Ask A Vet: How To Tell If Your Dog Has A Cold


Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA'  feature on They've enlisted their Co-President, Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, to answer your questions every week. Got a question for Dr. Scarlett? Ask away in the comments!

Q: Sometimes my pooch has a little cough. Should I be worried? How do I know if she has a doggie cold? What are the symptoms?

A: The symptoms of a doggie cold are very similar to those of a human cold, (upper respiratory infection), but the etiology (cause) is different.  There are several viruses that can cause upper respiratory infections (or “URI”) in humans but the most common is a rhinovirus.  Unfortunately, there are several hundred strains of rhinovirus that infect humans which is why we catch colds over and over.  Most URI viruses are species-specific and the human rhinovirus has not been documented in dogs. 

Dogs are not off the hook though—they have their own respiratory viruses, like parainfluenza.  Most URI’s are acute.  That is, they come on quickly, last about 7 to 14 days before the immune system gets it under control and resolved.  It sounds like your dog has a chronic, off-and-on cough rather than an acute infection. There are many causes for a mild, chronic cough—many of which are benign—but definitely worth having your veterinarian take a good look and listen to be sure.

While we can’t answer all of the questions here, please feel free to ask us during our Friday Twitter Ask the Vet Chat.  If your animal’s problem is of an immediate nature, please call your vet or you can reach the SF SPCA at 415-554-3030 to make an appointment.

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