With winter comes cold and flu season, making coughing and sneezing common. But it’s not just humans who get these seasonal diseases—our pets can get them, too.
While many of us have an arsenal of home remedies that we can use to combat these diseases, the same isn’t necessarily true for pets. So what can we do for our four-legged companions when they get sick – and how can we prevent seasonal diseases in the future?
Respiratory infections in pets
Just as coughs, colds, and other respiratory illnesses spread more easily when we’re in the house with other people, so too are our pets. Dogs often become ill after being in kennels, attending indoor training classes, or attending competitive events where they are in close contact with other dogs. Infections can spread quickly via airborne particles, sharing drinking water, or from contaminated surfaces.
We can also inadvertently transmit infections to our pets, especially if we have previously touched or petted an infected animal. Some pathogens can even remain viable on our clothes and shoes for several hours. Washing hands, changing clothes and good hygiene remain simple but effective ways to limit the spread of many infections, especially if you come into contact with multiple animals on a regular basis.
Occasionally, diseases can also be transmitted between species, including from animals to humans and vice versa. These are called zoonotic diseases and can range from mild infections to more deadly diseases like rabies. In such cases, more extreme control measures are needed to control the virus — like quarantining animals.
But if you have a cold, your pet won’t get it from you. The viruses that cause colds are specific to humans, although there are canine and feline versions that can cause similar cold symptoms in our four-legged companions and our feline friends. The good news is that they can’t share their cold with us either.
Similarly, the flu tends to be species-specific, although the influenza virus is good at mutating and occasionally “jumping” the species barrier. While this is rare, it means there is a theoretical risk of influenza transmission between animals and humans. For this reason, good hygiene and minimizing close contact with other species during outbreaks is a good idea.
Cold symptoms in dogs and cats
Keep pets safe by watching for infection Tatiana Meteleva/Moment/Getty Images
When your dog or cat does catch a cold, the symptoms are very similar to those we experience: sneezing, runny nose, coughing, possibly fever, fatigue, and often decreased or lost appetite.
If you think your pet is ill, it’s best to speak to your vet first to make sure you get the right diagnosis. Your pet may also need special treatment (such as antibiotics). However, never allow yourself to be tempted to treat your pet with human medicines. Over-the-counter medications that are safe for us can be potentially toxic to our pets. For example, ibuprofen is dangerous for dogs.
There are many simple things you can do to help your pet when they are sick. First, make sure you are warm and comfortable as this is essential for recovery. You can do this by providing extra bedding or even pet-safe clothing for them. Many older dogs benefit from coats both indoors and outdoors to keep old joints warm. Just make sure you wash or change their bedding regularly to create a comfortable environment for them to rest in. This also helps reduce the risk of spreading the infection to other pets in the household.
Rest is important. Make sure your pet has a quiet, safe space away from people and other animals. It’s also a good idea to reduce exercise, especially if your pet has a respiratory infection, so you don’t put further stress on their body.
Ensure that fresh and clean drinking water is always available. If the weather is very cold, consider adding some warm water to encourage drinking. This is especially important for pets that live outdoors.
If your dog starts coughing, especially upon waking up — and may even choke or choke — it’s possible he’s contracted kennel cough. This is highly contagious and a coughing dog should be kept away from other dogs until the coughing has stopped and they have recovered. This includes not bringing a coughing dog into your vet’s waiting room. However, kennel cough cannot spread to other pet species (e.g., cats).
In most otherwise healthy pets, seasonal illnesses are mild and self-limiting. Most pets recover quickly – within a few days. But if you’re at all concerned, your pet is very young or old, or has other health problems, always seek immediate advice from your veterinarian.
keeping pets healthy
There are many things you can do to reduce the chances of your pet getting sick.
First, keep their vaccinations up to date and ask your vet if there are any local diseases that might be a cause for concern. While vaccinations can’t prevent everything, they do help support your pet’s health and reduce the risk of serious illnesses.
Keeping pets lean and at a healthy weight, feeding them a balanced diet, and ensuring they always have clean drinking water are also simple and effective measures to support pet health. Keeping the sleeping area, food and water bowls clean can further reduce the risk of illness.
We may share our homes, our lives, and sometimes our beds with our pets, but fortunately, we don’t have to worry about sharing our seasonal coughs and colds with them.
This article was originally published on The conversation from Jacqueline Boyd at Nottingham Trent University. Read the original article here.
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