Dr Richard Allport BVetMed, VetMFHom, MRCVS November 10, 2017

It's that time of year when for us human’s sniffles and sneezes become common, and flu season is just around the corner. But do dogs and cats catch colds? Can they catch human colds, or can we catch their colds?

So far, no human cold or flu virus has been shown to be transmissible to dogs or to cats, and no dog or cat virus to humans. So, if you’re feeling a bit under the weather you can still hug your cat or dog and not worry that you will inadvertently pass your cold on to them, and vice versa.

Dogs rarely get anything similar to our common cold. If they start sneezing, it’s more likely to be caused by an allergy or something they have sniffed. Occasionally a respiratory infection will occur, and they’ll sneeze and have a runny nose. Canine Influenza is a virus which causes symptoms very like our own 'flu (high temperature, not eating, discharge from eyes and nose, lack of energy, cough). But so far, this virus has been mainly in the USA and only a couple of cases have been identified in the UK. Dogs can also suffer from Kennel Cough. Despite its name this is not only found in kennels; it's very contagious and causes a hacking cough that often sounds as if the affected dog has something stuck in the throat. It isn't usually a serious condition; most dogs don't run a high temperature and carry on eating as normal. There’s a vaccine available against Kennel cough, but not (in the UK) against Canine Influenza.

Cats are much more prone to colds and flu. There are two main viral causes of Cat ‘Flu and after having flu many cats are left with chronic persistent 'sniffles'; they sneeze regularly and have a nasal discharge, and often suffer from sinusitis. Symptoms of severe ‘flu are the same for people and dogs; raised temperature, discharges from nose and eyes and not eating. Not eating is often a tell-tale symptom of Cat ‘Flu. Cats can be vaccinated against 'flu, but the vaccines may only reduce the severity of the symptoms rather than stop cats actually getting 'flu.

Treatment of colds and 'flu is pretty much the same for people, dogs and cats. Keep your animals warm, encourage them to drink plenty of fluids, and give them tasty, healthy food. Cats are very likely to stop eating when they have 'flu. It can help to warm their food a little to bring out the aromas, and to give them something they really like, sardines or tuna. Also giving them canned wet food rather than dry food and having humidifiers throughout the house can be very helpful in alleviating symptoms.

If your cat or dog has severe symptoms, make sure they see a vet as soon as possible. Viruses are not killed by antibiotics; these drugs will only be dispensed if there’s a risk of secondary infection. Other drugs may be prescribed will to reduce inflammation and to act as decongestants. Vitamins and other supplements may help, for instance Vitamin B12 often acts as a natural appetite stimulant and other vitamins, such as Vitamins C and D may help speed up recovery.

Affected pets should be kept away from other animals whilst they're ill, although there’s no need to keep a cat with a cold away from a dog, or vice versa. In general, different species have their our own cold and flu viruses.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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