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 Author Photo with Odie the SchnauzerAngela Ardolino is a holistic pet expert who has been caring for animals for over 20 years. Angela owns and operates Fire Flake Farm, her animal rescue farm, as well as two locations of a natural pet salon and shop, Beautify the Beast. She’s also the founder of CBD Dog Health, which offers high quality, all-natural cannabis health and wellness products. As well as the founder of MycoDog, a sustainable mushroom tincture line designed for dogs and Your Natural Dog where she hand-picks natural products alongside trusted vets for dog owners like you.

To see Angela on her rescue farm today, surrounded by animals, is to truly see her in her element. Looking at this furry, joyful family you would never suspect that Angela and her pets were once full of aches, pains and anxiety. Angela is the mother to Odie (15-year-old mini-schnauzer), Nina (10-year-old Doberman), Jolene (9-year-old mutt), Maza (9-year-old mutt), Rhemi (10-year-old poodle), multiple ducks, roosters, chickens and geese, plus pigs Ellie and Penelope, Brenda the one-legged pigeon, and the many dogs that she fosters from time-to-time at Fire Flake Farm.