Dog Catches a Cold: Recognizing & Treating a Cold in Dogs

If your four-legged friend’s nose is running, his eyes are watering and he is very listless, he may have caught a cold. Because just like people, dogs can also catch a cold – with all the symptoms that we know from ourselves: runny nose, coughing, hoarseness, and increased body temperature. But not all signs are so clear. Read here how to recognize, treat and prevent a cold in your dog!

Cold in the dog – recognize symptoms

Colds with a runny nose, sneezing, and fever are caused in dogs, among other things, by hypothermia and a change between warm indoor air and cold outdoor air. This impairs the body’s defenses. Many pathogens can survive longer due to the damp, cold climate and the low level of solar radiation. Heating air, especially if the dog bed is too close to the radiator, dries out your dog’s mucous membranes quickly and makes them easier to attack.

Colds are not only an issue for humans. dr Thomas Steidl, the small animal practitioner from Tübingen and deputy chairman of the committee for small animals of the Federal Veterinary Association, explains: “Infections of the upper airways also occur in dogs. However, these occur less seasonally but are favored by the stress of various kinds. The dog can also easily become infected with sick conspecifics. The risk of infection is particularly high where many dogs gather, for example on exercise areas or dog training areas.”

Pay attention to the symptoms.

The symptoms are:

  • Runny nose and watery eyes
  • Sneeze
  • To cough
  • Sputum
  • Sensitive neck region
  • Vomit
  • Loss of appetite and fatigue
  • In severe infections coupled with fever

Increased animal temperature? Correct fever measurement in the dog

Digital clinical thermometers with a soft rubber tip are practical for measuring the temperature in dogs. “Before use, the thermometer should be well greased with Vaseline to make it as slippery as possible,” says veterinarian Sebastian Haag from the animal rescue center in Munich. He explains the process as follows:

  • “Gently take your dog’s tail and pull it straight up so you can see the anus.
  • Carefully insert the thermometer two to three centimeters so that the silver metal tip is completely submerged.
  • Only then press the control button next to the digital display. Wait about ten seconds until you hear a beeping signal.

Pull off the thermometer. The measured body temperature is shown in the digital display.”
A healthy dog ​​of a large breed has a body temperature between 38.0 and 38.5 °C. In small breeds, the temperature can go up to 39.0°C and in puppies, it can go as high as 39.5°C without you having to worry about it. However, if the body temperature of your four-legged friend rises above 40 °C, it is a fever that can be life-threatening for your dog. In this case, please consult a veterinarian immediately.

Proper care for a dog with a cold

If your dog has a cold, he is no different than us with a comparable infection.

What your dog needs when he has a cold:

  • Warmth and calm – avoid stress at all costs.
  • The dog should sleep soundly.
  • Only go for very short walks so that the dog can relieve itself.
  • Create warm retreats for him, for example by placing a heat lamp (please keep a certain minimum distance) by his dog bed.
  • Give him easily digestible but vitamin-rich food. Also, make sure you drink enough fluids.
  • Only give your dog medication from the vet. Medicine for humans is absolutely unsuitable for dogs and can even lead to poisoning!

If your dog suffers from a cold, cough, and fever, a timely visit to the vet is essential. dr Thomas Steidl from the Federal Veterinary Association explains why: “You should never try to treat the symptoms on your own, but always consult the veterinarian. If necessary, he will administer expectorants, immunity boosters, or antibiotics if there is a bacterial, febrile infection.”

The dogs should also be offered sufficient liquid to moisten the mucous membranes.

“It is important to ensure that a harmless inflammation of the upper airways does not turn into a serious disease of the lower airways, i.e. bronchitis or pneumonia,” warns Dr. Steidl.

Warning: keep your mouth off the snow! Many dogs love to plow through the snow in winter with their snouts open and eat it in the process. But beware! The snow can contain pathogens and pollutants such as road salt and grit. In addition, the cold snow irritates the dog’s stomach and throat. This can result in nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or gastrointestinal infections.

Tip: Feed your dog a little before the winter walk and take fresh drinking water with you so that you can quench your thirst with fresh water in between.

Prevention: How to avoid a cold in your dog:

  • Dogs with a simple coat with no undercoat or only a very short coat should wear a dog coat in winter.
  • Proper Grooming: Never clip or bathe your dog in winter. Read more about this in the grooming guide.
  • If your dog gets wet, dry it off immediately.
  • Paw Care: Properly trim the nails and fur around your dog’s paws. Clean them after the winter walk and apply a paw protection balm to them. You can read more about this in the paw care guide.
  • Don’t let your dog eat snow or ice. It could be heavily contaminated or even toxic due to road salt and grit.

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