Jack Russell dog with a cold patch on forehead and thermometer in mouth

Giving your dog plenty of rest will help them with their cold.

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Are there home remedies for a dog with a cold?

By Dr. Liz Barton MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

There are quite a few home remedies that can help your dog's cold, as you'll discover here.

It’s never great having a cold, whether you’re a dog or a human, but nobody has to just struggle along with it. In fact, if you want to treat your dog’s cold at home, you can try similar methods to managing your own cold. The most common cause of a cold is a virus, which you can’t treat directly, but home remedies can help.

What home remedies can I try for a dog with a cold?

The following home remedies will help ease the symptoms of your dog’s cold:

  • Good hydration and nutrition: ensuring your dog has plenty of fluid and food will help their body to heal. Chicken broth – boiled chicken with vegetables that are then cooled until lukewarm – can be very comforting and a good way of encouraging your dog to eat and drink.
  • Steam: this is a great way of easing congestion. Creating a steamy bathroom and sitting with your dog in the room for 10 minutes or so is the safest way of doing this. Decongestant oils such as peppermint and eucalyptus should be used with caution as they can irritate the delicate lining of the nose, but following the same guidelines for human babies should be safe e.g. adding a few baby-safe decongestant drops to steam.
  • Keep them warm: ensure your dog’s bed is not in a draft and elevated off a cold floor. Even putting a few sheets of cardboard under a bed on a cold floor can help keep it insulated. Give extra blankets for warmth too.
  • Rest: when us humans have a cold, getting sufficient rest helps our body to have the energy to fight the infection. Little and often walks are better than long ones, and avoid the cold and wet. Walking your dog in a coat can help in cold weather.
  • Herbal supplements: there are many supplements available for dogs that claim to help with cold and cough symptoms. Yet supplements are not regulated and may not have been tested for purity and safety. It is best to speak to a vet before giving supplements to your dog.

How can I treat my dog’s cold at home?

You may be able to purchase dog cough and cold remedies over the counter at some pet shops. These may soothe the symptoms, but do not actually treat the cause. You can try home remedies, but if your dog doesn’t get better in a couple of days, or has severe symptoms, it is best to speak to a vet. Make sure to keep your dog away from other dogs while they are showing symptoms, as they may be infectious.

Do dog colds go away on their own?

The cause of most colds in dogs will be viruses, sometimes with secondary bacterial infection. The symptoms include sneezing, coughing and nasal discharge or a snuffly nose. Your dog may also be less energetic and inappetent. Their own immune system should be able to fight off mild colds after a few days. Having said that, colds can lead to severe complications including pneumonia. There may also be other causes that need treatment, such as inhaling foreign material such as grass seeds. If your dog’s cold hasn’t gone away after a few days, or if their symptoms include inappetence and lethargy, you should speak to a vet.

If your dog is coughing a lot, it is more likely to be suffering from kennel cough, which can be more severe and often results in retching and vomiting. Kennel cough is very infectious, so you should keep your dog away from other dogs, and speak to a vet so that your dog can be treated.

What can I give my dog for a cold and cough?

The best way to help your dog recover from a cough or cold is to give them plenty of rest, warmth and good quality nutrition and hydration. If their cold does not get better, it is important to seek veterinary advice before giving them medication. They may need antibiotics if secondary bacterial infection is present. A vet may also give medications to help break down the mucus in the airways, or recommend checking for signs of pneumonia or foreign material in the airways. Anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed if your dog has a fever.

Can I give human medicine to my dog with a cold?

If you are wondering how to get rid of your dog’s cold, don’t be tempted to reach for your own human cold remedies. Some of these contain antihistamines, caffeine, paracetamol, and other drugs that can be harmful to dogs. Do not give human supplements such as garlic and vitamin C, as these can be toxic to your dog. Always speak to a vet before administering human medications to pets.

How long do dog colds last?

A cold should only last a few days with your dog showing mild symptoms such as a snuffly nose and sneezing. If it persists for longer, or the symptoms are more severe, there may be a more serious underlying cause or complications that need investigating and treating by a vet.

When should I talk to a vet?

If your dog has mild cold symptoms, it’s fine to monitor and give them supportive care at home for a couple of days. If your dog’s cold doesn’t resolve in this time, or if their symptoms are severe and include bleeding from the nose, retching, coughing, inappetence or lethargy, you should speak to a vet.

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