4 min read

Can Dogs Get a Stomach Virus From Humans?


By Wag! Staff

Published: 07/13/2017, edited: 03/10/2023

Reviewed by a licensed veterinary professional: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

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Can we pass a stomach virus on to our dogs? In the U.S., norovirus is the most common cause of stomach flu in people. This virus can cause violent vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain that can last for up to three days in most cases. Norovirus is also highly contagious and can be spread to other people, even several days after the infected individual has recovered. This is why the stomach flu has a high rate of recurring outbreaks and why they usually affect a good number of people.

A stomach virus in dogs, generally referred to as gastroenteritis, can also be caused by norovirus, but there may be another reason your dog is experiencing stomach issues. Can your dog catch a stomach virus from you? Let's find out!

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Can dogs catch a stomach virus from humans?

Yes, they certainly can!

While it was once believed that the type of norovirus that infects humans could not be transmitted to other animals, several studies have shown that the virus can indeed move from humans to dogs. A research group in Finland conducted a study at the University of Helsinki's Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health that focused on 92 indoor dogs in homes where people had either exhibited signs of norovirus or had close contact with an individual who had. Testing stool samples showed that four dogs had indeed been infected with norovirus, two of which showed symptoms. In a Thailand study, investigators traced a norovirus outbreak in a kennel to two pregnant dogs who had been exposed to the virus while living inside a home with infected people. They and 5 of the 6 puppies born in the home were infected with the virus. These studies indicate that norovirus can be passed from humans to dogs. 

The way that the norovirus is spread is through oral contact with the viral particles, either by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated with this virus or unknowingly touching a contaminated surface and then placing your hand in your mouth. When an infected person throws up or has diarrhea, the viral particles are spread into the air and can also infect others in the area, including your dog.

However, there are other viruses that can cause a stomach virus in dogs, or gastroenteritis, such as canine parvovirus or distemper.  The symptoms of gastroenteritis may also be caused by factors other than a virus, such as parasites or bacterial infections that may also be transmitted between humans to dogs. It could also be caused by a reaction to medications, food sensitivities or an underlying medical condition, so it's important to talk with your vet to discover the true cause.

brown and white dog wrapped in blanket - Can Dogs Get a Stomach Virus From Humans

Does my dog have a stomach virus?

If your dog is suffering from a stomach virus, here are some of the signs they will exhibit:

  • Intermittent periods of vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Dry heaving and gagging after eating or drinking.
  • Frequent diarrhoea
  • The dog will be less active and have less of an appetite.
  • There may be a low-grade fever.
  • Abdominal tenderness or bloating

fluffy brown and white dog being examined by veterinarian

How do I treat my dog's stomach virus?

Always see your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing symptoms of a stomach virus, as they will be able to determine the cause. The main course of treatment for a stomach virus is rehydration and restoration of the electrolyte balance, as well as other supportive therapies. Treatments can include:

  • Oral, subcutaneous (beneath the skin), or intravenous (IV) fluid administration to replace fluids lost.

  • Antibiotics if the condition appears to be caused by a bacterial infection.

  • Antidiarrheal agents or drugs to ease intestinal activity may be administered, but only after intestinal obstruction or other problems have been eliminated.

  • Food, and sometimes also water, are withheld during the initial stages of treatment and then slowly reintroduced. For younger or very old dogs, this step may be skipped, to avoid low blood sugar.

  • Small feedings of a bland diet are usually prescribed, such as chicken and rice.

Visit Gastroenteritis in Dogs to learn more about possible causes and treatments associated with this condition.

man and large black, white and brown dog touching heads while sitting on couch

How is a stomach virus similar or different in dogs, humans, and other pets?

While norovirus can be transmitted between dogs and humans, cats are susceptible to other viruses that can cause similar signs of gastroenteritis. Other viruses that can cause gastroenteritis may also be transferable between species, such as rotavirus.

If you, your dog or cat has contracted a stomach virus, symptoms are generally the same between species, though, in some cases, an infection may be asymptomatic, but will still be transferable to others. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Pain in abdominal area
  • Low-grade fever

One major difference in how pets and people are affected by a stomach virus is that dogs and cats may have blood in their feces or vomit. The presence of blood in a human's feces is generally a sign of a more serious condition than a transitory stomach virus, and should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment. 

Signs of a stomach virus can be indicative of several conditions, so be sure to see your veterinarian right away if your dog is showing symptoms. With a quick and early diagnosis, treatments can help speed your dog's path to recovery.

If your dog is at risk of catching a stomach virus, find the right pet insurance today to ensure your dog gets the quality care they need when the unexpected happens. 

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