Dogs can catch a common cold just like humans can, and they can show similar symptoms, including a runny nose and the occasional sneeze. However, many dangerous dog diseases also begin with these simple "cold" symptoms, and early treatment can often make a big difference. Here are some simple things to look for so you can know whether your dog needs additional veterinary care.
High fever indicates infection. Fevers can come because of a simple cold virus, but they are not usually very high fevers. On the other hand, canine distemper often presents with a very high fever. Influenza viruses can also trigger a high fever. Dogs have higher temperature than humans do, so remember that a dog fever is anything above 102.5 degrees. If your dog does develop a fever, monitor the temperature and try to make sure they get enough water to drink.
Poisons can also cause a fever to spike as your dog's immune system tries to fight the foreign substance. Chocolate, rodent poisons, antifreeze, or artificial sweeteners could cause a fever. If you notice that your dog is showing signs of a cold, but you have any of these items accessible in the home, see a vet to make sure. Rodent poison ingestion can often take days to manifest, but by then it is too late to treat.
Lethargy is another sign of serious illness. This is beyond simple tiredness. Dogs who are lethargic will be almost floppy, will not rise from bed, and may even have trouble opening their eyes. Combined with a runny nose and other cold symptoms, lethargy may be caused by parvo, especially in puppies who have not yet had all their vaccines. Another cause of lethargy is an aggressive parasite, like hookworms or heart worms, that can steal from your dog's body, depriving them of the nutrients they need to survive.
Sudden Behavior Changes
Dogs who suddenly become aggressive after years of docile and loving behavior needs to be seen by a vet. Some neurological diseases can cause personality changes. Canine distemper can affect the mood. Another common reason for a dog to become aggressive is from infection by rabies. Rabies has no cure, but it is very contagious, and usually a dog must be quarantined for the protection of other animals and humans.
Dogs can also react to pain with aggression. You may only see a simple cold, but a dog in pain will act out in violence. Your dog may not be able to use words, so they communicate in the only way they know how. Any personality change should be immediately addressed by a vet.
Loss of any of the senses is cause for concern. A dog may not come when called, or he or she may suddenly become more clumsy. Either way, a dog who has lost any sense, especially hearing and eyesight, has more problems than just a cold.
Frequent, Barking Cough
You might think coughing is par for the course when you have a cold. Your dog may cough occasionally with a cold virus, but sneezing is more likely. A hacking, almost seal-like cough is indicative that your dog has a condition called kennel cough, which is a highly contagious illness affected dogs who share closed spaces. Kennels, boarding facilities, and even dog sitters who see multiple dogs may carry the illness. It can pass without incident, but dogs who have compromised immune systems and puppies or elderly dogs may have more trouble with kennel cough.
For more information on caring for your dog when they are ill, contact a veterinary hospital like Seattle Emergency Veterinary Hospital in your area.