When to worry about cold symptoms in dogs

Coughs and sneezes are common in dogs and may be caused by many different things. Most dogs will recover without needing treatment, but for some, a cold can be serious or even life-threatening.  So, if your dog has a cold, what symptoms could you expect – and when do you need to worry?

Dog Cold Symptoms

There are several different symptoms of a dog cold, and not all dogs will have all these symptoms. Some other illnesses can cause similar symptoms. 

One of the most common dog cold symptoms is sneezing. These may be “dry” sneezes, or your dog may produce some runny or sticky (mucus) liquid. Occasionally, there may be a small amount of blood, especially if your dog has been sneezing repeatedly for several days.  

Many dogs with a cold will also cough. This may be dry, or they may bring up some mucus. The cough often comes in bouts and may be made worse by cold, dry air. 

Dogs with cold symptoms are often less interested in food, as they cannot smell it properly. 

Dog Cold Causes

If your dog has cold symptoms, what could be causing this?

Kennel Cough

The equivalent of a human “cold” in dogs is “kennel cough”. This is a group of viruses and bacteria that can cause the same symptoms in dogs that colds do in humans. Occasionally it can cause more serious illness, especially in dogs who are older or already sick.

Despite the name, dogs don’t have to go into kennels to catch kennel cough! It can be caught from other dogs any time, any place, but is more common where larger groups of dogs gather. Examples include local parks, training classes, agility sessions or dog shows. It can even be caught by dogs who never socialise, as the viruses stay in the air or on the ground for some time. 


Some allergies will cause the same symptoms as a dog cold, including sneezing and coughing. However, allergies are not contagious, meaning they cannot be passed on to other dogs. 

A Foreign Body

Occasionally, dogs may get something trapped in their nose or lungs, which can cause similar symptoms to a dog cold. The most common example is a grass seed, but other pieces of plants, food, or toys can all cause issues, too. 

When To Worry About Dog Cold Symptoms
Most dog colds have mild symptoms which pass by themselves in a week or two. Antibiotics do not usually help, but your vet may be able to prescribe you something to ease your dog’s cold symptoms. 

More serious dog cold symptoms include:

  • Coughing or sneezing blood
  • Not eating any food l
  • Not wanting to get up or move around
  • Breathing more quickly than normal
  • Breathing more heavily than normal 

If your dog shows any of these more serious cold symptoms, or their cough goes on for longer than 2-3 weeks, then you should speak to your vet.