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Can Dogs Catch a Cold or The Flu


Can dogs catch a cold-fluAlthough you can catch a cold or the flu at any time of the year, we see it so much more during the cold winter months. This is because while it is cold outside, we like to keep ourselves nice and warm inside. But being inside so much means we are breathing the same air constantly, and are not able to get away from the germs that are going to make us sick. While you expect that members of your human family would get sick, did you know that it could also be your dog that comes down with either of these illnesses?

The short answer is yes- your dog can catch a cold or the flu (also known as canine influenza virus, or CIV). Although some viruses, parasites, and bacteria can cross from one species to the next, when it comes to cold and flu viruses you do not have to worry- you cannot catch theirs, and they cannot catch yours. This is because cold and flu viruses are species specific.

Both the common cold and CIV are very contagious and can spread the same way the human virus can- by touch, lack of cleanliness, sharing toys, etc. If you have multiple dogs that share water/food bowls and likes to groom each other, than there is no doubt that they will be passing germs between them unless you manage to keep them separate until the sick on is better. Both viruses also spread rapidly within doggie day care and boarding facilities. If your pet has been at one of these facilities recently, it is best to be seen by your veterinarian to ensure your pet does not have CIV.

The main symptoms of both the cold and the flu are basically the same: sneezing, coughing, runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes. The only difference is with CIV your pet may seem lethargic, and in most cases the dog will have a fever. Sometimes with CIV your dog may not want to eat or drink as well. If you suspect your dog has CIV versus the common cold, please see your veterinarian for treatment. Although most respiratory bugs start to improve in a few days, some dogs who are either very young/very old, or who may have a compromised immune system due to prior illnesses may not being able to get over the respiratory bugs on their own and may need a course of antibiotics. If your dog is a puppy, a geriatric, or has a compromised immune system, it is best to have them examined by your veterinarian regardless if it’s the cold or CIV to ensure that what may just be a cold does not progress to a more serious disease like pneumonia.

If your dog is coughing or sneezing but is eating and drinking normally, and has a demeanor that is normal for them, you may be able to get away with not seeing your veterinarian and treat the same way you would treat a cold for yourself- lots of fresh water, rest, and relaxation. If your dog is of a brachycephalic breed (dogs with pushed in faces such as Pugs, English/French Bulldogs, etc.) which is are breeds that are known to have respiratory issues, you may want to invest in a humidifier, as this will help keep the airways open and clear. It also must be mentioned that you should NEVER give your dog any human over the counter cold remedies such as the cold/flu versions of drugs like Tylenol or Advil. These drugs are extremely toxic to dogs, and ingestion could be fatal. If you think your pet’s cold is bad enough that they need medication, please see your veterinarian.

Although there is no vaccine for the common cold, there is a vaccine available for CIV. Like all vaccines it is not 100% effective, however if your pet is always around many other dogs, or if there is an outbreak of CIV in your area, it is recommended that your pet be vaccinated. Some boarding and grooming facilities are even requiring it for your pet to be within their facility. If you living in an area that does not have an outbreak of CIV, or if your pet is not around other dogs much at all, than it is not necessary for your pet to be vaccinated for CIV.

The best defense against catching the cold or the flu is prevention. Although it is best to avoid them during the winter months since they are breeding grounds for cold and flu viruses, if you are taking your pet to doggie daycare, boarding or grooming facilities, it is imperative that you keep them up to date on their vaccinations. Even though vaccines won’t completely prevent infection (because, as previously stated no vaccine is 100% effective), it will help cut down on infection of the most common strains of flu viruses and other common respiratory bugs. In the home, you should completely change and wash your water and food bowls daily. This will cut down on bacteria buildup and transmission, particularly if you have multiply pets who share their bowls. The same goes for toys and bedding, wash all items every 1-2 weeks to cut down on bacteria build up. The cleaner your home, the less likely you will have sick family members of both the two and four legged varieties this winter.

Photo Credit: news.emory.edu

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