Winter is fast approaching, and with it comes colds and the flu.
When you're hacking and sneezing away, many of your human family members will steer clear of you: after all, they don't want to get sick, too.
But most dogs are intuitive enough to know when their person doesn't feel good. And many of these dogs will want to stay close by you to try to comfort you and to protect you, since in their minds, you aren't able to protect yourself. But is this a good idea?
Can my dog catch my cold?
The good news here is "no." Although both humans and dogs can catch cold, the viruses that cause the colds are quite different. As a result, the human cold virus can't survive in a dog's body and vice-versa. So let your nurse dog give you all the attention and love she wants: she's not going to get sick from being around you.
Dogs can catch cold from other dogs, though. Be a responsible dog owner and don't take your dog to the dog park or to be groomed if she's ill. If she's well, limit her exposure to other dogs—especially if you don't know the owners—to reduce her chance of catching an illness from another dog.
Can my dog catch my flu?
You're not as lucky with the flu. Dogs not only can catch the flu from us, we can catch the flu from our dogs. If you have the flu, stay away from your dog. Keep her out of your trash—you don't want her rooting around in all the dirty tissues. If you can, delegate another member of the family to feed her and keep her water bowl full while you're sick. If you are still caring for her, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly before feeding her or getting her more water.
If your dog has the flu, take some precautions for yourself and your family as well. Wash your hands after handling the dog, her dishes, or her bedding. Make sure your children wash their hands after petting or playing with the dog. If you have very young children, it's better to keep them away from the dog while she's sick: little hands can go from petting the dog to rubbing noses or eyes, or go into little mouths before you have the chance to clean them off.
What do I do if my dog gets sick?
Dogs have a pretty good sense of what to do if they're sick. They will tend to sleep more, may eat less, and may be somewhat lethargic. Often the first clue people have their dog is sick is the fact the dog is acting a little "off." There may be a slight discharge from the nose and/or eyes, and your dog may cough.
Keep your dog comfortable. Make sure she has her bed or some blankets to keep her warm. Have lots of fresh water available. Her appetite may dwindle, but encourage her to eat at least a little food. If her eyes or nose are running, dab them gently with a soft cloth or cotton ball.
Your dog will most likely recover on her own in just a day or two, but check with your vet if the symptoms linger. You should definitely call the vet if the discharge from your dog's eyes and/or nose is yellow or green, which can indicate infection. You should also call the vet if your dog isn't eating, isn't drinking, is vomiting or has diarrhea.
Dogs with "pushed-in" faces like pugs, Pekinese, and bulldogs, are prone to have respiratory issues because of the anatomy of their faces. If your dog falls into this category and you suspect she has a cold or the flu, contact your vet right away.
You know your dog better than anyone else. If you feel a trip to the vet is warranted, trust your instincts—better to take your dog in while it's still a minor situation than to wait until it's too late.
Keep your dog close if either of you has a cold, stay away from each other if either of you has the flu, and you'll both make it through this cold and flu season.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.