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Dog Upper Respiratory Infection Symptoms

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Can dogs get upper respiratory infections?

Yes, dogs can come down with this illness, which looks a lot like the common cold in humans.

What is an Upper Respiratory Infection?

An upper respiratory infection is an ailment that can affect the lungs, air passages, throat, and nasal cavities. It’s often caused by bacteria or a virus, and it’s highly contagious. Fortunately, it’s typically not life-threatening unless it leads to complications like pneumonia

Any dog can contract an upper respiratory infection, but puppies, older dogs, and dogs with health issues are at greater risk. Dogs with short muzzles, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, are also prone to respiratory issues.

Like dogs, cats can suffer from upper respiratory infections. Learn about the causes and symptoms of this illness in our feline friends.

Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infection in Dogs

The signs of upper respiratory infections in dogs look a lot like those of a human cold. For instance, dogs with this illness may experience:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Eye discharge

Dogs with an upper respiratory infection may also lose their appetite, which can lead to weight loss. Additionally, you might notice behavioral changes in your dog, such as sleeping more than usual or a lack of energy. Your typically energetic dog might be reluctant to go for walks or play their favorite games.

Dog Upper Respiratory Infection Treatment

If your dog has an upper respiratory infection, you should consult with your veterinarian. They can help identify the cause of the infection and determine the appropriate treatment.

While some upper respiratory infections resolve on their own, others may require medication to treat the underlying cause. For instance, if the illness is due to a bacterial infection, the dog will need a course of antibiotics. If it’s caused by parasites, your veterinarian will likely prescribe a deworming product to clear the infestation.

Your veterinarian may also recommend medication to help reduce pain and fever along with nasal drops or spray to alleviate a runny nose or congestion. In addition, they can offer advice on how to care for your dog at home. In severe cases, intravenous (IV) fluid therapy and hospitalization might be necessary to stabilize the dog.

Never give your dog any kind of mediation without consulting with your veterinarian first. Human medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can harm your pooch.

How Long Does an Upper Respiratory Infection Last in Dogs?

Generally, an upper respiratory infection can last anywhere from 5 to 10 days if there are no complications. If the dog is severely dehydrated or ends up with pneumonia, it can take longer for the ailing pooch to recover.

Keep in mind that there can be an incubation period of 2 to 10 days before symptoms appear. This means your dog can spread the infection to other dogs even before you know they are sick.

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Causes of Upper Respiratory Infection in Dogs

Upper respiratory infections in dogs are caused by bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections that affect the lungs and airways.


Bordetella bronchiseptica is one of the more common bacterial causes of upper respiratory infections in dogs. Dogs with Bordetella have a distinctive dry honking cough. This condition is also known as Kennel Cough because it crops up and spreads quickly in kennels where dogs are in close quarters.

The Bordetella vaccine can protect dogs against this infection. It’s recommended for dogs to spend time around other canines, whether in kennels, boarding facilities, doggy daycare, or dog parks. Talk to your veterinarian to find out if your dog should receive this vaccine.


Parainfluenza is one of the top viral causes of upper respiratory infections in dogs. Other viruses that can lead to this illness include Adeno Type II, Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), and Distemper. The Distemper or DA2PP vaccine is generally recommended for all dogs to keep them safe from these viruses.

Is your dog up to date on their vaccines? Find out what you need to know about dogs and vaccines.


Certain parasites can lead to upper respiratory infections in dogs. Canine nasal mites are one such culprit. They can cause symptoms including reverse sneezing where dogs sniff air quickly inward, snorting, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge.

Can You Catch an Upper Respiratory Infection from a Dog?

There are some zoonotic diseases that can be passed from dogs to people, such as rabies, ringworm, and tick-borne infections. However, you don’t have to worry about catching your dog’s upper respiratory infection.

Although the symptoms of a dog respiratory infection and the human cold are similar, they are caused by different kinds of viruses and bacteria. The types that lead to this illness in dogs won’t make us sick—and the ones that give us a cold won’t make your dog ill either 

That means it’s generally safe for you to handle your dog when they have an upper respiratory infection. Just remember that you can spread the illness to other dogs in the house. Take steps to avoid spreading the illness, such as wearing gloves and washing your hands after handling your sick dog.

Tips for Caring for Dogs with an Upper Respiratory Infection

There are things you can do to help your dog recover from an upper respiratory infection and keep other dogs from getting sick:

  • First and foremost, take your pal to the veterinarian so they may assess the severity of the infection and discuss treatment options.
  • Help your dog get as much rest as possible by setting up a warm, quiet, and cozy spot for them.
  • Take a break from energetic games, such as chase, fetch, and tug of war, until they start feeling better.
  • Do your best to make sure they stay well hydrated and eat enough nourishing food. If your dog’s appetite is waning, try a gravy food topper to pique their interest and add some moisture to their meal.
  • If you have other dogs in the house, keep them away from the sick pup. You can put them in their own rooms, on different floors, or in separate areas of the house.
  • Wear disposable gloves and wash your hands carefully after tending to your ailing pooch, changing their bedding, cleaning up after them, or handling their food and water bowls.
  • Avoid transferring germs through your clothing by putting on an oversized shirt or sweatshirt when you spend time with your dog. Throw it in the washing machine as soon as you’re done.

Upper Respiratory Infections and Pet Insurance

If you have a pet insurance plan that covers illnesses, you can get reimbursed for veterinary care related to an upper respiratory infection. This can include costs for diagnosing your dog as well as medications, fluid therapy, hospitalization, and other treatments needed to help them recover. Dig into the benefits of pet insurance.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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