CVMA | Documents | Dogs with Colds

Dogs with Colds

October 23, 2012

Dogs may develop respiratory problems that mimic human colds. The cause of the human cold, the human rhinovirus, is not considered to be a risk for transmission to dogs but animals are susceptible to other viruses in the picornavirus group to which rhinovirus belongs. Notable are the caliciviruses that affect cats, and the foot-and-mouth disease virus that affects cloven-hoofed animals such as sheep, goats, cattle and swine.

Infections, allergies, and other conditions (e.g., foreign material, irritants, cancer) can all lead to disease of the nose, pharynx, larynx, windpipe and lungs of dogs. Rhinitis (nasal cavity), sinusitis (sinus cavities of the head), laryngitis (larynx), tonsillitis, tracheitis (windpipe or trachea), bronchitis (airways) and pneumonia may be present singly or in combination.

We term it rhinosinusitis when the respiratory condition is seated primarily in the upper respiratory tract in the nasal and sinus cavities. Tracheobronchitis is the term we apply when the seat of the condition is in the lower tract, in the trachea and lungs.

Infectious agents may include viruses such as adenovirus, parainfluenza, reovirus, or canine herpesvirus. Common bacterial agents include Bordetella, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, and E. coli. Fungal infections and parasites may also be inciting agents. Preventive vaccines are available for some of these bacterial and viral agents.

Respiratory conditions may be chronic, (long-term), or acute (short-term) in nature. Sometimes a combination of inciting factors can lead to symptoms. For example, dogs with chronic reactive airways (allergic) are more prone to infections. Multiple agents may also be present. Commonly, a virus begins the course of the illness, and once the defenses of the patient are down, the bacteria can colonize and complicate the condition. Some of these conditions can be serious and progressive, particularly without intervention.

Your veterinarian can advise you further re: treatments to help control or eliminate these abnormal signs. If a bacterial infection is confirmed, an antibiotic may be prescribed. To help with the difficult breathing, sometimes bronchodilators or antihistamines are prescribed. Nursing care, such as exposure to warm, humidified air may also be recommended. The care suggested will depend entirely on the diagnosis for a particular patient. Once the veterinarian has done a professional physical evaluation, it is possible that certain diagnostic tests such as culture for infectious agents, blood count, or X-rays may also be suggested.