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Can a Cat Catch a Cold from a Dog? (Vet Reviewed Facts)

Written by: Ashley Bates

Last Updated on June 5, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Golden Retriever and British Shorthair accompany their owner

Can a Cat Catch a Cold from a Dog? (Vet Reviewed Facts)


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM) Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos (DVM)


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you have a multi-person household, you know how common it is to start spreading seasonal sniffles when the time comes. It’s hard to live in close proximity to others and not share illness from time to time.

Most of the time, colds are specific to the species. The same is true of our dogs and cats. They are all capable of getting sick, but can they transfer illness to each other?

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How Do Colds Spread in Animals?

Animals catch illnesses the same way we do. Just as our sneezes can contain infectious particles, passing along flu bugs and other diseases, canines and felines can do the same. Illness can be spread through coughing, sneezing—and anything else that transfers small molecules through the air to be inhaled or swallowed.

Cat affectionately licks the dog
Image Credit: Irina Kozorog, Shutterstock

Canine-Feline Cold Transfer Is Rare

While viruses can inhabit several species depending on the virus and possible mutations, it’s atypical that dogs and cats get the same viral cold.

Signs of the Cold in Both Dogs and Cats

  • Lethargy
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Labored breathing

Isn’t a Cold Just a Cold?

The colds that affect humans are usually caused by rhinoviruses. These particular viruses are unique to people and generally don’t infect our domestic pets. But if a cold looks so similar in a person, and a cat or a dog, how can they be caused by different things?

The term cold is a blanket term to describe a set of symptoms associated with the infection, as noted above. So, when we say that cats and dogs get colds, while true, it is a blanket term to describe a specific set of viral or symptoms rather than a specific type of virus or bacteria.

Cats typically get herpesvirus and calicivirus, while canines have respiratory coronavirus, canine adenovirus type 2, and canine parainfluenza. A few of these names might sound familiar because many of these viruses have vaccines to protect against them.

vet holding burma cat
Image Credit: Elpisterra, Shutterstock

Vaccinations to Protect Against Illness

Even though both dogs and cats are vaccinated against many of these viruses, vaccines aren’t 100% foolproof. Even though vaccines have nearly eradicated issues like distemper, colds and flu viruses can mutate and infect hosts anyway.

But vaccines provide an added layer of protection to avoid your pet getting the disease or to lessen the severity of symptoms. We highly recommend electing these vaccines as a preventative measure.

Vaccination Risks

Some cats and dogs have adverse reactions, though they are rare. Some pets can have allergic reactions, injection site swelling, or experience slight fever or excessive tiredness.

Are Colds in Dogs and Cats Serious?

As with anything else, these viruses can be very serious, though most pets fully recover. Factors like overall health and any factors that cause immune system compromise play a huge role in determining this.

If you suspect your dog or cat has a cold, if possible it’s a good idea to separate them from their housemates until they are feeling better. These illnesses can be very contagious and cause many more complications than necessary.

Often, you can keep your pet comfortable at home by cleaning away nasal or ocular discharge, and even taking them into the bathroom when you shower to help clear their airways a bit. However, if they do struggle to breathe, have a loss of appetite,  act too sleepy or seem to be in pain, you should get them in for an appointment with their vet as soon as possible.

Sometimes, it can be more serious than a typical dog or cat cold—so, it’s best to test if you are concerned.

sick cat lying on blanket
Image credit: one photo, Shutterstock

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You now know that dogs and cats generally do not share the same viruses. So, if your cat-dog duo seems to have come down with the sniffles—it’s probably not the same thing. In any case, continuously monitor and treat health issues as needed.

Remember, routine vaccines target many cold and flu viruses. If your pets are not up-to-date on shots, it might cause illness that can vary in severity. If you have any questions or you’re worried about your pets, don’t hesitate to make an appointment for an evaluation.

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Featured Image Credit: Chendongshan, Shutterstock

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