Dog with a cold

Can dogs catch a cold?

Can dogs catch colds? Dogs can, just like humans, get cold symptoms with a runny nose, cough and sneezing. In this article you will learn more about the most common causes of runny noses and other cold symptoms in dogs!

This article was written by a FirstVet vet

Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced, UK registered vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

✓ Included free as part of many pet insurance policies
✓ Help, treatment and if you need it, a referral to your local vet
✓ Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

What can a runny nose and sneezing in a dog be caused by?

Respiratory tract infection

An infection of the respiratory tract can be caused by viruses and bacteria. The symptoms are similar to respiratory infections in people with sneezing, a runny nose, cough and possibly a fever. Most cases are self-limiting. However, in more severe cases, a dog may develop pneumonia. An example of an infection that can lead to cold symptoms is kennel cough.

Read more: Kennel cough

As a result of a respiratory infection, your dog may start coughing. However, there are many reasons for coughing, other than infection and inflammation. If a dog has respiratory symptoms, it is a good idea to have the dog assessed by a vet. For mild cases, it is best to get your dog assessment by a vet at home. Infections such as kennel cough are highly infectious and therefore can easily spread to other dogs. If your dog does not show signs of improvement, then an examination at the clinic, and in some cases treatment, may be needed.

Changes in the nasal cavity

A runny nose and sneezing can be signs of changes inside the nasal cavity. Dogs sometimes get foreign body, such as a grass seed, stuck there, which causes irritation. Small growths, such as a polyp or a tumour, can also develop in the nose. The symptoms are usually sneezing and a runny nose. If the problem seems to only affect one nostril, you will be able to feel a difference in airflow down each nostril. Nasal discharge can vary from clear to yellow to grey to blood. Fever and a cough are uncommon in these cases. To examine the nasal cavity, you can either examine the nose with a camera (fibre endoscope) or a CT or MRI scan.

Nose mites

Nasal mites are small mites that can live in the nasal passages and sinuses. They are found world wide and affect dogs of all breeds, ages and sex. The dog may experience symptoms such as sneezing, nose bleeds, “reverse sneezing”, a runny nose and facial itching. There is no evidence to suggest that these mites are a risk to humans. In this article you can read more about nose mites.

Dental problems

In advanced dental problems, such as tooth decay and infections, fistula tracts can form between the oral and nasal cavities. This can lead to symptoms associated with the nose such as sneezing and a runny nose. If the dog has symptoms from the nose, always carefully check your dog's mouth, and if in doubt seek vet advice.


Certain allergic conditions can cause a runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes. In many cases, this is usually seasonal, such as allergy to grass or tree pollen. You may also notice your dog licking and chewing their paws, or brown saliva staining on the feet, between their toes.

When to see a vet?

If the dog has symptoms from the nose or airways, you should always consult a veterinarian. Here you can book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our vets at FirstVet to get an initial assessment of your pet.

More articles about Dog