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Can Dogs Get a Stomach Virus?


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Norovirus is known all over the world by different names. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it’s called the winter vomiting bug. In the U.S., it varies between the stomach flu and the stomach bug, or even simply “the bug” or “a bug”.

The name is fitting in more ways than one. As bugs, or contagious illnesses, are not unlike pesky and inconspicuous creatures that tend to bother, or bug, us. No matter its variation of names, the stomach virus is known by dogs simply as: Something’s not right. I feel awful. I hope I don’t vomit on Mom’s carpet again.

When your dog is sick and exhibiting signs that we associate with the stomach flu, you may wonder: Can dogs get a stomach virus?

Can dogs get a stomach virus?


Dogs can catch a stomach virus just like you and me. In the veterinary field, this illness is called viral gastroenteritis.

In fact, not only have dogs been found to suffer from this universal malady, there’s also been a lot of discussion in the medical field of humans being able to pass it on to their dogs. And while the passing of stomach virus between humans and their beloved pets is just as unlikely as it is uncommon, veterinarians and doctors alike recommend a safe distance from the “infected”.

For dogs, their bout of stomach virus is most likely gained from another dog rather than an owner, especially if the dog has recently spent time with dogs not part of their household.

How do I know if my dog has a stomach virus?

Is your dog showing a lack of control in their bowel movements? Has more than one area of your household been ruined by dog vomit? Is your dog disinterested in food or being held? If you answer yes to all or more than one of these questions, it’s likely your pet has a stomach virus. Common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hacking or gagging while or after eating or drinking
  • Tender abdomen (shown by their avoidance of being picked up or held)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Fever (shown by a warm or hot, dry nose)

Like most viruses, canine stomach virus is spread by contact with another sick dog. During its initial contraction, a virus is at work under the surface, before symptoms are exhibited. This is a frightening fact, because your pet could become ill by interacting with another that doesn’t seem sick at all.

Because symptoms of gastroenteritis overlap with many other ailments and conditions, a visit to the vet’s office could reveal a diagnosis you weren’t expecting.

Gastroenteritis isn’t exclusively a viral condition. Dogs may develop gastroenteritis because of something more serious (thyroid issues, toxicity, tumors). Vets, knowing this, will look for more than just a physical examination and medical history of your pet: A urinalysis and/or blood work may be mandatory to conclude a diagnosis.

How do I treat my dog's stomach virus?

You don’t need a degree in veterinary medicine to help your pet, as a stomach virus can be safely and efficiently treated at home. However, it is important to meet with a vet to make sure your dog is truly suffering from a stomach virus and not any other affliction.

Common, effective tactics for treatment of canine stomach virus include:

  • Re-hydration by administering essential electrolytes lost from the frequent vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes by IV)
  • Giving antidiarrheal medication
  • Keeping dog on bland, simple diet of frequent yet small-portioned meals

With proper treatment, your dog’s stomach virus should subside within three to seven days. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, call or visit your veterinarian.

To learn more about the symptoms your pet may be experiencing and get advice from our in-house vet, review Gastroenteritis in Dogs.

If your dog is at risk of developing a stomach virus, check out our pet insurance comparison tool. Brought to you by Pet Insurer, Wag! Wellness lets pet parents compare insurance plans from leading companies like FIGO and Nationwide.

How is a stomach virus similar in dogs and humans?

a white ceramic mug on white table beside black sunglasses

Despite affecting different species, stomach viruses in dogs and humans have many similarities.

  • Both human and canine norovirus are contagious.
  • Symptoms are similar: vomiting, diarrhea, fever.
  • A dog or human suffering from stomach virus will find their illness subsiding within a week or two.
  • Both can be treated by similar tactics: re-hydration, rest, medication, anti-diarrheal.

How is a Stomach Virus Different in Dogs and Humans?

a family of three is hanging out at a beach

There are far more commonalities between canine and human stomach virus than differences. One difference is that they have different names and are known to not affect species outside of their own.

Case Study

a large brown dog is sitting with his chin on the couch

A few days after a walk, your dog becomes ill. You find vomit in the house and she becomes more reclusive than usual. You recall that during the walk, she greeted an unfamiliar dog. Could this be the point where she contracted the stomach virus? Or did she just have an adverse reaction to something she ate?

Knowing the best way to discern what’s ailing your pup, you take her to the vet, where you learn that your suspicions were correct: she’s contracted canine stomach virus. You’re given instructions and anti-diarrheal medication upon taking her home. And after a few days of rehydration methods, she begins to gain her personality and health back.

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