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Canine colds and other dog illnesses


Read on to find out about canine colds, other dog illnesses and what symptoms you should look for when your dog has a cold. See what you can do when your dog isn’t feeling well and how to help your dog through illness.

Can dogs get colds?

‘Sick as a dog’ is a common phrase normally used to describe how a human is feeling when they have caught a cold. It stands to reason then, that dogs can actually catch colds, just like humans. There are a lot of similarities between dog flu and the common cold in humans.

Just to be clear, a human cold is not the same as a dog cold or canine influenza. Cold viruses in a human are usually caused by a virus called rhinovirus while a dog cold is caused by a handful of viruses including canine parainfluenza virus and bordetella bronchiseptica which is also known as Kennel Cough (more on this later in the article).



You will probably be aware of some of the more common symptoms like:



These symptoms in your dog may only be pointing to a common dog cold. However, you should always be mindful that some of these canine cold symptoms could be the beginning of more serious dog illnesses.

How to treat canine colds



When should I be worried?

Here’s a handy table which outlines the symptoms of more serious dog illnesses with similar symptoms of a canine cold:


Different dog breeds have higher risks to certain health issues

Bull Dogs: Flat faced breeds are more prone to breathing problems in general and so even a common cold could cause more serious symptoms such as increased snoring, wheezing or snorting. As the structure of the nose and nasal passages in these breeds is very different, they can become much more congested, and unable to clear their airways. This trapped mucus can go on to cause secondary infections such as canine pneumonia.

If you notice a change like this, seek professional advice from your vet. Helping your dog build a strong immune system is key and this can be done by feeding a balanced and healthy diet.
German Shepherds: Large breed dogs like German Shepherds can be prone to arthritis. This is caused by something called hip dyslapsia where the ball and socket joints don’t fit together neatly. If you are contemplating buying a German Shepherd or large breed puppy, make sure to ask the breeder whether the parents have been screened for hip problems such as hip dyslapsia. Puppies with health hipped parents are less likely to suffer from joint problems as they get older.
Dachshunds: Known for their long bodies and short legs, the bone structure of a Dachshund makes this breed prone to back and spinal disc problems. Try to keep your Dachshund lean as the extra weight carried around a Dachshunds tummy area will put unnecessary strain on their backs. Try and limit jumping down from furniture or climbing up and down stairs, as this can also increase the risk of back problems.
Cocker Spaniel: Those lovely, floppy, long ears increase the risk of ear infections in Cocker Spaniels. Dirt and debris can get caught under the ears and work its way into the ear canal so it is really important to check Cocker Spaniels ears regularly by lifting the ears up and letting air naturally into the ear canal (never blow into the ear canal). Dog groomers are also happy to trim any excess fur growing on the underside of a Cocker Spaniels which will help the ear canals remain dry.
Golden Retrievers: One of the most common allergic reactions in dogs is itchy and inflamed skin and this happens more often in Golden Retrievers than other breeds. Shampooing your dog with natural based shampoos will help. The use of supplements that offer a top up of essential fatty acids, minerals such as zinc, and vitamins which include biotin may also alleviate itchy skin.

Can I give my dog cold and flu medicine that I take when I feel unwell?

The simple answer is ‘Never unless you have taken advice from your vet first’. Most of the over-the-counter medicines that humans take for colds are toxic for dogs. These include common medications such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin.



The rule of thumb is that if you are at all worried by your dog’s symptoms, call your vet. Your vet is very used to pet owners calling in for advice over the simplest things so never feel that you are wasting your vets time or that your question is silly. It is much better to receive professional advice and rest easy, then to wait and allow symptoms to worsen.


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