It’s that time of year. The leaves are changing, and cold and flu season starts raging. While you’re on vigilant lookout for the signs you’re coming down with a cold, you should do the same for your dog. She’s equally vulnerable.
We don’t normally put colds on the list of things we need to protect our dogs from, like pestering fleas or coyotes. That’s primarily because most people don’t realize that dogs are able to catch colds. The good news is that the virus that leads to dog colds is different from the one humans contract, so you can’t give your dog a cold or vice versa. However, there have been cases of dogs and humans sharing influenza viruses. Here’s everything you need to know about dog flu.
Dog cold symptoms are much like ours: coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and a runny or stuffy nose. They may seem lethargic or just not like their normal furry selves. However, some more serious illnesses also have these symptoms. Kennel cough is a contagious cough characterized by its honking sound and typically found in dogs recently held in a kennel or boarding facility. A condition called canine distemper can even be life-threatening. Its symptoms include vomiting, coughing, high fever, and thick discharge around the nose and eyes. Be on the lookout for these signs your healthy dog is actually sick, and talk to your vet immediately if you suspect the cold may be more than just a cold.
You can treat a doggy cold pretty much the same way you would a human cold. Give him lots of liquids, make sure he rests—heck, even serve up some warm chicken soup as long as there aren’t any bones he could choke on. To loosen up his sinuses, fill up the bathtub with hot water and let him lay in the bathroom (not in the tub!) so the steam can ease congestion. The cold will likely go away in the next few days. If they don’t, see your pet’s vet; he may need antibiotics.
Fall and winter are prime times for the cold and flu because the cold weather makes it easier for germs to latch onto your dog, but every season is Keep-Your-Dog-Healthy Season. Since your dog’s immune system is her first defense against viruses, make sure she eats healthy foods and gets proper amounts of exercise. Taking her on a 20-minute walk can boost your own immune system, too. It’s a good idea to wash your hands frequently whether you or your pet is sick. And if you’re a pet parent to more than one pooch, keep any sick pets away from the rest to avoid a house full of animals who are literally sick as dogs.