The Dog Flu: Canine Influenza


A highly contagious virus that is spread by dogs and cats, the dog flu or canine influenza does not infect humans. Additionally, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, no particular time of year marks the flu “season” for dogs. Because infections can happen any time of the year, it is good to know what to expect from the dog flu and how it is treated.

Transmission of the Dog Flu

A healthy dog gets the dog flu by inhaling tiny droplets found in the air that contain respiratory secretions from another dog that is ill. The infected dog either barked, sneezed, or coughed, particles were released, and the healthy dog inhaled them.

To keep your dog from getting the dog flu, the best thing that you can do is avoid close contact with other dogs. This means you should avoid places such as kennels, groomers, dog parks, daycare,s and the like.

Remember that dogs can also get the dog flu through objects such as food and water bowls, leashes, and toys. Sharing any of these things with a dog you don’t know is definitely a risk. If your dog becomes exposed, he is almost 100% likely to contract it.

The canine influenza virus remains active for 48 hours on surfaces, and on clothing for 24 hours. It is important to wash your hands if you have been petting other dogs since it stays on your hands for 12 hours.

What Are the Symptoms of the Dog Flu?

The dog flu creates an inflammatory response in your dog’s respiratory tract. This causes coughing and your dog’s nose to run, as well as possibly bronchitis in your dog’s lungs. Your dog may experience the mild form of canine influenza, or in some cases, it may be more severe.

Most dogs experience the mild form of the dog flu. Here are the common symptoms to expect:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Runny Nose
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite

Some dogs show absolutely no symptoms. Even still, they can spread the dog flu to other canines. Other dogs have more serious cases and experience pneumonia, high fever, and may struggle to breathe.

How Is the Dog Flu Treated?

It is important to never try and diagnose your sick pet yourself. If you suspect that your dog is ill with the canine flu, take it to the veterinarian right away. Your vet will know exactly what to do. Proper nutrition, the right prescription and a little TLC from you are likely in order.

Most dogs recover within 2-3 weeks. This may change if the dog contracts a secondary bacterial infection, became dehydrated, or contracted pneumonia. If your dog has become infected, you should isolate all dogs in your home for 4 weeks. 

Possible Solution

There is a vaccine available for both strains of canine influenza (H3N8 and H3N2). There is also a vaccine that protects against both. These vaccines cannot be used in cats. Although getting your dog an immunization reduces the risk of the dog flu, it is no guarantee that your dog won’t contract it. However, should your dog become ill, it won’t be as severe as it would have been otherwise. Talk with your veterinarian to see if your dog is at risk and would benefit from the vaccine.


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