Puppies do have "colds," just like humans and other animals. However, the symptoms of upper respiratory infection in puppies can indicate a more serious illness. Even if what your puppy is experiencing is just a "cold," it should be evaluated by a veterinarian because it can quickly develop into pneumonia, bronchitis or asthma if not treated properly. Home care, however, plays an important role in restoring the puppy to health--there are no home "cures" for colds, but there are definitely things you can do to help your puppy get better faster.
Puppies are likely candidates for upper respiratory infections due to the stresses of changes in guardianship and new environments. They are often the victims of poor nutrition, overcrowding, lack of hygiene and parasites. Kennel cough, which is the equivalent of a human cold, and pneumonia are the most likely illnesses to produce symptoms similar to a common cold experienced by people.
Kennel Cough, also known as Bordetella, is similar to a chest cold in a person. It is an infectious bronchitis that causes a dog to have a harsh, hacking cough. It sounds as if the animal has something caught in his throat when he coughs. Kennel cough usually resolves itself without treatment. The dog feels active and continues to eat with kennel cough. There is no fever or listlessness, just coughing. A veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics or a cough suppressant to help your dog recover faster. Kennel cough can be serious for very young puppies and they should see a veterinarian if they develop symptoms.
Coughing with a poor appetite, fever and/or listlessness may indicate that the puppy has pneumonia and she should be seen by a veterinarian. She will likely need antibiotics to recover. If her illness is progressed, she will need to be hospitalized to receive fluids, oxygen, nebulization and possibly other treatments. If she is stable, eating and active, you will likely take her home for treatment.
Whether your puppy has a mild upper respiratory infection, kennel cough or pneumonia, home care will play an important part in his recovery. You should encourage your puppy to rest by providing a quiet and warm place for him to sleep. Encourage him to eat by providing warm, high-quality homemade or canned food. Gently wipe eye and nose discharge from his face with a warm, damp towel. Do not allow him to have prolonged exposure to extreme cold or wet weather. He should be kept primarily indoors until he is healthy.
If your puppy is recovering from pneumonia, your veterinarian may tell you to use a vaporizer. You will also be told to perform coupage (light, rapid tapping on the dog's chest to loosen respiratory secretions) at least four times a day and to encourage your pet to do light exercise that will promote coughing. You will not use a cough suppressant because it is important that the puppy cough up the infected material.