Canine Influenza: Your Guide To The Dog Flu

Dog flu, scientifically known as Canine Influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by the ‘flu virus.’ So, yes, dogs can get the flu.

It’s important to note Canine Influenza is different from our Influenza. There have never been any human infections noted with canine influenza viruses.

There are two different dog flu virus strains; H3N8 and H3N2. Canine Influenza A (H3N2) is different from the flu we usually find each year ourselves.

How Long Has The Dog Flu Existed?

Canine Influenza (H3N8) originated in horses and spread to dogs. Now, dogs can spread the flu to other dogs as it is equally as contagious between them as ours is between us.

Equine influenza viruses have been known to exist for over 40 years. According to the CDC, “in 2004, cases of unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported in the United States. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by equine influenza viruses.” The CDC goes on to state “scientists believe this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread among dogs, especially those housed in kennels and shelters.”

In September 2005, the virus was officially known as an emerging pathogen in our canine populations.

The other canine influenza virus strain, H3N2, originated in birds, then spread to dogs, and can now spread from one dog to another as well. Transmission from dogs to cats has also been noted. This strain was officially recognized in South Korea in 2007. They were first detected in the United States in April of 2015. They have now been found in over 30 states.

What Are Symptoms Of The Dog Flu?

The signs of the dog flu are very similar to ours. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Lethargic behavior
  • Weakness
  • Eye discharge
  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Reduced appetite

Most dogs recover from the flu within 2-3 weeks. The dogs who don’t recover within that time frame may have developed a secondary bacterial infection which could lead to a more severe case.

Note: If you think your dog could have the flu, contact a veterinarian for medical advice.

How Serious Is The Dog Flu?

The recovery rate is extremely high here. Most of the time, you may not even notice any symptoms in your dog.

The level of contagion is serious here, though. Almost all dogs are susceptible to the dog flu, and the virus can spread quickly if not contained. Like our flu, canine flu is thought to spread via respiratory droplets produced during coughing and sneezing or from contact with a contaminated source.

If your dog is showing any signs of the dog flu, be sure to keep him or her away from other dogs during that time period. Also, be certain to disinfect surfaces, equipment, clothing, and your hands on a regular basis.’

Is There A Test Available For Canine Influenza?

There is testing available, generally at your family veterinarian’s office, to confirm canine influenza infection. This doesn’t mean your veterinarian will absolutely test, but rather he or she will let you know if testing is necessary.

If your veterinarian determines that testing is necessary, and your dog is confirmed to have the dog flu, treatment involves keeping your dog hydrated and comfortable while the body develops a proper immune response. Remember, this is a virus, so antibacterial agents will not kill it.

If your veterinarian believes your dog is susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection, that’s when he or she will prescribe antibiotics.

Do Dogs Have A Flu Shot?

There is a vaccine available for both H3N8 and H3N2 canine flu in the United States. Your veterinarian could provide you with additional information and let you know if you should consider the vaccination.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is, yes dogs can get the flu, but it’s generally not life-threatening and can be handled in a controlled setting with plenty of fluids. To ensure your dog is receiving the best care, if you believe your dog may have the flu, it’s still important to contact your family veterinarian to get a well check.

About Angela Ardolino

Angela Ardolino Schnauzer Odie

Angela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years and operates a rescue farm, Fire Flake Farm, in Florida. She is also the owner of  Beautify the Beast a natural pet salon and shop. After getting her certificate in Medical Cannabis Biology and Therapeutic use from the University of Vermont School of Medicine, she founded CBD Dog Health to provide high quality, all-natural medical cannabis products designed specifically for pets. Angela has seven dogs, Odie a 12-year-old mini-schnauzer, Nina an 8-year-old Doberman. Jolene a 7-year-old mutt, Maza a 7-year-old mutt, Rhemi an 8-year-old poodle, Potato a 15-year-old shih-tzu, and Miss Daisie a 15-year-old black lab, plus 4-10 more at any time she is fostering or boarding. She uses Full Spectrum Hemp Extract on all her pets at her rescue farm every day, and has since 2016. She is a member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, the Veterinary Cannabis Association and has trained hundreds medical doctors and veterinarians about the therapeutic uses of medical cannabis on animals. Visit for more information.