Dog colds: The Causes, Symptoms, and some Natural Remedies

Medically reviewed by James Edward, PharmD

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You watch patiently as your dog whines up for a mega sneeze. The sneeze shakes the entire dog while expelling a nasty secretion from the nostrils. Dogs' sensitivities can frequently cause sneezing, but adding the phlegm and mucus hints at something more than just environmental irritants.

This blog gets you fur-miliar with dog colds, the causes, the symptoms, and some natural remedies.


Dogs can get colds just like their human counterparts. They experience the sniffling, sneezing, and irritation a cold can cause. Humans know how annoying colds can be and are responsible for caring for our pets with comfort and compassion.


Fortunately, humans and dogs can not pass viruses back and forth. While we may have similar symptoms, human colds are usually caused by a Rhinovirus. These viruses are particular to humans and are not shared with dogs. Likewise, dogs cannot pass their cold viruses to humans.

Some diseases and parasites can transfer from dog to human: rabies, hookworm, ringworm, tapeworm, roundworm, and salmonella. However, we are focusing strictly on dog cold causes, symptoms, and remedies.


Some causes of cold symptoms in dogs are:

  • Influenza - Canine influenza can cause cold-like symptoms in dogs.
  • Fungal Infection - Several fungal infections may cause cold-like symptoms in a dog. Fungal infections tend to be regional.
  • Bacteria/ Viral Infection - Dogs can get colds from other dogs. Colds can be a part of a condition known as Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease (CIRD), also known as Kennel Cough or Infectious Tracheobronchitis.


As mentioned before, humans and dogs share the same symptoms from colds. Unfortunately, dogs can not communicate their pain verbally, so dog owners must closely observe their pet pal. Listed below are the symptoms dogs may experience when they have a cold.

  • Body Aches - Dog body aches are hard to figure out. Luckily, pet owners can look for a few physical symptoms of a dog being in pain through dog behavior. The symptoms may include tight or twitching muscles, trembling, arched back, downward head position, and heaving for air. These symptoms, in combination with other symptoms, may indicate a cold.
  • Congestion - Nasal congestion can point to a cold, seasonal allergy, or something more serious. When a dog gets congested, its nasal passage is blocked by the swelled up blood vessels, reducing airflow. The lack of airflow can weaken nasal membrane filtration and expose the dog to bacteria and viruses.
  • Decreased Activity - Canineowners, can usually tell the signs of a lethargic dog. Their dog has less pep in their step; excitement levels have dropped, overall low energy and delayed responses.
  • Excessive Sleeping - According to Heather Nicholls BVM&S, dogs sleep 12 hours daily. However, there is a variety in sleep patterns according to breed, health, and temperament. Dogs do not share our circadian rhythm, so they sleep when they feel they are ready. A symptom of a dog cold is oversleeping. If you are worried your dog is oversleeping, look for clues and other signs to what may be causing the fatigue.
  • Loss of Appetite - A loss of appetite can signal several conditions as common as colds to something more aggressive like cancer. Observe the dog's eating habits if you think it may have a cold. If the loss of appetite does not subside, make an appointment with your vet.
  • Sneezing - Sneezing goes hand-in-hand with a runny nose. Once again, this is mostly caused by allergies. Thankfully, most pet parents know the allergic triggers for their dog and can tell if it is that or another issue such as a cold.
  • Snorting - Dogs of the brachycephalic breed (pushed-in face), Pugs, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, and Bulldogs snort because of their skull shape and narrower nasal passages. However, snorting is a sign of a cold. If the snorting is abnormal and persistent, start home remedies or take your dog to the vet.
  • Snoring - During a cold, a dog's mucus membranes are clogged, and this will cause snoring when the dog is sleeping. If you notice excessive snoring, watch for other clues on this list; hopefully, it is just a passing cold.
  • Sore Throat - Excessive drooling, inflamed throat, coughing, fever, and not eating are signs of a sore throat. A sore throat is often a sign of a cold and goes away in a few days.
  • Watery Eyes - Watery eyes are a sign of a cold but can also show symptoms of dog eye allergies, irritants, foreign objects in the eye, anatomical abnormalities, clogged tear ducts, injury, and Glaucoma.
  • Wheezing - Wheezing suggests the respiratory tract is infected with a cold and narrowing the pathway similar to a sinus infection. The wheezing sound is caused by air being forced through these narrow airways.


Natural remedies for dogs with colds is very similar to what us humans would want while being treated.

  • Warmth – Warmth is a remedy for colds because they loosen mucus and stimulate immunity responses. In a previous study, Yale researchers led by Professor of Immunobiology Akiko Iwasaki discovered that when the temperature in the nose dropped below core body temperature, the cold virus multiplied more rapidly (37 degrees C). The researchers found that crucial immune system proteins – interferons – were compromised at a slightly lower temperature (33 degrees C), allowing the cold virus to replicate and propagate in mouse airway cells.
  • Warm hearty food - Warm foods like low sodium chicken broth are good for dogs. A study was reported in the October issue of CHEST, the American College of Chest Physicians' peer-reviewed journal, that stated chicken soup showed evidence of anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Rest - Dogs with colds need a lot of rest. Medical Doctor Eric J. Olson wrote a lack of quality sleep can expose the body to viruses such as the common cold.
  • Steam/Humidifier – The main reason to use steam for a dog's cold is to loosen up the dog's stuffy nose. Once the nose is unclogged, the dog will have the ability to breathe properly while reducing bacterial build-up that potentially leads to other infections.
  • Keep away from dog friends – Since dogs can give each other colds, it is best to keep doggie friends away for the duration of the illness. Additionally, a dog's weakened immune system will be exposed if the doggie friend harbors another ailment.
  • Fluids – Hydration will help the nasal fluid thin making It easier to breathe.
  • CBD oil for dogs - The National Academies of Sciences stated that the anti-inflammatory activity of CBD could be beneficial because inflammation is a key event in many illnesses.

    Since colds cause inflammation in the sinus and throats of dogs, CBD may be an option worth discussing with your vet.

    If your dog is showing symptoms of a cold, keep your eye on them, and if it gets worse, make an appointment with a veterinarian.
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