Identifying the Signs of a Cold in Your Dogs And Cats 

December 15, 2023

Our beloved furry friends, whether they are dogs or cats can sometimes catch infections that are commonly known as “colds.” Although the viruses affecting them may be different, from the ones that affect humans the symptoms often resemble what we experience when we have a cold. It is crucial to understand how these infections work to provide care for our animal companions. 

Recognizing the signs of a cold in pets promptly is essential for their well-being. Like in health early detection allows for quick intervention preventing mild symptoms from progressing into more severe complications. By noticing changes in their behavior grooming habits and overall demeanor we can ensure a recovery. Restore them to their happy and healthy selves. 

As owners, we play a vital role in maintaining our pet’s health and well-being. Regular visits to the veterinarian providing a diet and creating an environment that supports their well-being are all aspects of proactive healthcare. By observing and understanding our pet’s needs we become their line of defense against potential health issues. This contributes to a joyful life, for our companions. 

Understanding Dog And Cat Colds: 

Several factors contribute to the onset of colds in our canine and feline companions. Exposure to other sick animals, environmental stressors, and weather changes can all play a role. Additionally, viruses like the canine parainfluenza virus and feline herpesvirus can be culprits. Recognizing these common causes helps pet owners create environments that minimize the risk of respiratory infections and ensure the well-being of their pets. 

Certain dog and cat breeds may be inherently more susceptible to respiratory problems. Brachycephalic breeds, characterized by short noses and flat faces, such as Bulldogs and Persian cats, often face challenges due to their unique airway structures. Long-haired breeds may also be prone to respiratory issues if grooming habits are not meticulously maintained. Understanding these breed-specific considerations empowers pet owners to be proactive in monitoring and addressing potential respiratory issues. 

General Signs of a Cold in Dogs And Cats: 

1. Lethargy: 

  • One of the earliest indicators is a notable decrease in activity levels. 
  • If your pet seems unusually sluggish or uninterested in play, it could be a sign of an underlying issue. 

2. Changes in Appetite: 

  • Keep an eye on alterations in eating habits. 
  • Whether your pet is eating more or less than usual, shifts in appetite can signal an underlying health concern. 

3. Increased Sleeping: 

  • Take note if your pet is sleeping more than usual. 
  • Excessive sleepiness might be indicative of their body fighting off an infection or experiencing general discomfort. 

Respiratory Symptoms of Cold in Dogs And Cats: 

1. Sneezing and Coughing: 

  • Frequent sneezing or coughing can be signs of respiratory distress. 
  • If you observe these symptoms, it’s crucial to monitor their severity and duration. 

2. Nasal Discharge: 

  • Check for any unusual nasal discharge, such as excessive mucus or color changes. 
  • Clear or discoloured discharge may suggest a respiratory infection that requires attention. 

3. Laboured Breathing: 

  • Observe your pet’s breathing patterns and listen for any wheezing or difficulty breathing. 
  • Laboured breathing may indicate a more serious respiratory issue that warrants immediate veterinary attention. 

Changes in Grooming Habits: 

1. Lack of Interest in Grooming: 

  • If your pet suddenly loses interest in grooming itself, it could be a sign of not feeling well. 
  • Lack of grooming may be an early indicator of discomfort or illness. 

2. Excessive Grooming as a Response to Discomfort: 

  • Conversely, pay attention to increased grooming, especially in localized areas. 
  • Excessive grooming can be a coping mechanism for discomfort and may point to an underlying issue that needs investigation. 

Specific Signs of Cold in Dogs: 

Dog feeling cold

While dogs may exhibit general signs of a cold, there are specific symptoms unique to our canine companions. Recognizing these indicators can help pet owners provide targeted care. Below are specific signs to look for cold in dogs. 

1. Reverse Sneezing: 

  • Description: Dogs may exhibit a sudden, rapid, and noisy inhalation, often described as “snorting” or “honking.” 
  • Possible Cause: Reverse sneezing is a reflex response that can occur when a dog’s palate is irritated. It’s not usually harmful but can be alarming to pet owners. 
  • Note: While often associated with allergies, it can also be a response to respiratory infections, including colds. 

2. Watery Eyes: 

  • Description: Excessive tearing or watery discharge from the eyes. 
  • Possible Cause: Watery eyes can result from irritation, inflammation, or infection. In the context of a cold, it may be a response to nasal congestion or other respiratory symptoms. 

3. Pawing at the Face: 

  • Description: Dogs may paw at their face, nose, or eyes more than usual. 
  • Possible Cause: Pawing at the face can be a sign of discomfort or an attempt to alleviate itching or irritation. It may indicate that the dog is trying to relieve congestion or irritation in the nasal passages. 

Special Considerations For Dog Breeds For Cold: 

Sad Face Dog

Not all dogs are created equal, and certain breeds may have unique considerations when it comes to dealing with colds. Here’s a closer look at special considerations for two distinct types of dog breeds: 

1. Brachycephalic Breeds: 

Brachycephalic breeds are characterized by their short-nosed and flat-faced features, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers. 

Considerations Brachycephalic breeds: 

  • Respiratory Challenges: Due to their distinctive facial structure, brachycephalic breeds often face challenges with their airways, making them more susceptible to respiratory issues. 
  • Increased Risk: Brachycephalic dogs are at a higher risk of experiencing breathing difficulties, especially when dealing with a cold. Watch for signs of labored breathing, snorting, or snuffling. 

2. Long-Haired Breeds: 

Long-haired breeds, including Afghan Hounds, Shih Tzus, and Maltese, are characterized by their luxurious and often voluminous coats. 

Considerations for Long-haired breeds: 

  • Grooming Challenges: Long-haired dogs may face grooming challenges, especially if they become lethargic or lose interest in self-grooming during a cold. 
  • Increased Sensitivity: Their long fur may trap dust, allergens, and other particles, potentially exacerbating respiratory symptoms. Regular and careful grooming is essential to prevent further discomfort. 

Specific Signs of Cold in Cats: 

cat getting sad after feeling cold

Cats, known for their independent nature, can display subtle signs when under the weather. Identifying specific symptoms and considering breed-related nuances can aid in providing targeted care for our feline friends. Below are specific signs to look for cold in Cats.

Excessive Meowing: 

  • Description: Cats may vocalize more than usual, exhibiting excessive meowing or yowling. 
  • Possible Cause: Increased vocalization can be a response to discomfort, pain, or general unease. It may also be an attempt to communicate distress. 

Changes in Purring Behavior: 

  • Description: Alterations in purring, such as an increase or decrease in frequency. 
  • Possible Cause: Cats often purr to soothe themselves, so changes in purring behavior may signal discomfort. Some cats may purr more for self-comfort, while others may purr less due to lethargy. 

Hiding More Than Usual: 

  • Description: Cats may retreat to secluded spots or hide more frequently. 
  • Possible Cause: Increased hiding can be a cat’s way of coping with illness or discomfort. Cats may instinctively seek solitude when they don’t feel well. 

Special Considerations for Different Cat Breeds: 

Sad face cat

Considerations for Persians and Other Long-Haired Breeds: 

  • Grooming Challenges: Long-haired breeds, like Persians, may face challenges in grooming, especially if they become lethargic during a cold. 
  • Increased Sensitivity: Their long fur can trap allergens, contributing to respiratory distress. Regular grooming is essential to prevent additional discomfort. 

Considerations Siamese and Other Vocal Breeds: 

  • Heightened Vocalization: Breeds known for their vocal tendencies, such as Siamese cats, may exhibit even more pronounced vocal behavior when unwell. 
  • Communication of Discomfort: Pay close attention to changes in vocalization patterns, as these breeds may use meowing to convey distress or discomfort more overtly. 

When to Seek Veterinary Care for Cold in Dogs And Cats? 

A female vet holding a cat and a dog in her arms.

Ensuring the health and well-being of your pet involves being proactive in recognizing signs of illness and seeking timely veterinary care. Here’s a guide on when to seek veterinary intervention: 

Importance of Early Intervention of Cold: 

  • Swift Recovery: Early detection of health issues, including colds, allows for prompt intervention. Addressing symptoms at the onset often leads to quicker recovery and minimizes the risk of complications. 
  • Preventing Progression: Many illnesses can escalate if not addressed early. Timely intervention can prevent a mild condition from becoming more severe. 
  • Quality of Life: Early treatment contributes to maintaining a high quality of life for your pet. It ensures they remain comfortable and happy, reducing the impact of illness on their overall well-being. 

Warning Signs that Require Immediate Attention

  • Difficulty Breathing: Laboured breathing, wheezing, or open-mouth breathing are severe signs that necessitate immediate veterinary attention. 
  • Persistent Vomiting or Diarrhea: Continuous vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration and nutritional deficiencies, requiring prompt veterinary care. 
  • Inability to Eat or Drink: If your pet refuses food or water for an extended period, it indicates a serious problem that requires urgent attention. 
    Seizures: Seizures are a critical emergency. Seek veterinary care immediately if your pet experiences a seizure. 
  • Profound Lethargy: Extreme lethargy or an inability to stand and move warrants an immediate veterinary assessment. 

Steps to Take Before Visiting the Vet 

  • Document Symptoms: Note the specific symptoms your pet is experiencing and when they started. This information aids the veterinarian in making an accurate diagnosis. 
  • Isolate Sick Pets: If you have multiple pets, isolate the sick one to prevent the potential spread of illness. 
  • Collect Samples: If possible, collect a sample of any abnormal discharges, such as nasal discharge or vomit, to show the vet. 
  • Maintain Records: Bring any relevant medical records, including vaccination history, to provide a comprehensive picture of your pet’s health. 
  • Stay Calm: While it’s natural to be concerned, staying calm helps both you and your pet. A calm demeanor can also reassure your pet during the veterinary visit. 

Recognizing the importance of early intervention, understanding warning signs, and taking proactive steps before visiting the vet are crucial components of responsible pet ownership. If in doubt, it’s always better to seek professional veterinary advice to ensure the health and happiness of your beloved companion. 

Read Also: Winter Care Tips: Prepare Your Pets For Winter

Preventive Measures for Cold in Dogs And Cats

Preventive measures are essential to ensuring the well-being of our beloved pets. Maintaining a healthy environment is the cornerstone of their health, encompassing a clean and safe living space free from potential hazards.  

Adequate nutrition and hydration play a pivotal role, providing the foundation for overall health and immune system function. Offering a balanced and nutritious diet, coupled with access to fresh water, helps fortify their resilience against various health issues.  

Regular veterinary check-ups are another critical aspect of preventive care. Scheduled visits allow veterinarians to detect potential health concerns early on, providing an opportunity for timely intervention and tailored guidance. Together, these measures form a holistic approach to pet care, promoting a happy, healthy life for our furry companions. 

Home Remedies for Pet Colds 

Home remedies can be effective in providing comfort and aiding the recovery of pets experiencing colds. Humidifiers play a significant role in creating a favorable environment. Adding moisture to the air can help ease respiratory discomfort, reduce nasal congestion, and soothe irritated airways. It’s especially beneficial for pets prone to respiratory issues. Additionally, there are safe over-the-counter options available for managing cold symptoms in pets.  

Navigating Pet Recovery:

However, it’s crucial to consult with a veterinarian before administering any medication to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your pet’s specific condition. Lastly, recognizing the importance of rest and comfort in recovery is paramount. Creating a cozy and quiet space for your pet allows them to recuperate without unnecessary stress. Providing a warm and comfortable bed, coupled with gentle attention and care, contributes to a speedier recovery. Always consult with a veterinarian to determine the most suitable home remedies based on your pet’s individual health needs. 


Being attuned to the signs of a cold in our pets is an essential aspect of responsible and loving pet ownership. Recognizing the subtle changes in behavior, grooming habits, and respiratory symptoms allows us to provide timely care and support for our furry companions.  

Whether it’s understanding the nuances of canine and feline colds, specific symptoms in dogs and cats, or considering the unique needs of different breeds, proactive awareness is key. Early intervention not only promotes a swift recovery but also prevents the progression of mild symptoms into more severe health issues.  

As pet owners, our role in maintaining a healthy environment, ensuring proper nutrition, and scheduling regular veterinary check-ups cannot be overstated. By being vigilant, informed, and compassionate, we can contribute to the well-being and happiness of our pets, fostering a bond that goes beyond companionship – it’s a commitment to their health and vitality. 

Frequently Asked Questions:  

Q. Can my pet catch a cold, or is it just a human thing?

Yes, pets, especially dogs and cats, can get colds. While different viruses cause them than the ones affecting humans, pets can experience respiratory infections with symptoms similar to ours. 

Q. How can I tell if my pet has a cold or if it’s something more serious? 

Watch for signs such as lethargy, changes in appetite, sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge. If your pet’s symptoms persist for more than a couple of days or worsen, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian to rule out more severe health issues. 

Q. Are certain breeds more prone to getting colds?

Yes, some breeds may be more susceptible to respiratory issues. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs or Persian cats may face challenges due to their unique airway structures. Long-haired breeds might be prone to respiratory issues if their grooming habits are not adequately maintained. 

Q. Can I treat my pet’s cold at home, or should I always consult a vet?

Mild cases of pet colds can often be managed at home with proper care, including rest and a supportive environment. However, it’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian, especially if symptoms persist or worsen, to ensure a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. 

Q. How can I prevent my pet from catching a cold?

Maintaining a healthy environment is key. Ensure your pet receives proper nutrition, stays hydrated, and has regular veterinary check-ups. Avoid exposing them to extreme weather conditions, and be cautious in places where other sick animals might be present. If you suspect your pet is unwell, consult a vet promptly to address potential health concerns. 

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