Do Cats and Dogs Get Colds?

James Glover
by James Glover
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QuestionDo Cats and Dogs Get Colds? (Harold Zeishner - Florida)

Answer

Do Cats and Dogs Get Colds?
If you’ve ever wondered whether cats and dogs can catch a cold, the simple answer is yes they can, especially in winter, although not always the same type that humans get. In cats, the most common is viral (herpes/calici virus) and it has been found quite recently that felines frequently develop a bacterial “cold” from Bordetella bacteria.

Colds usually make themselves known in cats in the form of a series of rapid sneezes.

In dogs, the most common cold is a combination of the Bordetella and flu viruses. Infected canines will tend to cough and sneeze a lot.

With both cats and dogs, along with sneezing, there can be weakness and eye and nose discharge, which could also be indications of allergies and infections, or even more serious conditions, such as pneumonia, distemper and parasites.

While dogs can’t catch a cold or flu from a human, or pass it on to you, a cat can be infected by a human. The virus attaches itself to cells in cats’ respiratory tracts, in the same way as it does in people. Cats can also get viruses from each other.

With dogs, there are number of conditions related to the common cold which your pet can catch:

  • Kennel Cough As the name implies, this contagious and common dry cough is generally contracted through a boarding or kennel facility. It has a distinctive honking sound, and will need veterinary treatment. Bear it in mind if your animal has recently been boarded or has been in contact with a recently boarded animal.
  • The influenza and parainfluenza virus, adenovirus, and tuberculosis, can all be transmitted by infected dogs.
  • Canine Distemper is a potentially life-endangering viral illness. Its symptoms include coughing, vomiting, high fever, and a thick discharge from the nose and eyes.

Treatments
For infected animals where there is a bacterial element involved in the illness, a common option for treatment is to give antibiotics. Where there is also a viral infection, other supportive treatment can include good feeding, hygiene and hydration for the animal. With viral diseases, often a secondary bacterial component needs to be treated with antibiotics. Most condition should improve within several days of onset, but antibiotics may be needed where immune systems are not able to fight off an infection.

You will also be doing your sick pet a favor if you clean their sleeping area regularly, and keep food and water bowls spotless. Change and ideally clean water bowls at least once a day. Allow the animal to rest a lot, and give them plenty of water. If your cat or dog seems bunged up, try letting them breathe humidified air.

And, if you’re really concerned, have your veterinarian do a physical exam. They may propose diagnostic tests, such as a blood count or a culture.

If your dog is coughing or sneezing but otherwise seems to be in good health, you may be able to treat the animal’s condition just as you would a straightforward human cold, with lots of liquid and healthy food.

You could also try filling the bathtub with hot, steaming water and letting the dog stay in the bathroom (out of the water, of course!) for a while. The steam will loosen up your pet’s sinuses and lungs.

For animals which are particularly young or very old, it may be wise to get your veterinarian to look them over, since their immune systems may be more likely to suffer as a result of infection.

Frequent hand washing will help minimize the risk of infection, and avoid exposure of pets’ saliva to your nose and mouth, and broken skin. Ailing pets should also be kept away from members of your household who have weakened immune systems, such as expectant moms, and seniors.

Prevention
You can help prevent your pet from catching cold by keeping your animal inside during cold and wet weather, with just brief trips outside. Too much exposure to unfriendly environments can make it easier for viral or bacterial germs to take hold.

Equally, ensuring your pet’s body is constantly as healthy as possible can help keep a whole range of diseases at bay.

And, of course, if you already have one animal “as sick as a dog”, the last thing you want is a house full of unwell pets. Keep other creatures as separate as physically possible, so that infection is not passed along.

If symptoms seem to be worsening, or taking longer than they should to improve, don’t think twice about consulting your veterinarian.

Disclaimer: This service is meant to provide advice only and is not meant to replace an appointment with a registered veterinarian. Users should always seek a second opinion. Unfortunately we are only able to answer several questions per week so not everyone gets a published answer. And, unfortunately we can't answer by email.
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