Zoonotic diseases, which can be spread between animals and people, are increasingly making the news. With reports about bird flu and swine flu on the rise, it makes sense that many of us worry about catching illnesses from our pets. When it comes to canine colds, however, we don’t need to worry.
Can I Catch a Cold From My Dog?
Dog colds are not contagious to humans. You can’t catch a cold from your dog, any more than your dog can pick up a human strain of a cold virus from you. However, dog colds and influenza are highly contagious between dogs, which means we have to be careful not to help transmit the germs.
Colds spread through saliva and aerosol droplets. If you’ve been in contact with a sick dog, you could bring those germs home to your own pups on your hands or clothing. Letting your dog drink out of an infected dog’s water bowl or play with infected toys also increases the risk of contagion. While colds are rarely life-threatening, they can pose risks for very young and very old dogs, as well as canines with suppressed immune systems.
Are Dog Colds Serious?
The biggest risk associated with dog colds is misdiagnosis. Some of the symptoms of dog colds, such as sneezing, runny eyes and nose, congestion, and coughing, are also signs of more serious illnesses, for example canine influenza, kennel cough, bacterial infections, and parasites. Coughing can also be due to other serious medical issues, such as heart disease, upper-airway disease, or a foreign body that is causing obstruction. Talk to your veterinarian if your dog has cold-like symptoms to make sure it is not something more severe.
Mild dog colds typically resolve on their own. Once your veterinarian has ruled out other causes, he may suggest that your dog rest and be kept away from other animals to avoid spreading the cold or contracting a more serious disease while his defenses are lowered.
Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and fever all indicate a more serious condition. If your dog has any of these signs, don’t wait. Contact your veterinarian immediately to ensure your dog gets the help he needs.