Canine Respiratory Disease 101: Do Dogs Get Colds?

dog with cold hiding under warm blanket

We all know that colds are no fun, but for those that have been stuck inside during an especially brutal winter, they are inevitable. Especially in the office, where colds seem to spread at the speed of sound. In-fact, I bet you could place the source of multiple coworker coughs without even looking. I wonder though, could you also place your dog’s cough?

Many of my clients have heard their dog coughing or sneezing, and this prompts a very natural question. Do dogs get colds? The short answer is yes, but not the same colds as people.

Most experts, that I’ve had personal communication with, believe that, although both cats and dogs can suffer from colds, the viruses are different from the ones that affect humans. Puppies, unvaccinated dogs, elderly dogs and dogs with impaired immune systems have an increased risk of developing these infections.

So, what kind of colds do dogs get? Dogs are affected by a variety of respiratory infections, and some are potentially serious.

Symptoms of infectious respiratory diseases (dog colds)
Upper respiratory infections may produce any of the following symptoms:

Most upper respiratory diseases in dogs share these very similar symptoms, so getting a specific diagnosis may require relatively sophisticated tests. It’s important to figure out what is affecting your dog though; again, some of these conditions are life-threatening.  

Types of infectious respiratory diseases (dog colds):

Canine distemper: Canine distemper is a severe viral infection that affects a number of organ systems. It frequently results in a number of severe syndromes, and is often fatal. Canine Distemper classically leads to severe respiratory infections, but also impacts the gastrointestinal and neurologic systems. Affected dogs generally have nasal and eye discharge. Pneumonia is a common complication.

Distemper is most common in animals that have not been vaccinated against the virus, such as unvaccinated puppies, or dogs that are immunologically vulnerable for another reason.

Learn more about canine distemper >>

Parainfluenza: Canine parainfluenza is a highly contagious viral infection. Parainfluenza is a major component in canine infectious respiratory disease. It is most likely to affect dogs when crowded together with other exposed or infected dogs. Ask your veterinarian about vaccinating against this disease.

Adenovirus type 2: Canine adenovirus is a respiratory disease that is related to the virus that causes canine hepatitis. Adenovirus plays a role in some cases of canine respiratory complex. It is transmitted by respiratory secretions.

Canine influenza: Canine influenza is a relatively recently identified respiratory virus of dogs. Much as the name of the disease implies, it produces signs similar to the flu in humans. It can result in significant secondary diseases such as pneumonia, and can be fatal.

Learn more about canine influenza >>

Canine coronavirus: Canine respiratory coronavirus primarily infects the upper respiratory tract and causes acute respiratory infections— either by itself or along with other respiratory infections. Respiratory coronavirus is not related to canine enteric coronavirus

Bordetella bronchiseptica infection: Bordetella infection is often referred to as “Kennel Cough.” The disease results in inflammation of the trachea and bronchi.

Testing for infectious respiratory disease
Your veterinarian may use a specific kind of testing, if your dog is showing these symptoms, known as PCR or (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests. Your veterinarian may suggest that these tests be submitted to a specialized laboratory to differentiate the conditions.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Reviewed on: 
Tuesday, April 4, 2017