Sick as a Dog!

Autumn Dog in His Coat

People often get ‘as sick as a dog’ when daily temperatures start to plunge. And while we sit nursing a runny nose or ‘man flu’, we may wonder why our canine companions have had their name used in vain since at least 1705 (when use of the phrase was recorded for the first time).

What is more likely to have crossed many alert minds is whether cold and flu can be spread to our dogs and cats, and visa versa. I know it has ours. Scientific research suggests that some pretty nasty diseases can go back and forth, but two-way transmission of common cold and flu viruses is restricted to people and cats.

“There’s no concern with dog-to-human, or human-to-dog, transmission,” says Scott Weese, an associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College, Canada. “Dogs get viruses from each other. But a cat can catch cold or flu from you. The virus attaches to cells in the respiratory tract of felines similarly to how it does in humans,” says Scott. “Cats also get cat-to-cat viruses that are similar to a cold, but humans can’t catch those.”
So what can you do to minimise your the risk of infection:

• Wash your hands often, especially after contact with your pet

• Avoid exposure from a pet’s saliva to your mucous membranes, such as your nose and mouth, or broken skin

• If a cat is ailing, keep him away from family members with weakened immune systems, such as pregnant women and the elderly

When a pet does pick up a bug the symptoms are pretty similar to our own and the following signs may provide a helpful guide as to whether they are suffering:

• Sneezing, especially occurring as "spasms" over the course of a few hours, or frequently over several days
• Discharge from the eyes or nose
• Coughing or excessive swallowing
• Lethargy
• Loss of appetite
• Fever
• Dehydration
• Raised third eyelid (milky-white membrane in the corner of the eye)

Don’t worry if your pet takes a turn for the worse, you can help him feel better by regularly cleaning his bowls and where he sleeps. Changing a cats litter box will help too. Allow your dog or cat to rest, make sure he drinks plenty of water and keep him warm. If he’s congested, humidified air is likely to help him breathe easier.

Don’t hesitate in calling the vet if a problem doesn’t clear up. Like humans, very young and very old pets may have a less efficient immune system.  Prevention is always touted as better than cure and it would be remiss of us not to inform you that keeping your pet out of the cold and wet weather may benefit their health. Of course, exposure to cold air doesn’t create illness, but a cooler body gives nasty bacteria and viruses a better chance of taking hold.

Back to top