With flu season clinging on, and an influx of articles about dogs and swine flu, a natural question is, “Can dogs catch colds from humans?”

The answer: Generally, no.  Research suggests that dogs do not catch human colds (aka rhinoviruses) because their genetics are not susceptible to the same strings of viruses as humans.   However, dogs have their own virus strings, such as Kennel Cough—a highly contagious, cold-like dog virus that resonates high-density dog populations such as kennels and shelters—and even their own string of swine flu (H3N8).

Most diseases are species-specific, so dogs only spread germs among dogs, cats among cats, and humans among humans.  There are rare exceptions, however, such as H1N1, which is a pig virus that mixed with a human virus and mutated into a human-to-human virus.

Though dogs and humans do not pass viruses back and forth to each other, they are susceptible to some of the same bacterial infections and parasites (ring worm, intestinal worm and rabies), which can sometimes lead to cold or flu-like symptoms.  So it’s always good practice to wash your hands when cleaning up or dealing with animals.

Conclusion: You are probably safe if your dog sneaks in a lick on the face while either of you are suffering from a flu or cold.

“To date, there is no evidence of transmission of canine influenza virus from dogs to people and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with the canine influenza virus…Influenza viruses are constantly changing and it is possible for a virus to change so that it could infect humans and spread easily between humans”—The CDC Key Fact Sheet.

16 thoughts

  1. I have had a cold for a week now and my dog started to rip up my used tissues from the bin now her eyes are runny and watery and she is sleeping all day, I just hope we start to feel better soon.

  2. i havent been feeling well for a couple of weeks now, i hardly ever get sick, but this cold has really got me down, i was concerned my dog may be able to contract it because he too has also been down, this has been very informative, guess its true what they say, your animals/ dogs, especially if they are your best friends feel the way you feel…. hope we are both up and running soon! although i will definately be checking into doggie vitamins this week

  3. To Pilldocswife: This article is discussing the common cold (rhinovirus) or influenza, neither of which, I believe, cause vomiting and diarrhea as you describe. That could be a bacterial infection, I would guess, or I suppose viral; could be bacteria that both species are susceptible to.

  4. Thank goodness for reassurance… though i had an argument about this with my sister and because of this post… I lost. Oh well!

  5. My whole family has the common cold and my Chihuahua’s nose just started running and he is not as active as he was….hmmm, makes me wonder!

    1. I came here for the exact same reason. My roomie just had the flu for 5 days and my Chihuahua laid on her the whole time and now he is sniffling and breathing funny. Weird.

    2. Well, I’m starting to disagree with this article based on the fact that I too own a chihuahua and for the last 5 or six days I’ve been with a cold that’s knocked me out on bed.. My point is that after the second day of my symptoms I started to see my chihuahua more inactive than ever until the point where she went under the bed and sat there for almost a day.. It was kind of like she was feeling sicker than me.. She finally started feeling well almost 2 days later but this leaves me with a lot of doubts.. Now, every time someone in the FAM catches a cold we all avoid getting our dog near our faces..

  6. Well our family has had a bug (excessive vomiting, diarrea & fevers n excess of 103.5) it started w 8 yr old daughter on a Thursday, she peaked the worst of it all Friday morn and felt so good by 2pm Friday she asked if she could go to school! At 4:30 that Friday I, Mama, started w it, pharmacist husband was home at 6pm w bug n full effect on him, around 7pm my 10 yr old son started!!! Husband (pharmacists working 60-70 hrs weekly for over 12 yrs) had his first EVER sick day that Saturday! We were thankful to have 3 bathrooms & the 8 yr old was best nurse ever for a solid 48 hours! My point? BOTH OUR DOGS WERE VOMITING & DIARREA BY MIDNIGHT FRIDAY & THRU SATURDAY w/ rest of fam!!!!

  7. Maybe not a common cold, but strep throat has been officially documented:

    J Med Microbiol. 2010 Jan;59(Pt 1):120-3.
    Zoonotic transmission of Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus from a dog to a handler.
    Abbott Y, Acke E, Khan S, Muldoon EG, Markey BK, Pinilla M, Leonard FC, Steward K, Waller A.
    Veterinary Sciences, Veterinary Sciences Centre, School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland. yvonne.abbott@ucd.ie
    This is, to the best of our knowledge, the first case report to describe the apparent transmission of Streptococcus equi subsp. zooepidemicus from an infected dog to a handler who subsequently developed severe systemic infection. Characterization of the haemolytic streptococci isolated from both the patient and the dog, by phenotypic and molecular analysis, confirmed the canine and human isolates were identical.

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