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Your pet can catch a cold too

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CINCINNATI – There has been a lot of talk about the intensity of this flu season, but it’s not just humans who are prone to getting sick.

Your pets are susceptible to falling ill this time of year, as well.

From coughing to sneezing to a common runny nose – our pets aren't that dissimilar to us when it comes to catching colds and even the flu.

"Our dogs and cats get symptoms that are similar to a cold and they get viral infections or bacteria infections," said Dr. Jenny Wells, a veterinarian with MedVet, which has offices in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Hillard.

But unlike their human keepers, animals have a difficult time shaking bugs -- and not just the ones in their fur. One of the problems is, there aren’t as many effective over-the-counter remedies.

"There aren't good over-the-counter medications for doggy coughs," Wells said.

While it may seem obvious to some, Wells wanted to make sure to remind people not to give their pets medications designed for humans.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the things we use are toxic to our dogs," she said.

It's also important to note the common cold is "not communicable between species — at least, one has not yet been discovered — so there is no need to worry about catching your dog’s cold, or vice versa," according to the website PetMD.

But that doesn't mean illnesses can't be shared from dog to dog (or animal to animal). One illness to look out for is "kennel cough," which is a threat to highly social animals. If your pet has a cough that sounds like honking, PetMD says your dog will need to be treated by a vet.

There are other highly contagious, cold-like illnesses to look out for, such as influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, adenovirus and tuberculosis. Another potentially life-endangering viral illness is canine distemper, which causes coughing, vomiting, high fever and a thick discharge from the eyes and nose, according to PetMD.

If your dog is coughing or sneezing but is in otherwise good health, you may be able to treat them as you would a simple human cold. Wells says you should stick with lots of liquids and healthy foods and warmth.

PetMD suggests placing a humidifier near their bed area or filling your bathtub with steaming water and letting the dog hang out in the bathroom for a bit. Don't let them get in the water, though. That won't help them at all -- and it will be a pain for you to clean up.

While most respiratory conditions will begin to improve within a few days, some dogs may need to visit a vet and receive specific medications due to vulnerabilities with their immune systems. This is particularly the case for young and older dogs, PetMD warns.

One of the best ways to ensure your dog stays safe is to keep them inside whenever possible.

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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