How to tell if your cat or dog has a cold, and what to do about it

  • Animals
  • Friday, 22 Mar 2019

If you're uncertain how ill your pet cat is, it's a good idea always to head to the vet.

Just like humans, cats and dogs can get colds. And just like with humans, these colds can differ in severity, from a common cold that clears up within a few weeks to severe respiratory infections that need serious treatment.

One of the better-known cold-like illnesses in dogs is kennel cough, or canine tracheobronchitis. The most noticeable symptom is a dry cough, though other symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, apathy or fever.

If any of these symptoms persist, you should take your dog to the vet, as kennel cough can cause pneumonia if left untreated.

Other types of colds in dogs tend to depend on the breed, and some breeds are far more at risk than others.

The most noticeable symptom of kennel cough in dogs is a dry cough, though other symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite, apathy or fever.

In cats, you need to differentiate between a common cold and the far more serious flu-like cold caused by the viruses feline herpesvirus (FHV) and feline calicivirus (FCV). All cats are vaccinated against those two viruses, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get become infected; the vaccine merely reduces the risk significantly.

In vulnerable cats, such as kittens or older cats, this type of upper respiratory infection can be fatal.

As with all colds that affect cats, pay attention to the symptoms: Does your cat seem lethargic, uninterested in food, have discharge coming out of the nose or eyes, and seem to be sneezing and coughing a lot? These are symptoms of a cold and should be watched carefully.

Usually these symptoms will clear up after a few weeks. But if your cat has a fever, or these symptoms persist or seem to get worse, definitely pay the vet a visit. You can tell if your cat has a higher temperature by feeling its nose: A healthy cat has a cold nose.

No matter if cat or dog, be aware that all these illnesses are contagious – so your sick cat or dog should stay away from other animals until they’re feeling better. And although it’s rare, it is possible for humans to also catch the disease from their pet.

In all cases, make sure your pet gets enough rest, and perhaps crank up the heating a notch.

Another important thing to note: Never give your cat or dog medicine made for humans. Cough medicine can contribute to conditions such as pneumonia, and anti-inflammatory creams or gels can do serious harm instead of good.

If you want to give your pet a home remedy, there are other things you can do. For instance, treat your pet with some warm chicken soup or carefully remove any mucus or phlegm around its nose and eyes.

But as always, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Your pet can’t talk to you – and if your dog or cat doesn’t get the right care on time, they could end up with a chronic illness. – dpa

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