Can pets catch the cold?

Can pets catch the cold?

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Last night I was drying my cat with a towel after shenanigans in the rain and she sneezed!


  • Can cats/dogs/hamsters or other pets catch the cold?
  • How quickly do they recover?

Yes they can. The viruses that cause a cold include rhinoviruses (up to 80%), coronaviruses and influenza (together accounting for much of the remaining 20%) and a small percentage of adenoviruses. When discussing cross species transfer, influenza is the most important to discuss as it is a fairly common cause of the "common cold".

Influenza A has humans, pigs, bird and horses as its host. Different influenza strains have different hosts. Influenza can recombine if two strains infect the same host (antigenic shift) and also mutate (antigenic drift). With a combination of these influenza can and has numerous times crossed the species barrier which has caused the major flu pandemics as well as swine and avian flu. It's this reservoir that makes these viruses so hard to eradicate. When we are the only host such as in polio virus, it is a lot easier. Pigs don't adhere to national flu guidelines.

Comparing recovery times, all mammals are roughly similar although due to our slightly more evolved immune system as well as social factors of knowing what to do when we are ill we recovery very slightly earlier.

We are still learning about the virus that causes COVID-19, but we do know that it can spread from people to animals in some situations. A small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported external icon to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19.

Infected pets might get sick or they might not have any symptoms. Of the pets that have gotten sick, most only had mild illness and fully recovered. Serious illness in pets appears to be extremely rare.

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And it’s not just your words they understand

They say you cannot teach an old dog new tricks, but what if it is a stray?

Scientists have examined whether the ability of man’s best friend to follow commands is innate or exclusively learned through training. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests untrained stray dogs can understand human pointing gestures.

The study showed that about 80 per cent of participating dogs successfully followed pointing gestures to a specific location, despite having never received prior training.

Researchers said this suggests the animals can understand complex gestures by simply watching humans. They added that this could have implications in reducing conflict between stray dogs and humans.

This suggests that the four-legged creatures could decipher complex gestures, researchers said.

Having a dog is good for your health

Our four-legged friends have long been praised for their ability to help mental wellbeing, reducing anxiety and loneliness, but less has been reported about how they might have a positive effect on physical health.

Combining patient data of 3.8 million people from multiple studies, including England, researchers found owning a dog can lead to better cardiovascular outcomes, especially for heart attack and stroke survivors who live alone.

Scientists at the American Heart Association say that, compared to those without a pet dog, owners experienced a 24 per cent reduced risk of all-cause mortality and are 65 per cent less likely to die after a heart attack. Those who had suffered cardiovascular-related issues were also 31 per cent less likely to pass away.

Therapy dogs in hospital can lower your anxiety

Petting a dog can help anxious patients awaiting treatment in casualty departments to relax, according to research carried out by a team from the University of Saskatchewan, in Canada.

The stress-reducing effects of therapy dogs have already been put to use in hospital wards to help patients who are recuperating or recovering from surgery. There is growing evidence to suggest interacting with the canines not only reduces a patient’s anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure, but also increases their production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure and well-being.

The 124 patients who took part in the study met the dog (a spaniel called Murphy) for between 10 and 30 minutes. The group included people who were suffering from cardiac complaints, fractures, psychiatric issues, and chronic pain.

The patients filled out questionnaires after their encounter with Murphy and the overwhelming majority of their answers suggested they felt better as a result of the meeting ­– 80 per cent of them said they felt happier and calmer.

Dogs can even be trained as medical professionals

As far back as the 16th Century, dogs were used as guides for blind people. Since then, they’ve come to play a much wider role in healthcare.

Today, guide dogs have been joined by medical detection dogs that have been trained to sniff out cancer, along with various other medical conditions including type 1 diabetes, severe nut allergies and Addison’s disease (a rare disorder of the adrenal glands), and soon possibly even Parkinson’s disease and malaria as well.

Previous studies have found that medical detection dogs show promise in sniffing out disease but more rigorous proof has yet to be produced. Now, after the recent completion of the first large-scale study into the abilities of medical detection dogs, that’s now changed – at least as far as dogs trained to sniff out type 1 diabetes are concerned.

Their noses are cold for a very good reason

A scientific study has answered a question on a lot of people’s lips about a lot of dogs’ noses: Why are they so cold?

While it has been widely assumed the phenomenon is related to body temperature regulation, researchers have now revealed it is because dogs’ noses serve as ultra-sensitive heat detectors.

In a study published in Scientific Reports, a team of researchers from Sweden and Hungary found when the ambient temperature is 30°C, a dog’s rhinarium – the bare end point of the nose – is some five degrees cooler. If the outside temperature is 0°C, a dog’s nose will be around eight degrees. The two factors equal out at 15°C.

The researchers believed such differences suggested the tip of the nose served a sensory function, and that hypothesis has been proven correct. The study showed a dog’s nose can detect often very faint heat sources – such as the presence of a small mammal – from 1.5 metres away.

The research team from Sweden’s Lund University and the Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary studied three dogs – Kevin, Delfi and Charlie – who were trained to identify which of two identical four-inch wide objects had been heated to around 12 degrees warmer than room temperature.

Dog Owners Beware, DNA in Dog Poop Could Be Used to Track You Down

There is always that elusive neighbor who lets their dog poop wherever the creature pleases and then leaves it to bake in the sun. And tracking the offender down is never easy. But now, one luxury apartment building in Chicago wants to take down delinquent dog owners with some of the latest in forensic technology: DNA scans.

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Earlier this year, residents at 1222 W. Madison Street in Chicago received notice that they had until January 31 to send a sample of their dog’s DNA to the building’s managing company. Fed up with the persistent problem of people leaving their pet’s poop lying around, the South Carolina-based Greystar company is now using a DNA database to figure out which residents are slacking off in cleaning up after their dogs, Robert Channick reports for the Chicago Tribune.

"Although we have sent out prior communication addressing this issue, we still have received numerous complaints," Greystar said in a letter sent to tenants in December, Channick reports. "We try to manage this problem as best we can however, as this issue has continued to affect our community, we are now forced to implement the Pet DNA program."

Under the PetDNA program, the building’s dog owners are required to submit a cheek swab from their pooch for a DNA scan. As Chicagoist’s Sophie Lucido Johnson explains, when offending poops are found, they are packed up and mailed to PooPrints, a Tennessee company that will ID the poop’s maker. When a stool sample is matched with the right dog, the owner gets a fine: $250 for first offenders, and $350 for each streetside poo thereafter.

Chicago isn’t the first place to pick up the poop-shaming system: as PooPrints spokesman Ernie Jones tells Channick, the company is contracted to provide forensic data on dog doo from about 2,000 properties throughout the United States, Canada, and England. And while managing companies might appreciate the program as a deterrent against leaving dog poop on the sidewalk, the reaction is more mixed among residents.

“I don’t think it needs to be that extreme,” Caitlyn Brooks, a renter in a community in Riverview, Florida that also uses DNA records to identify delinquent dog owners, tells Jamel Lanee for WFLA News. “Like I don’t know if taking samples and testing DNA is really that serious." Others say, however, that they're thrilled by the prospect of fining people for not picking up their pet’s poop. 

While it might seem somewhat ridiculous conduct forensic testing to enforce what should be a basic chore, Jones tells Channick that most of his company’s clients report a 95 to 99 percent drop in streetside poops. Considering that dog feces can contaminate clean water sources and transmit diseases to other dogs (and sometimes humans) if it is left to stew, maybe a little monetary incentive to clean up after pets isn’t such a bad thing after all.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Cold

Treating a dog’s cold is very similar to treating a human cold (except dogs don’t have to drag themselves into work):

  • Keep your dog warm and dry.
  • Limit exercise, especially during cold weather.
  • Give them healthy food that’s easy to digest, like boiled chicken and brown rice. You can also make bone broth yourself.
  • Use a warm mist humidifier near your dog’s bed.
  • Try to get your dog to drink more water.
  • Use a grooming cloth to wipe away nasal discharge.
  • Try some natural treatments to help their breathing like these nose drops for congestion, runny nose and sneezing or this one for coughing.
  • Use soothing balm if your dog’s nose is chapped.
  • Add honey and coconut oil to your dog’s food for its infection-fighting qualities.
  • Let your dog rest as much as possible.
  • Give your dog a multivitamin.
High-Tech Restorative Dog Bed

Never give your dog human medication without checking with your vet first. Most over-the-counter pain pills, like aspirin, paracetamol and Ibuprofen, are toxic to dogs.

If your dog’s cold persists, your vet may prescribe antibiotics. It’s a good idea to always consult with your veterinarian if you think your dog is sick.

25 Incredible Things You Never Knew Dogs Could Do

Everyone knows that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Beyond the standard repertoire—sit, stay, shake, fetch, roll over—it's natural to assume Rover is kind of limited to being little more than a very furry, very cuddly best friend. Well, such an assumption is woefully incorrect.

As it turns out it, your dog is basically a bona fide superhero. From UV vision to the seer-like ability to predict earthquakes, most dogs have inherent skills that, truthfully, are more like magical powers. So, sure, you might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks. But given these 25 incredible things they can do, you won't have to.


It's no secret that dogs have an amazing innate sense of smell. But did you know they can use their sniffer to detect cancer cells? That's right: Dogs can be trained to "identify people that are affected with certain cancers, such as breast cancer and some skin cancers," according to Samantha Devine, a veterinarian and lifestyle expert at Money Done Right.

In fact, a 2019 study published in the Experimental Biology journal revealed that dogs can use their highly evolved sense of smell to sniff out cancer in blood samples with an astonishing 97-percent accuracy rate. It's essential to note, however, that dogs aren't born with this skill. They have to undergo special training.


Not only can they detect certain cancers, but dogs can also be trained to keep tabs on the insulin levels of their owners they possess a practically supernatural ability to detect certain biochemical changes that occur within a person's body. "Dogs can also smell biochemical changes that indicate a diabetic person has low blood sugar, and can be trained to identify people about to have a seizure from low blood sugar," Devine says.


Though experts still don't know the exact moment that a dog can sense pregnancy, the American Kennel Club (AKC) says that dogs, thanks to their acute senses, are relatively quick to pick up on major changes in your body and emotions. And, more likely than not, after they sense that you're pregnant, they'll become extra protective and more likely to bark at any potential threat (read: fellow strangers in the park).


Ever notice that your pooch starts acting weird before a big thunderstorm touches down? Well, according to Li-ran Bukovza, the founder of Puppy Tip, a dog training and behavior advice website, that's because your dog can sense storm clouds moving in before you see them.

"There are several possible explanations for this, the most likely being that dogs have a stronger sense of smell and hearing, which makes them more sensitive to changes in the atmosphere," Bukovza says.


"Dogs are able to detect when earthquakes, tornadoes, lightning storms, and other hazardous weather are about to come through the area before humans notice any changes in their surroundings," Bukovza notes.

There's no universally accepted theory as to why dogs can sense earthquakes, but the AKC hypothesizes that it's due to dogs' inherent ability to detect P-waves—or the faster, weaker seismic waves that occur before an earthquake really gets going.


Aside from using their noses to sniff out scents, dogs also use their cutest body part as a watch. As Alexandra Horowitz, founder of Barnard College's Dog Cognition Lab, told NPR, dogs use their sense of smell to tell what time it is.

"Smells in a room change as the day goes on," she said. "If we were able to visualize the movement of air through the day, what we're really visualizing is the movement of odor through the day… The dog, I think, can smell that through the movement of that air through the room."


According to Devine, your canine pal can not only measure lengths of time, they can also tell the difference between quantities of objects. "Studies, like a 2013 one published in the Learning and Motivation, have been done on dogs telling the difference between the length of two identical sounds, and the dogs were able to be trained to trigger each of the sounds," says Devine. "Your pooch can also tell the difference in quantities, with them being able to be trained to pick the larger quantity of an item."


Contrary to popular belief, dogs see more than 50 shades of gray. In fact, they can see many of the same colors humans can. "Dogs can actually see color," says Devine. "But it tends to be in shades of blue and yellow because they lack the red and green cones, which are color receptors in the retina." This might also explain why, as any dog owner can attest, pups like yellow toys more than red ones.


Though dogs can't see the full spectrum of color that humans can, Devine points out one way in which their vision is superior: They have the ability to see UV light and radiation, meaning they can see shades beyond what the naked human eye can see.


Next time you feel frustrated at your dog's indecisiveness about choosing where to go to the bathroom, know that they're not trying to vex you—they're trying to make sure they pick the perfect spot. According to 2013 findings published in Frontiers in Zoology, under "calm magnetic field conditions," dogs chose to "excrete with the body being aligned along the north-south axis," rather than bother with the east-west axis.

Shutterstock/In Green

According to Steffi Trott, the owner and head dog trainer at SpiritDog Training in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it's fairly easy to train your dog to remember specific places. You just have to bust out the doggie treats.

"Dogs are really good at learning the names of places and then going there when told," she says. "Try it with your own dog: Put a treat into your kitchen, then take your dog to the hallway and tell them to, 'Get your treat from the kitchen!' Repeat it a couple of times, then move to the next room. Your dog will be very motivated to listen and learn they know there are treats waiting at the end of the game!"


Leave your dog alone in the house all day, and they'll be able to use their nose to figure out what you've been up to. "Dogs' noses are extremely sensitive," says Trott. "Not only can they recognize us by scent alone, but they can also tell whether we are sick, what and when we last ate, and even where we have been during the day (from the smell of our shoes and clothing)."


Trott points out that canines are adept at figuring out how to catch a scrap of food in nearly every situation. "Show [your dog] a delicious treat, then hide it under a plastic cup," she says. "Dogs come up with a variety of solutions for this game, such as knocking the cup over with their nose, using their paw to push it away, or even lifting it up with their mouth."


"Every dog can unroll a towel or yoga mat," says Trott. Don't believe it? "Take a mat and have it lying flat on the ground. Now put a treat at one end and flip the mat over once, as if rolling it up. Put another treat there, then roll it once more. Keep going until the whole mat is rolled up. Now your dog can unroll it. He will earn a treat for every turn the mat takes as it unrolls. This is a great party trick."


There's no way your dog can best you in a game of chess (or checkers), but they can probably outwit your two-year-old. According to a 2009 study presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention in Toronto, researchers discovered that dogs could understand around 165 words, including signs, signals, and gestures. Do you know any toddlers with a vocabulary that large?


Unlike their humans, dogs have the ability to see in the dark due to wider pupils and eyes that are equipped with light-sensitive cells called rods that help them see more adeptly in low light. "But a dog's secret weapon in his ability to see in the dark is the part of the canine eye called the tapetum lucidum," according to the AKC . "The tapetum acts as a mirror within the eye, reflecting back the light that enters it, and giving the retina another opportunity to register the light."


Next time you're sad, look down. Is your furry pal next to you? Ten bucks says they are—because, as revealed in a 2018 study published in Learning & Behavior, dogs can sense human emotion. Researchers showed dogs a range of human emotions—including anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and disgust—and catalogued their reactions. For some, they cocked their head to the side. For others, they exhibited signs of increased anxiety. Regardless, the end result was clear: Canines can pick up on your feelings.


Matt Wilson, a neuroscientist who studies memory and learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told PetMD that dogs, just like humans, dream during shuteye. However, unlike human REM, dogs probably visualize fewer psychadelic supernatural occurrences and more everyday happenstance.

"The dream experiences can be traced back to real experiences," Wilson said. "It's memory that's being used to synthesize the content of the dreams."


You'll never admit it—and we'll never share it if you do, of course—but, if you're a human to multiple pets, you probably have a favorite, right? Well, you might want to but the kibosh on such feelings. According to a 2017 study published in Current Biology, dogs are more than capable of sniffing out inequitable treatment. (Fascinatingly, the researchers suggest such behavior can be traced back to to "the evolution of cooperation in dogs and wolves.")


According to 2017 study published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, Spot is spot-on at identifying those who might be on Santa's "naughty list." The researchers found that dogs sized up those who "refused to help their owners" in a negative light. On the other hand, dogs were much friendlier with people who they believed to be kind or gentle. (Yes, a dog's scale of moral relativity is not dissimilar to a human's.)


Newfoundlands, a breed of dog hailing from Canada, are equipped to survive the elements of their particular home region. As Dogtime points out, Newfoundlands are born with webbed feet and water-resistant coats to better help them hunt for fish—and play in the water—all day long.


Yes, dogs curl up in a ball to keep warm, but they also assume this sleeping position as a form of self-protection. "When dogs sleep in the wild, especially where it's cold, they'll dig a nest and curl up into it," Dr. Margaret Gruen, DVM, a clinician at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Behavior Service, told VetStreet. "It also protects their most vulnerable organs in the abdomen from would-be predators." In other words, if you see your pooch sleeping in a sprawled-out position, that just means that they feel safe and secure in their environment.


With top sprinting speed of 65 to 75 miles per hour, the cheetah is the fastest land animal on the planet, without question. But the greyhound—which, according to a BBC Earth video investigation, runs in the same exact style as a cheetah—is no slouch, either: It can hit speeds of nearly 45 miles per hour.


Researchers have long concluded that a bloodhound's nose consists of approximately 230 million olfactory cells, or "scent receptors," which is about 40 times that of a human. According to PBS, because of this, bloodhounds can often trace scents that date back as far as 300 years ago.


Whether or not you believe in the supernatural is beside the point: Some folks suggest that dogs are preternaturally attuned to it.

"There have been countless stories of dogs reacting strangely in certain settings, only for their owners to later learn of supernatural activity there," says Bukovza. "If you ever take your dog to a supposedly haunted house, you may notice [them] cowering, barking aggressively at something you can't see, or refusing to enter certain rooms. It's believed that because of their superior senses, dogs have a stronger connection and ability to see or feel the presence of the supernatural than humans." Okay, then! And for a look at some wacky supernatural events that are 100-percent real, read about these 30 Urban Legends That Are Totally True.

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What are some common cold-weather problems?

Sore and stiff joints can be a common condition in the cooler months, especially when it comes to our senior pets. You might notice your pet is having difficulty rising after a nap or is a little slower in the Winter months.

Dry skin is another problem, especially if it is very cold outside and then they sit inside by the heater. Using a hairdryer to dry your dog after a bath may also cause dry and flaky skin, says Dr Tessa. If your pet is outside, make sure to thoroughly towel dry them to remove any excess water from their coat. Try to avoid any extreme temperature changes.

Talk to your local Greencross Vets to discuss about winter preventative care for your pet.

Can You Prevent Your Dog from Getting a Cold?

Sadly, there is no vaccine for the common dog cold, just like there is no vaccine for human colds, thanks to the sheer number of viruses that can cause cold symptoms.

Some causes of cold-like symptoms, however, do have vaccines. The vaccines for kennel cough, distemper, and canine influenza viruses can help reduce your dog’s risk of contracting these diseases. Veterinarians generally recommend that all dogs be vaccinated for distemper. Talk to your veterinarian about whether or not he or she recommends any other vaccines to keep your dog healthy.

As a dog owner, you can also keep your eyes and ears open for mention of outbreaks of dog diseases in your communities and during those times avoid taking your dog to places where other dogs congregate.

If no one in your house has symptoms of COVID-19, you don’t have to do anything different. You can go for walks with your pets, feed them, and play with them.

It’s fine to touch your pet’s fur. The virus is more likely to survive and spread on countertops and doorknobs, while pet fur is thought to absorb and trap germs.

Just remember that all animals can still carry other germs that can make you sick. So it’s important to practice good hygiene with them. This will also reduce any risk of spreading COVID-19. Here’s how:

  • Wash your hands after you pet them, feed them, or handle their waste.
  • Get rid of their poop, whether it’s in the house, yard, or another public spot.
  • Don’t kiss them or let them lick you.
  • When your pet comes in from outside, wipe their paws with a paw cleaner or paw wipes.
  • Clean their food and water bowls, bedding, and toys regularly.
  • If your pet seems sick -- for example, with a hacking cough -- call your vet. There are other diseases, like "kennel cough," that can cause coughing and wheezing.
  • If you can, take walks with your dog. Exercise is important for both humans and canines. Check local rules to make sure certain spaces, like hiking trials and parks, are open and that there aren’t curfews. Follow social distancing measures by walking your dog in less-crowded areas.


little opossum-rb image by Tijara Images from

Rabies can infect just about any mammal. If your cat is bitten by a rabid wild animal, and then bites a dog, the dog could also be infected with rabies, and vice versa. The animal does not necessarily have to be bitten by a rabid animal -- just coming into contact with the saliva of a rabid animal could be enough to transmit the disease if the contact is through an open wound or mucosa. Fortunately, there is a vaccine against rabies and laws in all 50 states to ensure all pets are vaccinated against this deadly disease.

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