Can My Dog Catch My Chest Cold?

It’s common for humans to catch colds that lead to coughing, sneezing, and respiratory congestion. As our furry companions spend so much time with us, dog owners often wonder if their pets can catch these annoying chest colds too.

It’s understandable to have concerns about your dog’s health and want to prevent passing illnesses back and forth. Especially when your pup is snuggled up close giving kisses and comfort when you’re feeling under the weather!

While the viruses that cause the common cold in humans don’t directly infect dogs, there are some respiratory illnesses our canine friends can develop. With some care and prevention, you can keep your dog healthy and avoid transmitting contagious diseases between species.

In this article, we’ll look at the symptoms, causes, and prevention of canine respiratory infections. We’ll also discuss when you should see the vet if your dog develops any concerning signs of illness.

What is a Chest Cold?

A chest cold, also known as an upper respiratory infection (URI), refers to a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, including the nose, throat, sinuses, and voice box (larynx). It is typically caused by rhinoviruses and results in symptoms like a runny nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, sneezing, and low grade fever.

Chest colds are very common in humans, especially during the fall and winter months when people spend more time indoors in close contact. The viruses that cause chest colds spread easily through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, or close personal contact. While chest colds often resolve on their own within 7-10 days in healthy people, they can lead to complications like sinusitis or ear infections in some cases.

Overall, a chest cold is a benign and self-limiting viral infection of the upper respiratory system with symptoms concentrated in the chest area. It is one of the most prevalent illnesses humans experience.

Can Dogs Get Chest Colds?

While dogs cannot catch the same cold viruses that affect humans, they can develop respiratory infections that have similar symptoms to a human chest cold. However, despite some overlapping signs, canine respiratory infections are distinct from the common cold that people experience.

The viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that cause many respiratory illnesses in dogs do not affect humans, and vice versa. Just like people, dogs can develop infections of the upper respiratory system, lungs, and associated parts like the nose, throat, and sinuses. However, while we may call some of these canine illnesses “colds” or “flu” due to some comparable symptoms, the infectious agents are uniquely adapted to canines and not transmissible to humans (Source).

So while your dog cannot “catch your chest cold” from you, they may show similar symptoms if they contract their own separate canine respiratory infection. It’s important to understand the differences between human colds and respiratory illnesses in dogs to properly care for your pet.

Transmission of Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections can spread between humans and dogs, but it is relatively rare. Many common human respiratory infections like colds and flu are caused by viruses that are species-specific and do not easily jump between humans and dogs (1). However, some viruses and bacteria can be transmitted between species and cause illness.

Direct contact with respiratory secretions is the most likely way for a human illness to spread to a dog. If a sick person coughs or sneezes on their dog, respiratory droplets carrying viruses or bacteria may be inhaled by the dog. Indirect contact like sharing food bowls or close face-to-face interactions can also spread illness (2).

While unusual, there are documented cases of diseases like influenza and COVID-19 transmitting from humans to dogs (and vice versa) when living in close contact (3). Overall, while human colds do not frequently spread directly to dogs, close interaction with a contagious human can potentially expose a dog to transmissible pathogens that lead to canine respiratory illness.

Symptoms of Canine Respiratory Infections

When dogs develop respiratory illnesses, they can show several signs and symptoms. Here are some of the most common signs that a dog may have a respiratory infection:

  • Coughing – One of the most obvious signs is a dry, hacking cough. Coughing is a reflex that helps clear the airways, but excessive coughing may indicate an infection.

  • Sneezing – Frequent sneezing is often an early symptom of a respiratory illness as the dog tries to expel irritants from the nasal passages.

  • Nasal discharge – Green, yellow or brown nasal discharge can signal bacterial or viral infection in the sinuses or upper airways.

  • Lethargy – Sick dogs tend to have less energy as their body focuses on fighting infection. Watch for unusual tiredness or restlessness.

  • Loss of appetite – When dogs don’t feel well, they often lose interest in food. Pay attention if your dog stops eating normally.

  • Labored or rapid breathing – Difficulty breathing, panting, wheezing, or fast shallow breaths can all indicate respiratory distress.

  • Fever – An elevated body temperature often accompanies infection as the immune system responds.

If your dog displays any of these concerning symptoms, especially coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge, contact your veterinarian. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and speed recovery.

Preventing Transmission

The best way to prevent your dog from getting sick is by limiting their exposure to respiratory pathogens. Here are some tips to help avoid the spread of illness:

  • Avoid taking your dog to crowded areas like dog parks, pet stores, and groomers when respiratory diseases are common in your area. It’s safest to limit interactions with unfamiliar dogs during outbreaks.
  • Do not allow your dog to share food or water bowls, toys, or bedding with other dogs. Germs can spread through saliva.
  • Clean and disinfect your home regularly, especially any surfaces your dog touches. Use pet-safe disinfectants that kill viruses.
  • Wash your hands after petting or handling other dogs. Respiratory pathogens can transfer from fur and paws to humans.
  • Keep your dog up-to-date on vaccines. Certain vaccines may provide protection against respiratory infections like kennel cough.
  • Avoid using doggie daycares or kennels during peak respiratory disease season if possible. These facilities can facilitate transmission.
  • Do not let your dog drink from or swim in stagnant water sources. They may contain infectious pathogens.
  • Quarantine new dogs or dogs that have been boarded before introducing them to your resident dogs. Monitor for any signs of illness.

Being diligent about hygiene and limiting contagious interactions is the best defense against respiratory illnesses in dogs. Contact your vet if you have any other questions about protecting your pet’s health.

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Treating a Sick Dog

If your dog comes down with a respiratory infection, prompt veterinary care is crucial for effective treatment and recovery. There are several options available for treating canine respiratory illnesses:

Antibiotics – Most bacterial respiratory infections will require an antibiotic prescription. Common choices include doxycycline, amoxicillin, or clavamox. The antibiotic course is usually 10-14 days.

Anti-inflammatories – Drugs like prednisone may help reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract and make breathing easier. Short-term use often prescribed.

Nebulization – Delivering medication via mist or humidified air can provide direct treatment to infected airways. May be done at the vet or with a home nebulizer.

Cough suppressants – Medications like hydrocodone or butorphanol can control persistent coughing. Use is limited to avoid side effects.

Rest and Hydration – Ensuring sick dogs rest and receive adequate fluids supports the immune system and recovery.

With prompt veterinary attention and proper treatment, most dogs fully recover from respiratory illnesses within several weeks. Close adherence to medication guidelines maximizes positive outcomes. If symptoms persist or worsen, further veterinary intervention may become necessary.

When to See the Vet

Most mild cases of canine respiratory infections can be managed at home with rest, proper nutrition, and keeping the dog comfortable. However, there are some warning signs that indicate it’s time to seek veterinary care:

Significant breathing difficulties – Labored breathing, wheezing, open-mouth breathing, or pale/blue gums indicate oxygen deprivation.

Not eating – A sick dog who goes more than 24 hours without eating should be evaluated by a vet.

Lethargy – Extreme tiredness or inability to be roused can signal a serious infection.

Fever – Temperatures over 103°F indicate a systemic infection that needs medication.

Cough lasting over 10 days – Chronic cough may require medication or x-rays to diagnose.

Eye discharge – Green or yellow eye discharge may indicate a secondary bacterial infection.

Dehydration – Dry gums, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea require fluid therapy.

It’s always better to err on the side of caution and have a veterinarian assess your dog if you notice anything abnormal. Prompt treatment can help prevent complications and relieve your dog’s discomfort faster.

Caring for Your Dog

If your dog has a mild respiratory infection, there are some at-home care tips you can try to help them feel better:

  • Make sure your dog rests and limits activity while sick. This will help conserve their energy for healing.
  • Keep your dog well-hydrated by providing fresh, clean water at all times. You can also mix in some low-sodium chicken broth to encourage drinking.
  • Try steam therapy by running a hot shower to create a steamy bathroom. Sit with your dog in the steam for 10-15 minutes to help loosen mucus.
  • Consider using a humidifier near your dog’s bed or crate to ease congestion and coughing.
  • Gently massage your dog’s throat to help loosen mucus. This can provide temporary relief from coughing.
  • Make sure your dog eats a nutritious diet and avoid unhealthy human foods while sick.
  • Keep a close eye on your dog’s symptoms and energy levels. Seek veterinary care if their condition worsens.

With supportive care at home, most mild respiratory infections in dogs will resolve on their own. But be sure to monitor your dog closely and contact your vet if symptoms persist beyond 7-10 days.


In summary, while dogs can’t directly catch your chest cold, they are susceptible to similar upper respiratory infections like kennel cough and canine influenza. These respiratory diseases are highly contagious between dogs and can cause symptoms like coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, lethargy, and fever. Preventing transmission is crucial through vaccination, avoiding contact with unknown dogs, and proper sanitation. If your dog does get sick, treatment may include rest, fluids, and medication. Seek veterinary care for severe symptoms. Caring for your dog’s health includes keeping up with preventative medicine. While the common cold is species-specific, proactive measures can help reduce the risk of passing illness between pet and owner.

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