, watery eyes, nasal congestion, and coughing.
Any of these manifestations can be a sign of other problems. For example, coughing can be both a sign of a problem or a simple reflex mechanism. The dog’s body will attempt to get rid of anything that irritates its upper airways. It does this by coughing. The same is true with sneezing. It can be because of an irritant in the dog’s nasal passages. Dogs are like humans that have built-in defenses for removing unwanted substances. Sneezing and coughing are two of these defense mechanisms.
Watery eyes can be due to a problem in the animal’s lacrimal ducts or glands. An overproduction of tears can produce watery eyes in the absence of an active viral infection. Irritants high up in the nasal passages can also block the airways. The dog may find it difficult to breathe through its nose. Its owner may think that the dog has clogged nose.
Health Conditions that Can Mimic Colds in Dogs
These manifestations may not indicate colds in dogs at all. They may be part of a much more serious health problem that only a veterinarian can identify.
An example of a canine health condition that mimics the common cold is kennel cough. This is an upper respiratory tract infection in dogs that is due to the bacteria, Bordetella bronchiseptica. The canine parainfluenza virus can also cause kennel cough. Either of these microorganisms can irritate the lining of the dog’s trachea and bronchial tree. This leads to inflammation.
In an attempt to get rid of the microorganisms, the dog will often cough. The dog will also have a runny nose, sneezing, and low fever. They can also be lethargic or weak and may not be able to eat very well. These are all symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of colds in dogs.
Like colds, kennel cough is very contagious. Dogs living with other dogs in tight spaces have a much higher risk of getting infectious tracheobronchitis than dogs that live alone. Puppies and dogs that are not vaccinated are also at risk of developing kennel cough.
Unfortunately, diagnosing kennel cough is not easy. Veterinarians often have to employ the process of elimination to help them rule the presence of infectious tracheobronchitis. There are other diseases and health conditions that can also mimic the nonproductive cough in kennel cough. For instance, heartworm infection, fungal infection, and heart disease can also produce a nonproductive cough. Cancer and collapsing trachea can also be possible culprits.
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Canine distemper is another health condition that can show manifestations similar to colds. The causative organism of this infection is the canine distemper virus, a type of paramyxovirus. The virus is almost similar to the virus that causes measles. Again, this makes its diagnosis very tricky. Veterinarians have to look at the dog’s health history to help determine the probable cause of its symptoms.
The stage one of canine distemper infection mimics the symptoms of colds. There is nasal discharge, coughing, lethargy, and eye discharge. In the event that the infection progresses to stage two, the symptoms become more severe. It always terminates in the dog’s demise.
This is an infection in dogs caused by the H3N2 strain of the canine influenza virus. Its mode of transmission is similar to that of kennel cough and canine distemper. The dog will often exhibit dry, nonproductive cough that is similar to kennel cough. There is also nasal and eye discharge as well as lethargy. The dog will also lose its appetite.
The CDC documented the first case of H3N2 infection in dogs in 2015 in the city of Chicago. Since then, there have been outbreaks of the canine influenza virus in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, and Kentucky.
Canine Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic bronchitis in dogs can also present as canine colds. The issue with this health condition is that there can be a multitude of possible causes. It can be due to congestive heart failure, lung tumors, canine infectious respiratory disease, and interstitial lung disease. There are also many microorganisms that can cause canine chronic bronchitis. These can include fungal species, bacteria, and parasites. Tracheal collapse and dysfunction of the upper airway can also lead to bronchitis.
Cough remains one of the most common signs of bronchitis. In some instances, the dog will also have watery eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. These may lead pet owners to believe that their dogs have colds.
Treating Colds in Dogs
If you see the symptoms of colds in your dog, it is best to bring your pet to the veterinarian. Your pet does not have the common cold that we humans have. The manifestations you see are signs of other health problems like kennel cough, distemper, and dog flu.
At the veterinary clinic, your pet will undergo a series of examinations to determine the actual cause of the signs and symptoms. Vets will order x-rays, blood studies, and fecal analysis to help rule out other health conditions that can mimic cold symptoms.
The treatment depends on the cause of the health condition. If it is a viral infection, then supportive care is necessary. If it is a bacterial infection, the vet will prescribe appropriate antibiotics. Symptomatic treatment can also help address some of the symptoms. Fluids, cough suppressants, antihistamines, and plenty of rest can help.
Can dogs get colds? If you are thinking about the same colds that we humans have, then ‘no’, dogs can’t get colds. However, the symptoms that you see should always warrant a visit to your veterinarian. There can be more serious health problems other than a simple cold.
- Can Dogs Get Colds? – AKC