- It’s still OK to snuggle with your pet on the couch when you’re sick with the common cold because unlike friends and family, your pet cannot catch your cold.
- The cold virus is like a key that only fits into the right lock, called a receptor, and pets lack the right receptors which prevent the virus from infecting them.
- While pets are safe from the common cold that infects humans, they can have colds of their own. In dogs, for example, there’s dog flu and kennel cough.
- This article was reviewed by Andrew Bowman, MD, DVM, who is an associate professor with the Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine at Ohio State.
No, your pet can’t catch your cold
Lori Teller, a veterinarian and clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University, tells Insider that the estimated 200 or so viruses that cause the common cold are not contagious to companion animals, including dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
That’s because the viruses that cause the common cold in people are species-specific. In other words, in the case of the cold, they can infect only humans.
How it works is that a virus is like a key that only fits into the right lock, called a receptor. It must bind to that receptor on the outside of a cell to gain entry and unleash an infection. And those locks, those receptors, generally vary from one species to the next, according to Gregory Gray, an infectious-disease epidemiologist and professor at Duke University.
It means that certain species may lack the receptor that a particular virus needs to gain entry, which halts infection before it can begin. Such is the case for your cold virus and your pet.
That said, “there are lots of diseases that are potentially transmissible between humans and animals – too many to count,” Teller says. For example, rabies is caused by a virus that can spread from animals, such as dogs, to humans. Moreover, diseases that are not from viruses, such as those caused by parasites, fungi, or bacteria, can also spread from animals to humans.
Dogs and cats have their own version of the cold
While pets are safe from the common cold that infects humans, they can have colds of their own. In dogs, for example, there’s dog flu and kennel cough.
The symptoms of dog flu are similar to what’s seen in people, including, coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and fever.
“Kennel cough in dogs is recognized by a classic loud honking cough,” says Kate KuKanich, a veterinarian and associate professor of internal medicine at Kansas State University.
In cats, upper respiratory infections are most commonly caused by herpes virus, calicivirus, Bordetella, mycoplasma, and Chlamydophila, KuKanich says.
“Cats with upper respiratory disease often have sneezing and nasal discharge and might have a fever and decreased appetite too.”
What to do if your pet is sick
“While dogs and cats are showing clinical signs of respiratory illness, it is very important to keep them home and isolated from other pets to minimize spread of disease,” KuKanich says. “Just as we recommend sick people with colds or the flu stay home, we also don’t want sick pets going for walks to the dog park or visiting friends at doggy daycare.”
Teller assured that neither kennel cough in dogs nor upper respiratory infection in cats is contagious to humans. Also, there are no reports of a person catching the dog flu.
Related stories about the common cold:
- You’re most contagious with the cold virus in the first three days of infection
- You can’t sweat out a cold, and trying to could make it harder for you to recover
- Vitamin C for the common cold is a myth, sort of
- To get over a cold fast, eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and calcium