If your cat has been coughing or your pooch sounds a little wheezy, you may be wondering if your animal friend can catch a cold. Before you make a drugstore run for some Nyquil, read on to learn what the team at The Pets Place Animal Hospital want you to know about colds in pets.

The Common Cold

Most of us have caught a cold at some point. Colds are an upper respiratory condition typically caused by a virus. There are hundreds of viruses that can cause colds, but in people the most common culprit is the rhinovirus.

Thankfully, human cold viruses don’t pass between people and their pets. In fact, most of the time colds in pets aren’t really colds at all. There are, however, several viruses that pets get that may resemble a cold. Some of these include:

  • Canine distemper
  • Feline herpesvirus
  • Feline calicivirus
  • Canine influenza virus
  • Bordetella

All of these bugs, among others, can cause sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, and even the persistent cough that we dread when we are hit with the common cold.

Do’s and Don’ts for Colds in Pets

Humans tend to press on with their day-to-day lives when they are struck with a cold. In pets, however, cold symptoms can often signal something more serious. Because pets are unable to let us know when their symptoms become worrisome, it is best to have them checked out.

In the meantime, you may feel the need to do something for your ailing pet. Be sure to:

  • Monitor eating, drinking, and bathroom habits closely
  • Avoid administering medications without veterinary direction (many human cold medications are actually toxic to pets)
  • Use a humidifier or steamy bathroom to help open the airways
  • Keep the nose clean of crusted discharge
  • Encourage eating by gently warming food

Don’t make the mistake of assuming a cough or other cold symptom in your pet is just a virus that will run its course. Congestive heart failure, cancerous changes in the lungs, and even fungal infections can appear as cold symptoms.

No need to be scared every time your pet sneezes, but if symptoms persist it is probably best to get him or her examined. Don’t forget that many of these nasty bugs are preventable with appropriate wellness care and vaccinations.

If your pet does indeed have a viral-type cold, supportive care is generally all that is needed. Sometimes nutritional support or hydration may be necessary and, in certain situations, antibiotic therapy is warranted. Fortunately, we can usually get these nasty types of bugs under control and get your pet feeling better in no time at all!