How to Treat a Dog with a Cold

By Stephanie Dube Dwilson

Dogs are vulnerable to colds, just as humans are. Like humans, the young, elderly and dogs with a compromised immune system are most susceptible to illness. Fortunately, most colds, or upper respiratory infections, resolve on their own, within two weeks. For an uncomplicated cold, home treatment, such as providing a nutrient rich diet and enforcing rest, will be sufficient. In some cases, however, a trip to the veterinarian is warranted. If your dog's temperature reaches 102.7, he refuses meals, or does not seem to feel better after a few days, contact your veterinarian.

Beef up the Diet

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You want to bolster your dog's energy reserves so his body is strong enough to focus on the task of healing. This can be a challenge when your dog has a cold, because when his nose is congested, his sense of smell will not be as good. Without a strong sense of smell, he may not have much interest in eating. Tempt his appetite with strong smelling, savory food, such as adding some canned food, slightly warmed up, to his regular dry ration.

Limit His Activity

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It is important for your dog to get plenty of rest while he is recuperating from a cold. For some dogs, this is simple, and they naturally will sleep more when they don't feel well. High energy dogs, however, may not realize they need the rest. Encourage them to rest by limiting their time outside, and maintain a calm, nonstimulating environment in the home. If lack of exercise makes your dog anxious, try to spend more time with him, grooming, petting or otherwise hanging out with him without being rowdy. Provide a warm, clean and quiet environment to encourage rest.

Keep Him Comfortable

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Most colds do not require medication, but you can keep your dog comfortable by treating some of the bothersome symptoms. If his nose or eyes are runny, wipe them gently with a damp, warm cloth a few times a day. If he has a cough or is congested, place a humidifier near the area where he hangs out during the day, or sit in the bathroom with him while a warm shower is running. The moist air will sooth his respiratory tract.

Seek Medical Help

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If your dog's temperature is over 102.7, he is extremely lethargic or refuses meals, he may require prescription medication. Your veterinarian can help make your dog more comfortable and speed his recovery by prescribing a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, cough suppressants and bronchodilators. Your veterinarian also can determine if the cold is a virus or bacteria that will run its course or a more serious illness, such as kennel cough.