For many dog-lovers, it is no surprise that man’s best friend shares so many common qualities with their human counterparts. Aside from personality traits, dogs also share many common ailments with humans, such as diabetes, weight issues, arthritis and yes, even the common cold.
As cooler weather sets in, we often expect the annual occurrences of runny noses, sore throats, headaches and coughs. In preparation for the cold season, we often take many preventative measures to try and avoid this common nuisance, such as washing our hands more frequently, dressing appropriately for the weather and avoiding those who are already sick. However, there may be one very important aspect of the cold season that we often forget. Man’s Best Friend.
Thankfully, with a little understanding and preparedness, we can also take into account the health and safety of our canine companions. Just as we have learned to wash our hands and cover our coughs to help prevent catching and spreading the common cold, we can also take steps to prevent our furry friends from catching it as well. The very first step is understanding how our dogs become sick and what factors contribute.
Understanding the Canine Cold
Even though dogs suffer from what we would consider as the common cold, it is not the same as the type of cold that humans suffer from. So, the illness cannot be transferred between species.
Just as there are many variables, which can contribute to humans catching a cold, there are also many reasons why a dog might catch one as well. There are also many illnesses which tend to afflict dogs that have similar symptoms as a simple canine cold. After ruling out other health issues, the factors which contribute to a canine cold can be categorized into two factor groups.
Canine influenza, which is also commonly known as the dog flu, is caused by a particular Type A influenza virus that only affects dogs. This contagious respiratory disease cannot affect humans, however, it is easily passed among dogs through direct contact with infected dogs or objects.
Just as with most contagious diseases, you can reduce your furry companion’s chances of contracting dog flu by avoiding contact with other dogs which are showing symptoms of the virus, as well as cleaning and disinfecting after exposure to infected canines. There are also approved vaccines which can help protect your dog against contracting the canine influenza.
Only a very small amount of canines infected with the dog flu ever die as a result. For the most part, caring for a canine with the dog flu consists largely of providing supportive care. This may include ensuring that your canine has plenty of fluids and remains well hydrated, OTC medications for comfort, and in some cases broad-spectrum antibiotics if deemed necessary by a veterinarian.
Weakened Immune System
The biggest contributing factor, which can lead to a dog cold is a weakened immune system. A weakened immune system can be caused by many things, such as overexposure to prolonged cold, getting wet and chilled, living in unsanitary environments, and so forth. Being exposed to these types of conditions can weaken any canine’s immune system and leaves them susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
The best defense against a canine cold is ensuring that your furry friend’s immune system is in the best condition possible. You can help your canine’s immune system by ensuring that they are not overexposed to cold, wet, unsanitary and uncomfortable conditions. Keeping them clean, dry, well fed and happy is the best solution for happy pooch.
Symptoms of a Dog Cold
A cold can be uncomfortable for anyone, watching for these common symptoms will help you know if your dog has caught a cold.
• Runny Eyes
• Mild Fever
• Nasal Congestion
• Loss of Appetite
• Itchy Nose
Home Treatment for Dog Colds
There is no cure for the common cold, whether it be in people or dogs. While the symptoms are commonly uncomfortable, most dogs (and people) will be over a cold within a week, as long as they ensure that they stay warm and hydrated.
Knowing how uncomfortable it is to have to suffer through the common cold, dog owners can help to make their pets a bit more comfortable for the duration of the cold. For most dog owners, your pets are like your children, so it only makes sense that you would treat them as such when they are ill.
• Encourage your canine to drink plenty of liquids and ensure that they have fresh water at all times. Even if their water bowl is not empty, it should be changed once a day, and their bowl cleaned. You may also add honey to their drinking water, which will provide plenty of essential nutrients to help your dog’s immune system.
• Ensure that they are provided with healthy, nutrient-rich foods. Chicken and beef stock, boiled chicken, brown rice, and even chicken noodle soup are all good ideas for ensuring that your canine companion gets plenty of nutrients.
• You can also utilize the use of a humidifier in order to loosen up sinuses, lungs and nasal secretions. If you don’t have a humidifier, the new could also fill the bathtub with steaming hot water and have your pet hang out in the bathroom for a while.
• For more severe symptoms, you can administer children’s cold medicine. Since most children’s cold medication’s dosages are based on weight, you can use this to determine the right amount for your pup. However, if you are unsure about the dosage, that is always best to check with your veterinarian first.
• If you have more than one dog, then it is important to separate them from the other dogs so that you can ensure that the infection is not passed along.
Dog Cold Prevention
As stated earlier, prevention is the best treatment for canine cold. Here are some tips that will help you keep your pooch healthy and happy.
• Keep your pet away from dogs that are displaying symptoms of having a dog cold or canine flu. If you are your pet has been exposed to infected dogs or facilities, then you should clean and disinfect all clothing, surfaces and objects that could come into contact with an uninfected dog.
• Ensure that your canine companion is kept warm and dry during cold and wet weather. Overexposure to an unfriendly environment can weaken your canines immune system and make it harder for them to fight off viral and bacterial germs which try to invade their body.
• Ensure that your pet receives regular exercise, fresh water and a healthy, balanced diet. A healthy dog with a healthy immune system is much better prepared to handle any viral or bacterial illnesses which may try to infect them.
• If you have an outside shelter or kennel, then it is best to place it against a wall or in a corner where the dog can have more shelter from the wind and weather. It should also be placed where it can receive plenty of sunlight, which helps deter the growth and spread of germs. It is also a good idea to provide some form of bedding, such as straw or old rags which can help fight off the cold. During the coldest winter months, you may even consider placing a small heat lamp, where it can help your canine stay warm.
When Should You See a Vet?
Taking care of the sick dog can often be a worrisome time for owners. While most symptoms will begin clearing up within days, it is important to know when it is time to seek expert advice. Much like humans, all dogs have different immune systems and some are better at fighting infection than others.
You should see a vet, if:
• Symptoms do not clear up within one to 2 weeks
• Symptoms become progressively worse
• Your dog begins refusing liquids and/or foods
• Your dog is very young or very old
As we all prepare for this year’s cold and flu season, let’s not forget about our canine companions and their health. By following the tips and advice offered here, you can effectively prevent and treat the common canine cold and canine influenza.