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Advice From Dr. Lindsey: Do Dogs Get Colds?

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Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM


The answer is kind of. Dogs do get respiratory illnesses whose symptoms sort of resemble human colds. However, dogs don’t get colds the same way humans do and they can’t catch a cold from humans.

One of the common respiratory illnesses that dogs get is kennel cough. Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is caused by several different viruses and bacteria such as adenovirus type-2, parainfluenza virus, and the bacterium Bordetella bronchiseptica. While there are other viruses and bacteria that are included in the Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC), today I will just be talking about general kennel cough.  Kennel cough is very contagious to other dogs and is easily spread through respiratory secretions.  Therefore, dogs tend to get it when they are in situations where there are a lot of other dogs in one place like doggie daycare, boarding, grooming, and dog parks.

The symptoms of kennel cough are similar to some symptoms of human colds such as coughing, sneezing, runny eyes and nose, lethargy, and inappetence. Supportive care is usually recommended but there is no specific treatment for the viral aspect of kennel cough. Antibiotics are useful against the bacterial component.

While kennel cough is usually mild, there can be complications such as pneumonia to watch out for. If your pet is displaying respiratory symptoms, it’s important to have them seen by a veterinarian. The Bordetella vaccine is generally recommended for dogs that are in contact with other dogs like in the situations talked about above. The Bordetella vaccine is given by injection, oral, or intra-nasal (nose drops). Always consult with your veterinarian about specific vaccination recommendations for your pet.


Authored by: Dr. Lindsey, DVM


Dr. Lindsey graduated from Colorado State University in 2009 and works in general practice, shelter medicine, and more recently as a civilian contractor veterinarian for the Army. She is also certified in acupuncture and resides in Palm Springs, CA.