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Can dogs and cats catch a cold or flu?

Can dogs and cats catch a cold or flu?

Preventing and treating common colds and flu in dogs and cats 

We're all aware that humans can catch colds and flu. Along with humans being susceptible to contracting these infections, we know that we need to keep our immune system strong to fight off these bugs and speed up our recovery time! But have you ever stopped to think whether it's possible for dogs and cats to catch colds and flu? And what can we do to protect our beloved fur babies from catching these infections?

While your dog and cat won't catch colds or flu from humans, it's possible for them to catch these bugs from other pets. Viruses and bacteria tend to be species-specific, so if you're suffering from a cold or flu, you don't have to worry about your pet catching it from you! According to, "While there are differences in the types of viruses that infect humans versus dogs [and cats], the symptoms are basically the same: sneezing, coughing, runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes."

Common dog illnesses

Kennel cough

Kennel Cough (also known as Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious upper-respiratory illness cause by both a bacteria (Bordetella Bronchiseptica) and a virus (Canine Distemper or Canine Influenza). Kennel Cough affects the dog’s lungs, windpipe and voice box and is characterised by a dry hacking cough, retching, runny nose and watery eyes. In severe cases, symptoms can include pneumonia, loss of appetite, fever, lethargy and even death.

This airborne disease is transferred from one dog to another when an infected dog coughs, sneezes, barks, or even sheds skin/fur flakes! It can also be transmitted if a dog drinks from the same bowl or plays with the same toy as an infected dog. Common places for dogs to contract Kennel Cough are at dog daycares, kennels, veterinary hospitals, or dog grooming parlours.

The first line of defense is always a strong and healthy immune system. Dogs and cats that follow a healthy diet, who have regular exercise and take a daily supplement will be less likely to contract any illness, including Kennel Cough. If you suspect that your dog has caught Kennel Cough, try to avoid antibiotics. Antibiotics may relieve the animal's symptoms fairly quickly, but they also have a general weakening effect on their immune system, which can cause further problems, especially in the long-term!

The great news is that natural protection and treatment for Kennel Cough is available! KC-Defence is a natural homeopathic remedy that stops coughing, mucous and sneezing in dogs and cats. It may also be used as a preventative just before a visit to the vet, to kennels or a dog daycare to protect against infection.

Note: Cats can also get Kennel Cough, however, cats are much more resistant to it than dogs! If cats do catch Kennel Cough from other infected cats, their symptoms and duration of illness will be much less severe than dogs.

Canine influenza

Canine influenza (or dog flu) is caused by the highly contagious influenza A virus, which is contagious to both dogs and cats! The symptoms of canine influenza are somewhat similar to the symptoms of Kennel Cough, however the cough associated with canine influenza is more moist. In severe cases, the infection may develop into hemorrhagic pneumonia and high fever.

Canine influenza was only discovered in 2003. Because it's still relatively new, almost all dogs are susceptible to infection when exposed because they have not built up natural immunity. It can be transmitted through particles in the air (coughing, barking or sneezing) or by coming into physical contact with other dogs (dog kisses, sniffing, sharing toys or bowls etc.). A dog who has a strong immune system is less likely to catch canine influenza. Boost your dog's immune system with a healthy diet, regular exercise and a daily supplement!

If your dog (or cat) catches canine influenza, they usually recover after 10 days to 3 weeks. Antibiotics will not work for canine influenza as it is a viral infection, however a holistic, natural remedy such as Respo-K can help reduce the symptoms and speed up the recovery period! Respo-K may be used in conjunction with a natural antibiotic and antiviral such as Immunity & Liver Support to strengthen the immune system.

Canine parvovirus (CPV)

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral illness that affects dogs. There are 2 forms of parvovirus: intestinal and cardiac. Intestinal parvovirus is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea (often accompanied by blood), weight loss, lethargy and lack of appetite, while cardiac parvovirus attacks the heart muscles of foetuses and young puppies, often leading to death. Intestinal parvovirus leads to dehydration and weakness, increased heart rate, and the dog's eyes may become noticeably red. It can also result in abdominal pain and hypothermia.

Canine parvovirus can be easily spread either by direct contact with an infected dog, or by coming into contact with an infected dog's stool, where heavy concentrations of the virus are found. Common places for dogs to contract parvovirus include kennels, parks, dog grooming parlours, veterinary hospitals and dog daycares.

"There is evidence that the virus can live in ground soil for up to a year. It is resistant to most cleaning products, or even to weather changes. If you need to clean up a parvovirus-contaminated area, first pick up and safely dispose of all organic material (vomit, feces, etc.), and then thoroughly wash the area with a concentrated household bleach solution, one of the few disinfectants known to kill the virus. If a dog has had parvovirus in a home, it is best not to have a puppy in that home for several years." -

One way to avoid parvo infection is to make sure that your dog is fully vaccinated. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to successfully vaccinate a puppy for this disease because the immunity a puppy acquires from its mother can interfere with the vaccination process. Conventional vets recommend parvo vaccinations every few weeks in the first few months of life and also recommend that adult dogs receive a yearly vaccination against parvovirus for life. The practice of repeated vaccination is, however, a controversial issue among holistic and homeopathic vets, who view vaccination as a threat to strong immune functioning.

Parvo-K is a 100% homeopathic remedy in a unique formula which is both effective and safe with no side effects! It can be used preventatively or as part of the holistic treatment of parvovirus in dogs and puppies. Presented in fine, easily dissolved lactose granules, Parvo-K is very easy to administer, even to ill animals that will not swallow tablets. Parvo-K is recommended along with Immunity & Liver Support to strengthen the immune system and increase the chances of recovery.  

Common cat illnesses

Feline herpesvirus

Feline herpesvirus (FHV) is a highly contagious virus that is one of the major causes of upper respiratory infections (URIs) or flu in cats. It's usually transmitted between cats through contact with saliva or nasal secretions, sharing food bowls or litter boxes. The tricky thing about FHV is that once a cat contracts the virus, they will be carriers for the rest of their life! In most cases, this causes no problems as they won't transmit the virus to other cats. The problem arises when the cat becomes stressed or their immune system is suppressed, where the virus will then shed to other cats.

  • The most common manifestation of feline herpesvirus is acute upper respiratory infection, which lasts up to 3 weeks, and is characterised by conjunctivitis, sneezing, nasal discharge, salivation, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever and sometimes coughing. 
  • Another manifestation of feline herpesvirus is chronic keratitis (infection and inflammation of the cornea) and conjunctivitis.
  • Feline herpesvirus-associated dermatitis is a rare form of chronic FHV which results in skin inflammation and ulceration, usually around the nose and mouth, but can affect other areas such as the front legs.

There is a lot that can be done naturally to help boost your cat’s immune system. A strong, healthy immune system is the best ‘armour’ you can give your animal. To help boost your cat’s immune system, make sure you offer a healthy diet – (preferably organic) of high quality cat food. Your cat should also get plenty of exercise (hint – most cats don’t go for a walk or a run on the beach, but you can exercise your kitty by playing games with cat toys designed to keep them frisky).. Don’t forget to give your cat fresh water – and always make sure water bowls and food dishes are washed and kept clean and free of germs. Although it is virtually impossible, try as hard as you can to limit your cat’s contact with stray cats, as they may be carriers of cat flu and other germs.

If your cat's immune system is compromised, or they catch feline herpesvirus, FeliSafe contains a proprietary homeopathic blend of the vaccines and supports your cat's immune system when viral compromise is suspected! FeliSafe can be used preventatively as well to aid recovery in sick cats.

Feline distemper

Feline distemper (or Feline Panleukopenia Virus) is a highly contagious and life-threatening viral disease! Feline distemper mainly affects the blood cells in the intestinal tract, bone marrow and skin. It's known to be one of the most deadly feline diseases, however once a cat contracts feline distemper, they become immune to any further infection of this virus.

Feline distemper is transmitted when a cat comes into contact with infected blood, faeces, urine or other bodily fluids. Kittens can acquire feline distemper in utero or through breast milk if the mother should be infected. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, loss of appetite, anaemia, fever, loss of fur and depression. 

Young un-vaccinated cats are most at risk and it is therefore vital that pet owners make sure that their cats are vaccinated against feline viruses. Because the virus may live outside the body for a long time, cat owners must disinfect the outside environment, bedding and food bowls thoroughly with bleach.

For those who prefer a more holistic approach, FeliSafe helps to assist with and protect against Feline Panleukopenia. It contains the 4-in-1 Feline Cat ‘Flu Vaccine in homeopathic potency and offers safe and effective immunity to cats of all ages – adult cats, kittens and during pregnancy. Please note that during an active infection, home treatment is not recommended and FeliSafe should be used under veterinary supervision.

Feline calicivirus

Feline calicivirus (FCV) is a common and highly contagious respiratory disease in cats which can result in mild to severe symptoms (especially in immunosuppressed cats or very young kittens). It's characterised by nasal discharge, sneezing, eye discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy, ulcers in the mouth, difficulty breathing, dehydration, fever and sometimes death.

While there’s no cure for feline calicivirus, there are certain steps you can take to alleviate symptoms and quicken their recovery time:

  • Keep eyes and nose discharge at bay with a gentle and natural eye cleanser
  • Keep your cat separated from having contact with any other cats to avoid cross contamination
  • Try encourage your cat to eat food - try giving them soft, flavourful food to entice them (avoid pellets as this may hurt their ulcers)
  • If your cat develops cat flu, use FeliSafe to support the feline immune system against viral infections - this remedy contains the calicivirus vaccine which soothes and promotes healing of the respiratory system and also helps to protect cats from contracting the virus in the first place
  • Boost their immune system and resistance against disease and infection, including viral and bacterial infection with Immunity & Liver Support - a natural antibiotic and anti-viral remedy

If you have any health questions, please contact our team for FREE advice, or leave a comment below. We always love hearing from you!

Saskia Michele natural holistic pet health blog

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