Unlike humans, dogs are incapable of contracting a cold. However, there are a number of canine illnesses that cause cold-like symptoms. Certain respiratory diseases cause symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, runny nose and runny eyes. While owners can treat less severe symptoms at home, a vet trip is recommended to rule out serious illness.
According to the Dog Health Guide, the five main viruses and infections that cause dog cold-like symptoms are canine influenza, kennel cough, adenovirus type-2, pneumonia and distemper.
Each illness has different cold-like symptoms. Canine influenza symptoms include chronic coughing and sneezing. Kennel cough is identifiable by a raspy, productive cough. Adenovirus type-2 causes a dog to have a runny nose, as well as producing sneezing and coughing. Pneumonia inflames the dog's lungs, and makes breathing difficult. Distemper symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures and sometimes death.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), treatment for viral infections such as canine influenza, distemper and viral kennel cough consists of supportive care. Antibiotics work on dogs with bacterial infections such as bordatella (bacterial kennel cough), pneumonia, and any secondary bacterial infections caused by a virus-suppressed immune system.
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), there are some simple ways to prevent the spread of infectious diseases between animals. These include washing hands after touching an animal, not allowing the dog to lick your face, separating healthy dogs from sick dogs, disinfecting items such as floors, bowls, toys and clothes thoroughly, and wearing protective clothing when visiting a sick dog. The CDC states that vaccinating prevents the spread of infectious disease.
Certain cold-like illnesses such as distemper can be fatal if left untreated. According to the CDC, owners who notice cold-like symptoms such as coughs in their dogs should see their vet for a medical exam and evaluation.