While dogs don't catch the same cold virus as humans, they do get respiratory viruses and infections with similar symptoms. Many of these are rather mild and will clear up on their own in a few days, while others will require medical treatment. A few are very serious and require prompt medical attention.
If in doubt, or if you see nasal
discharge that continues for hours, persistent cough, reverse sneezing,
eye discharge, wheezing or blood in the discharge, you should always
consult your vet.
Common cold and dog symptoms include coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and runny eyes. Irritation in the nose starts as a runny nose and then produces sneezing. Symptoms may also include a fever and shortness of breath. Your dog may be lethargic or weak and may have loss of appetite. Depending on the type of infection, he may also have gastrointestinal symptoms as well. The color of the nasal discharge can also indicate the cause of the problem.
Respiratory symptoms that are accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, especially in young puppies, can be a sign of distemper. Distemper is a very serious illness, and you should see your vet right away. Dogs should be vaccinated for distemper when they are puppies and every year thereafter, but if your dog is not vaccinated and begins to have these symptoms, see your vet right away.
If your dog's symptoms are rather mild, you can try treating him at home. If he doesn't get better in a few days or if his symptoms seem severe, see your vet. It is generally recommended that puppies and elderly dogs see a vet for any respiratory symptoms.
Your vet will do a complete physical exam and may also do some blood tests. Your vet may also do a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia.
Treatment depends on what type of infection your dog has. If it is a virus, antibiotics won't help, but since your vet won't know if it's a virus or bacteria without extensive (and expensive) testing, antibiotics will usually be prescribed in order to cover all bases. Also, what starts out as a viral infection can lead to a bacterial infection as well, once the immune system is depressed.
Your dog may not have much of an appetite while he is sick, but you should encourage him to drink as much as possible. If your dog is dehydrated, fluids will be given by IV or subcutaneously (under the skin).
Keep your dog warm and dry. Limit the amount of time he spends outdoors, especially in cold weather. The cold air will cause his bronchial tubes to constrict, making it difficult to breathe.
Home Remedies For When Your Dog Has A Cold
Like humans, your dog may be comforted by warm chicken broth.
You might also consider supplements that boost your dogs' immune system in a way that helps to protect against viral infections. A good source for supplements is PetAlive Vi-Pro.
Canine Influenza Virus Infection
Crawford, C., Dubovi, E., Donis, R., Castleman, W., Gibbs, E., Hill, R.,Katz, J., Ferro, P., Anderson, T.
Washington State University
College of Veterinary Medicine