Can Dogs Get Cold Sores

You've just spotted something on your dog's lip and wonder, can dogs get cold sores?

Yes, dogs are capable of getting cold sores.

Blisters or sores existing on or around the dog's mouth are generally considered cold sores, but they're different from the herpes simplex virus infection.

Dogs do not get cold sores in the same way that humans do, however.

Dogs will also not contract cold sores from humans, and humans will not contract cold sores from dogs.

In humans, cold sores are caused by the herpes virus.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals:

Canine herpesvirus or canine herpes is a systemic, often fatal disease of puppies caused by the canine herpes virus (CHV). CHV is common in dogs, coyotes, and wolves in Asia and Europe.

In dogs, cold sores can actually appear anywhere on a dog's body, and may be caused by the canine herpes virus, dog lick granuloma, as well as other related health conditions.

So to answer the question, can dogs get cold sores – they can, but they're different from what you think a dog cold sore really is and are associated with their own canine herpesvirus. Here's what you should know about them.

ALSO READ: 25 Most Serious Dog Health Symptoms That Cannot Be Ignored

Can Dogs Get Cold Sores?
Everything to Know About Dog Cold Sore

Dog cold sore

First, it is important to understand what the canine herpes virus is. Herpes is usually associated with cold sores. By estimation, 1 in 3 dogs has been exposed to canine herpes and is a carrier of the canine herpes virus.

When a dog becomes infected, they typically experience a mild illness and recover without any additional symptoms.

Recovered dogs will still periodically suffer from symptoms of canine herpes and can pass it on to other dogs.

Let's get these three most important questions out of the way:

1. Can dogs get cold sores?

Yes, they can, but they differ from the herpes virus humans get.

2. Can dogs catch cold sores from humans?

No, dogs cannot be infected by the human herpes simplex virus infection.

3. Can you get a cold sore from a dog?

No, humans cannot contract canine herpesvirus infection from their dogs.

While technically different, canine herpes and human herpes are actually pretty similar.

They are both contagious (between their own species, as we mentioned earlier, herpes can’t be spread from dog to human).

It can be contracted through both respiratory and sexual contact.

Both human and dog cold sores are usually red sores or bumps.

For both species, recovery time is normally around one to two weeks. Dogs may experience more distress from a cold sore than we would.

Smaller dogs and younger dogs can experience a fever from a cold sore outbreak as they wait for their body to heal.

Symptoms of Dog Cold Sore

Dog licking cold soreThe most common symptoms of a dog cold sore include:

  • Tongue, gums, and lip discoloration
  • Persistent licking on or around the sore
  • Odd chewing due to discomfort around the sore
  • Pawing near the cold sore
  • Avoiding being touched around the snout
  • Appetite loss due to irritation

Canine herpes can be spread by sexual contact. It can also be spread by contact with oral and nasal secretions.

Canine herpes virus can be spread between two dogs, even if neither one has an active infection.

If you are asking whether dogs can get cold sores and are worried your dog may have canine herpes, you can have them checked with a blood test.

However, the tests are unreliable unless your dog has an active infection.

Once your dog experiences the mild illness associated with herpes when they first contract the infection, they will likely show no more symptoms.

If a dog has a cold sore due to canine herpes, it will likely appear on its genitals.

Ulcers that look like cold sores could also appear on a dog’s genitalia area.

How to Treat Dog Cold Sore

There are a few ways to treat a dog cold sore. Rest will typically heal it, so time will be the best cure for it.

For the most part, cold sores will come and go in adult dogs without too much agitation or discomfort.

The best way to help your dog deal with the pain of a cold sore is to keep him from excessively licking or scratching the sore.

Constant licking and scratching will agitate the sore and can slow down healing, cause the sore to worsen, or cause an infection of the sore.

The sore should go away after 7-10 days. If it is still there, you should take your dog to the vet.

If your dog shows signs of canine herpes, avoid breeding them during the outbreak.

Canine herpes can cause serious health problems that could result in the puppy's death.

As a general rule, it is recommended that pregnant female dogs are separated from other dogs during the last three weeks of pregnancy and during the first three weeks after giving birth to avoid contracting canine herpes.

This reduces the likelihood of fatalities due to canine herpes.

Causes of Dog Cold Sore

Cold sores in dogsCold sores in dogs could also be the result of eosinophilic granuloma.

This occurs more commonly in cats than dogs but can still occur in dogs.

They are lesions on the skin containing eosinophils.

Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that is commonly seen as the body’s response to an allergy.

When occurring in dogs, eosinophilic granulomas appear as ulcerated or vegetative masses around the mouth area.

Another way they could appear would be as papules or plaques around your dog’s body.

The color of these can vary, but they are white or yellow for the most part.

These can be treated with corticosteroids.

If a dog suffers from repeat granulomas, it can be put on a low-dose long-term corticosteroid program.

A wide assortment of health problems could cause cold sores in dogs, usually appearing on or around your dog’s mouth.

Some common causes include periapical disease, endodontic disease, and periodontal disease.

These diseases can lead to inflammations and infections, which is what causes sores or ulcers.

Canine stomatitis can also cause sores to appear in the mouth.

If your dog has developed sores on or around his mouth, it could indicate a serious underlying medical condition.

You should take your dog to the vet immediately if you notice these often to ensure prompt treatment and diagnosis.

For the most part, a dog cold sore will not harm your pooch.

It is usually due to canine herpes.

The only time canine herpes is really dangerous for dogs is when the infected dog is either a pregnant female or a puppy.

If your dog has never shown signs of herpes before and experiences a cold sore, you should contact your vet.

The soreness could actually be a different health problem, and some health problems can be serious.

Seeing a vet will rule out all other possibilities and will lead to early treatment if there is an underlying health problem.

Can Dogs Get Cold Sores: FAQs

Why does my dog have sores on his lips?

Your dog's lips may inflame when exposed to irritants like plastic or plant matter.

An underlying ailment, such as skin disease or an inside disease, is what causes mouth sores and can also result in more significant health issues.

Mouth sores may be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including:

  • Kidney disease
  • Periodontal disease
  • Gingival hyperplasia
  • Canine papilloma virus
  • Allergic ulcerative disease

Are dog sores contagious?

Lesions or sores can develop quickly and spread, although most hotspots are not contagious since they are caused by bacteria.

Infection develops due to Fido's repeated licking and chewing of the sore, which spreads it further and causes the skin to grab moisture from the licking.

By obtaining a sample and conducting a culture on the skin scraping, the vet can identify the root cause of the hotspot.

How long do sores on dogs last?

Depending on the underlying disease, the recovery period could last from a few days to many months

Avoid having your dog lick or bite at the wound, and don't let them swim, as this could cause an infection.

They can be rather painful but typically recover rapidly if the skin is protected and the root cause is removed.


Diana currently lives and works in London, UK and she's been an animal lover and dog owner since she was a child. After graduating high school, she focused on getting her degree in English to become a writer with a focus on animals, pets and dogs.