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Can dogs get colds?

Can dogs get colds and flu like humans? Or are they immune?

Slip lead on a spaniel

A slip lead must be used correctly

Q: My dog has suddenly started sneezing. Can dogs get colds and flu like humans? Over the 
past few days there have been persistent bouts of sneezing, runny nose and she snores when asleep as if her nose is blocked.

So can dogs get colds?

A: Dogs don’t get colds and flu in the same way that we do and upper respiratory tract infections in dogs are commonly characterised 
by coughing rather than sneezing.

The signs you describe suggest she most likely has some form of rhinitis, an inflammation or infection of the nasal passages. There are numerous causes of rhinitis in dogs and the condition can be either acute (short duration followed by complete recovery) or chronic (longer-lasting with symptoms that persist).

Acute rhinitis is most commonly caused by viral and/or bacterial infections. Chronic rhinitis can have various causes including fungal infection (often associated with 
a foreign body lodged up the nose), allergies, nasal polyps and tumours. Acute rhinitis tends to be associated with a clear nasal discharge whereas chronic rhinitis causes a thicker discharge which may contain 
blood, pus and mucous.

dogs in snow

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The appropriate form of 
treatment will, of course, depend on what is causing the problem, but as long as it is treated promptly an acute infection will usually respond to 
a course of antibiotics and clear up 
in a matter of days. It can also help 
to use a humidifier or otherwise make sure the dog is not in an environment that is too dry. Making the dog inhale over a steam bath or Friars’ Balsam may help to clear 
her nose and assist recovery.

Chronic rhinitis is much more difficult to treat, though it is usually possible to control or ameliorate the symptoms. If left untreated, acute rhinitis can become chronic in nature so it would be best to take the dog to a vet, who can investigate the problem, try to diagnose the cause and therefore prescribe the best form of treatment.