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How to Treat a Dog with a Cold: 12 Effective Natural Home Remedies - PawSafe

How to Treat a Dog with a Cold: 12 Effective Natural Home Remedies

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

how to treat a dog with a cold

When a dog catches a cold, it can be a worrying time for pet owners, so, naturally, one wants to know how best to treat a dog with a cold. Just like humans, dogs can experience a range of symptoms, including coughing, sneezing, and a runny nose. While a cold may not be life-threatening, it’s still important to take the necessary steps to help your furry friend feel better as soon as possible.

One of the key things to remember when treating a dog with a cold is that their gut health is crucial to their overall immune system. In fact, up to 70% of a dog’s immune system is located in their gut. This means that giving your dog probiotics can be a vital first step in protecting them from colds and infections. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can help to boost your dog’s digestive health and support their immune system.

If you suspect that your dog has a cold, it’s important to act quickly to help them feel better. By following a few simple steps, based on key veterinary sources, you can help to alleviate your dog’s symptoms and get them back to their happy and healthy selves in no time.

Contents show

We discuss in detail all the natural home remedies you can try to help your dog recover from a cold. But first let’s look at what a cold actually is in dogs.

Understanding Dog Colds

Can dogs get a Cold?

Respiratory illnesses are common in dogs, and a “cold” can be caused by a variety of pathogens. Three of the most common culprits behind respiratory issues in dogs are kennel cough (also known as Bordetella bronchiseptica), canine adenovirus type 2, and canine parainfluenza. Note that “cold” is a colloquial term and isn’t typically used in veterinary medicine to diagnose respiratory illness.

Dogs usually get a cold from contact with other dogs, such as at dog parks or doggy daycares, since these viruses are usually contagious. Most dogs will recover quickly, but it can be a problem for old dogs or dogs with compromised or weak immune systems. A cold can sometimes share symptoms with more serious issues, so always have your vet diagnose the issues.

Note, it’s best to give your dog an annual vaccine to help them against the various viruses that cause doggy flu and colds. However, these viruses and pathogens have many strains and are quite sly, so a vaccine doesn’t mean your dog won’t contract the disease, only that their immune system should be better equipped to deal with it. 

Here are the four main infections of what we could call a “cold” in dogs.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease commonly found in dogs. It’s called “kennel cough” because it can easily spread in places where dogs congregate, such as kennels, dog parks, and grooming salons. This condition is most often caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica, although it can also be the result of a viral infection or a combination of both. Symptoms include a harsh, dry cough, often followed by gagging, which may produce a foamy mucus. Kennel cough is generally mild but can lead to more severe conditions in puppies or immunocompromised dogs.

Canine Adenovirus Type 2

Canine adenovirus type 2 is one of the viruses responsible for infectious tracheobronchitis and can also be a contributing factor to kennel cough. It is closely related to the virus that causes infectious canine hepatitis (canine adenovirus type 1). Symptoms can be similar to those of kennel cough, including coughing, nasal discharge, and in more severe cases, fever and lethargy. Vaccination against canine adenovirus is usually given as a combination vaccine that also protects against parvovirus and distemper.

Canine Parainfluenza

This is another viral agent that is a common contributor to kennel cough. Like the other pathogens, canine parainfluenza is highly contagious and spreads quickly in places where dogs are in close contact with each other. Symptoms are similar to other respiratory diseases, including coughing, nasal discharge, and sometimes fever.

Canine Respiratory Coronavirus

This is another viral agent that can cause respiratory symptoms similar to those described above. It’s not the same as the human coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. This virus is more commonly part of the larger respiratory disease complex and may contribute to kennel cough.

Symptoms of A Cold In Dogs

When a dog catches a cold, they can experience a range of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include:

It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be indicative of other illnesses, so it’s important to take your dog to the vet for a proper diagnosis.

Related Articles:

How does a dog get kennel cough?

How often do dogs need rabies shots?

12 Natural Home Remedies for A Dog With A Cold

Here are some natural home remedies to help your dog recover from a cold as quickly as possible.

1. Homemade Bone Broth To Boost Dog’s Immune System & Hydration

A warm bowl of bone broth with a spoonful of honey can help soothe a dog’s throat and provide them with important nutrients.

Bone broth is rich in collagen, which can help support the immune system, while honey has antibacterial properties that can help fight off infections.

Related:

How to boil chicken for dogs

Below is a basic recipe incorporating the ingredients you’ve mentioned. Remember to consult your vet before trying new treatments or adding supplements like Echinacea or Manuka honey.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lbs of chicken bones (preferably organic, free-range)
  • 1-2 chicken thighs (skin-on for omega-6 fatty acids)
  • 3-4 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Manuka honey (or to your vet’s recommendation)
  • Echinacea powder, dosage based on your dog’s weight (consult your vet, but 1.0 g per 10 kg of dog’s body weight is generally safe for dogs)
  • Filtered water, enough to cover all ingredients in the pot

Equipment Needed:

  • Large stockpot or slow cooker
  • Strainer
  • Large bowl
  • Storage containers for the finished broth

Instructions:

  1. Preparation: Place the chicken bones and chicken thighs in a large stockpot or slow cooker.
  2. Add Carrots: Chop the carrots into medium-sized pieces and add them to the pot.
  3. Water: Add enough filtered water to the pot to cover all the ingredients.
  4. Cooking:
    • Stockpot: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let it simmer for 12-24 hours.
    • Slow Cooker: Set to low and cook for 12-24 hours.
  5. Skim Off Some Fat: Every few hours, check the broth and skim off any fat that rises to the top. You want to skim off most of the fat, as too much fat can cause pancreatitis. But not all the fat, as chicken fat is high linoleic acid, which we will discuss below.
  6. Strain: After the cooking time is up, strain the liquid to remove all the large pieces, leaving the broth in a large bowl.
  7. Cool: Allow the broth to cool down to room temperature.
  8. Add Supplements: Once the broth has cooled, mix in the Manuka honey and the appropriate dose of Echinacea powder for your dog’s weight. Stir well to make sure they’re fully dissolved.
  9. Storage: Store the broth in airtight containers. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for longer storage.
  10. Serving: Serve the broth as a supplement to your dog’s regular food, or offer it separately in a bowl.

Important Notes:

  • Consult your veterinarian for the proper dosage of Manuka honey and Echinacea for your dog’s weight and health condition.
  • Monitor your dog for any adverse reactions, especially if this is the first time you’re using these supplements.
  • This recipe is intended to be a supplement to a balanced diet and not a substitute for veterinary care or medication.

2.  Vitamin C & Antioxidants

Vitamin C and antioxidants can help boost a dog’s immune system and fight off colds. Foods like blueberries, spinach, and sweet potatoes are good sources of antioxidants, while vitamin C can be found in fruits like oranges and kiwis.

Do not give dogs too much vitamin C supplements, as their body makes their own vitamin C. Excess vitamin C can bind with calcium in their food and become kidney stones. Rather add a few blueberries to their food to up their intake naturally.

3. Amino Acids (Taurine, Lysine, Theanine, Cystine)

Amino acids like taurine, lysine, theanine, and cystine can help support a dog’s immune system and promote healing. These amino acids can be found in foods like chicken, turkey, organ meats, fish, and eggs.

4. Vitamin E & Selenium

Vitamin E and selenium can also help support a dog’s immune system. Foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, and spinach are good sources of vitamin E, while selenium can be found in foods like chicken and beef. Do not supplement your dog selenium as it is toxic in excess. Rather give them natural sources. On the other hand, you can usually give a vitamin E supplement safely.

5. Omega-6 Fatty Acids (Chicken Fats)

Omega-6 fatty acids, found in mostly chicken and poultry fats, can promote  inflammation and support a dog’s immune system. Usually, we don’t want to promote inflammation in dogs but when they are sick, inflammation is part of their natural immune response to kill the pathogens. We can boost the immune response in dogs by temporarily boosting the linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid in their diet). 

This is one reason that chicken soup has long been a natural remedy for human colds too. Now remember in general, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils are necessary to reduce inflammation in the body. And we also want to balance omega-6s with omega-3s in the diet. So, boosting omega-6s in the form of chicken and small amounts of chicken fat is only for when your dog is sick and you want to help their immune response temporarily.

However, it’s important not to overfeed a dog with fatty foods, as this can lead to weight gain and other health problems like pancreatitis.

6. Use A Humidifier

Using a humidifier can help ease a dog’s congestion and make it easier for them to breathe. Be sure to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria. Please be careful of adding essential oils to a humidifier or anything else because oils that are safe for humans are often not safe for dogs.

7.  Zinc

Zinc can help boost a dog’s immune system and promote healing. Foods like beef, chicken, and pumpkin seeds are good sources of zinc.

8. Echinacea

Echinacea is an herbal supplement that can help boost a dog’s immune system and fight off infections that cause colds. One study in Switzerland treated 41 dogs with symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, including conditions like kennel cough, bronchitis, and tonsillitis. These dogs received Echinacea powder mixed into their food once a day for 8 weeks. The study reported that 92% of the 39 dogs (two were excluded for reasons unspecified) showed significant improvements in their symptoms within 4 weeks, and these results were consistent after 8 weeks.

Echinacea is a herbal remedy that is believed to boost the immune system. The study suggests that this plant-based supplement could be a well-tolerated alternativ-e-archive treatment for dogs with respiratory infections. There were only two adverse effects reported, which were not believed to be linked to Echinacea.

Dosage and Cautions For Echinacea In Dogs

Based on the study, the Echinacea powder was administered at a dosage of 1.0 g per 10 kg of the dog’s body weight, mixed with food once daily.

However, it’s important to note that overuse or incorrect dosage can potentially lead to side effects like an upset stomach. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting any new supplement or treatment for your pet.

Additional Benefits

You also mentioned a second study that suggests Echinacea may boost antibodies for parvovirus and distemper. This could imply additional immune-boosting benefits, although this needs further verification and should not replace regular vaccinations or veterinary care.

Always consult your veterinarian before using Echinacea or any other supplements to treat your pet. Different dogs have different medical histories and conditions, and what works for one may not be suitable for another.

9. Probiotics and Kefir

Probiotics and kefir can help support a dog’s gut health and promote a healthy immune system. However, it’s important to choose a probiotic or kefir that is specifically formulated for dogs.

10. Hydration

One of the most important things to do when a dog has a cold is to keep them hydrated. This can help flush out any toxins and keep their immune system functioning properly. Some ways to encourage hydration include:

  • Adding low-sodium chicken broth to their water bowl;
  • Offering water frequently throughout the day; and
  • Using a syringe or dropper to administer water if they are reluctant to drink.

Related: Why does my dog drink so much water?

11. Nutrition

Good nutrition is essential for a dog’s overall health, but it’s especially important when they are sick. Some tips for providing good nutrition during a cold include:

  • Offering small, frequent meals throughout the day;
  • Adding cooked, boneless chicken or turkey to their food for extra protein; and
  • Avoiding dairy products, which can exacerbate congestion.

12. Rest

Rest is crucial for a dog’s recovery from a cold. It allows their body to focus on fighting off the infection and can help reduce symptoms such as coughing and sneezing. Some ways to encourage rest include:

  • Providing a warm, comfortable place to sleep;
  • Limiting exercise and playtime until they are feeling better; and
  • Avoiding exposure to cold temperatures or drafts.

By following these home remedies, pet owners can help their furry friends feel better faster. However, if symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to seek veterinary care to ensure proper treatment.

Immediate Actions When Your Dog Has A Cold

When a dog is suffering from a cold, there are some immediate actions that can be taken to help alleviate symptoms and prevent the cold from worsening. Here are some steps that can be taken:

Keep the Dog Warm and Comfortable

The first and most important step is to keep the dog warm and comfortable. This means providing a warm and cozy bed, and making sure that the dog is not exposed to cold drafts or dampness. A heating pad or hot water bottle can also be used to provide additional warmth.

Encourage Rest and Hydration

Dogs with colds may feel lethargic and may not have much of an appetite. Encourage rest and hydration by providing plenty of fresh water and making sure that the dog has access to it at all times. Offer small amounts of food that are easy to digest, such as boiled chicken or rice.

Monitor Symptoms

Monitor the dog’s symptoms closely. If the dog’s condition worsens or if new symptoms develop, it is important to seek veterinary care. Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Coughing;
  • Sneezing;
  • Runny nose;
  • Watery eyes;
  • Fever;
  • Loss of appetite; and
  • Lethargy.

Avoid Over-the-Counter Medications

It is important to avoid giving dogs over-the-counter medications without consulting a veterinarian. Many human medications can be toxic to dogs, and some may even worsen the dog’s condition. Only give medications that are prescribed or recommended by a veterinarian.

Contact a Veterinarian

If the dog’s condition does not improve within a few days, or if new symptoms develop, it is important to contact a veterinarian. A veterinarian can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options to help the dog recover from the cold.

Can I Give My Dog Human Medication For A Cold? A Warning

When our canine companions are feeling under the weather, it can be tempting to reach into our medicine cabinets for a quick fix. However, many over-the-counter (OTC) medications intended for humans can be extremely dangerous for dogs. Even in small doses, these medicines can lead to severe toxic reactions.

What Cold and Flu Medications Are Toxic to Dogs?

Here is a table detailing some commonly used cold and flu medications that are toxic to dogs:

Human Cold & Flu Medications That are Toxic To Dogs

Type of MedicationExamplesNotesSymptoms of Poisoning
AcetaminophenTylenol, ParacetamolStomach upset, dry or red eye, swelling of face, paws, forelimbs, symptoms of liver failure
Antihistamines*Chlorpheniramine, Clemastine, Diphenhydramine, Promethazine, Meclizine, Loratidine, Cetirizine*May be prescribed by a vet in some casesCNS excitement or depression, profuse salivation, vomiting, rapid breathing, elevated heart rate
Cough MedicineDextromethorphan, Cough dropsCough drops can contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogsLack of coordination, stumbling, apathy or restlessness, tummy upset, hallucination, tremors, seizures
DecongestantsImidazolines, Phenylephrine, Pseudoephedrine, EphedrineAvailable as nose drops, eye drops, tablets, capsules, and syrupAgitation, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, high blood pressure, tremors

Note: While all the medications listed above can be toxic to dogs, some antihistamines, when prescribed by a vet and given in the correct amount, can be useful for treating certain medical conditions in dogs.

It’s vital to consult your veterinarian if your dog has ingested any of these medications or is showing signs of illness. The symptoms listed above should be used as a general guide and are not exhaustive; your dog may experience other symptoms not listed here. Always consult your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Professional Veterinary Care

When to Visit a Vet

If your dog has a cold and you notice any of the following symptoms, it is recommended to take them to a veterinarian:

  • High fever;
  • Difficulty breathing;
  • Vomiting or diarrhea;
  • Lethargy or loss of appetite;
  • Nasal discharge that is yellow or green in color; and
  • Persistent coughing or sneezing.

These symptoms could indicate a more serious illness or infection, and prompt veterinary care is necessary to ensure your dog’s health and well-being.

Treatment Options

When visiting a veterinarian for a dog with a cold, there are a few treatment options that may be recommended:

  • Antibiotics: If the vet determines that the cold is caused by a bacterial infection, they may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection.
  • Fluids: It’s important for dogs with colds to stay hydrated, so the vet may recommend fluids to be administered either orally or intravenously.
  • Rest: Just like humans, dogs need rest to recover from illness. The vet may recommend limiting exercise and providing a comfortable place for your dog to rest.

It’s important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions for treatment and follow-up care to ensure your dog makes a full recovery.

Prevention of Future Colds

Prevention is the best way to keep your dog healthy and happy. By taking steps to prevent colds, you can reduce the likelihood of your dog getting sick and ensure that they stay healthy. Below are some tips on how to prevent future colds in your dog.

Vaccination

The best way to prevent your dog from getting a cold is to keep them up to date on their vaccinations. Vaccines can help protect your dog from a variety of illnesses, including the viruses that cause colds. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines are right for your dog and make sure they are given on schedule.

Proper Hygiene

Good hygiene is essential for preventing the spread of colds. Make sure to wash your hands regularly, especially after handling your dog or their belongings. Keep your dog’s bedding and toys clean and disinfected to prevent the spread of germs. If your dog is sick, isolate them from other dogs to prevent the spread of illness.

Healthy Lifestyle

A healthy lifestyle can also help prevent colds in your dog. Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and is eating a balanced diet. A healthy diet can help boost your dog’s immune system and keep them healthy. Avoid exposing your dog to extreme temperatures or weather conditions, as this can weaken their immune system and make them more susceptible to illness.

By following these tips, you can help prevent future colds in your dog and keep them healthy and happy. Remember to always consult with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does a cold in a dog last?

The duration of a dog’s cold can vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and the immune system of the dog. Generally, a dog’s cold can last anywhere from a few days to a week or two. If the symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian.

What are some home remedies for treating a dog’s cold?

There are several home remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of a dog’s cold. These include keeping the dog hydrated, providing a warm and comfortable environment, using a humidifier, feeding the dog chicken broth or bone broth, and giving them echinacea supplements. However, it is important to note that these remedies should only be used in conjunction with veterinary care and not as a substitute for it.

What over-the-counter medicine can I give my dog for a cold?

It is not recommended to give over-the-counter cold medicine to dogs without consulting a veterinarian. Many of these medications can be harmful to dogs and can cause serious side effects. It is important to seek professional veterinary care for a dog with a cold.

When should I take my dog to the vet for a cold?

If the symptoms of a dog’s cold persist for more than a few days, or if the dog displays signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, or difficulty breathing, it is recommended to take them to the vet. Additionally, if the dog is very young or very old, or has an underlying health condition, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Can I give my dog human cold medicine?

No, it is not recommended to give human cold medicine to dogs. Many of these medications can be toxic to dogs and can cause serious harm. It is important to always consult a veterinarian before giving any medication to a dog.

Conclusion

Treating a dog with a cold can be a challenging task, but with the right approach, it can be managed effectively. The key is to identify the symptoms early and provide the necessary care to prevent the condition from worsening.

It is important to note that while home remedies can be helpful, they should not be used as a substitute for professional veterinary care. If your dog’s condition does not improve within a few days or if the symptoms worsen, it is recommended to seek the advice of a veterinarian.

In conclusion, providing your dog with proper care and attention when they are suffering from a cold can help alleviate their discomfort and speed up the recovery process. With patience and diligence, you can help your furry friend feel better in no time.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.