Can Dogs Get the Flu?

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Every winter flu season arrives with almost as much regularity as Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Humans have runny noses, nausea, poor appetites, a fever, lethargy, and a strong desire to spend hours in bed.

The flu virus can live for up to 48 hours on many surfaces, for 24 hours on your clothing, and for up to 12 hours on your hands. Be sure to disinfect all surfaces and wash your clothes and hands frequently to avoid continued contamination.

Human beings are the first ones to scurry into their doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals in search of the almighty "Flu Shot”. But what about poor Fido, can he get the flu or is he immune?

Can Dogs Get the Flu?

YES!

Poor Fido and the rest of his canine buddies can definitely get the flu and spend a few days hating life almost as much as you do when you have the flu. Many people fail to realize that dogs can get the flu because they seem so resilient to many illnesses we humans have to deal with, but canine influenza is on the rise around the world.


In fact, veterinarians around the world are now recommending that dog owners take their canine friends in to see their vets for their own flu shots. Since 2004, 38 states have reported cases of canine flu.

Dogs tend to have very similar symptoms to humans with the flu. Your miserable pup is likely to have nasal discharge reminiscent of your runny nose-- he may also develop a persistent cough and discharge from his eyes.

Does My Dog Have the Flu?

It is very important for you to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of canine influenza so that you can seek out proper medical treatment by your dog's vet. The hard part for most dog owners is that most dogs display only the mildest of symptoms, making it hard to distinguish the flu from various other canine infectious respiratory diseases such as kennel cough.

Symptoms

  • Coughing and sneezing persistently

  • Discharge from the nose (not his normal wet nose)

  • Running a fever

  • Discharge from his eyes or an increase if your dog normally has some level of discharge

  • Lack of appetite

  • Lethargy

Causes

The most common cause of flu in dogs is their lack of immunity to the canine influenza virus, but there are several ways in which it is spread:

  • The most common form of canine influenza H3N8 was first found in horses but has now spread to dogs

  • It can be spread between dogs in much the same way as humans spread it to one another

  • It can also be spread by contact with items that are contaminated with the virus and people who move between infected and uninfected dogs.

Diagnosis

If your dog has a persistent cough that lasts for more than 48 hours along with a nasal discharge, fever, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and lethargy, you need to take him to see his vet immediately. He can perform a test to see if he has the flu and then prescribe a plan of action for treatment.

To learn more about canine influenza visit our guide to Flu in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Flu?

Treatment for canine influenza is typically supportive care, as there is no real cure.  Talk to your vet as he will be able to recommend ways to keep your dog comfortable while he is sick and during his recovery. There are a few things your vet may offer that can help with this, including:

  • IV fluids for hydration and to help lower body temperature

  • Oxygen to help with breathing as needed

  • Pain relievers such as NSAIDS to help reduce fever and give some relief from the aches and pains associated with the flu

  • Antibiotics may be prescribed to reduce the risk of secondary infections

  • Steroids to help with breathing

Recovery for most dogs with the flu is much like that in humans, it is all a matter of time and letting the virus run its course. Overall, the death rate from canine influenza is below 10 percent. Unless your dog happens to come down with pneumonia or some form of secondary infection, he should enjoy a full and complete recovery in two to three weeks. Be sure to follow up with your vet and follow any instructions you have been given.

To learn more about the flu and your canine friend, visit our guide to Flu in Dogs..

How is the Flu Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Canine influenza is very similar in nature to the flu bug most people get during the cold winter months.

  • Both experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

  • Both have a persistent runny nose

  • Both have a fever

  • Both have a loss of appetite

  • Both become lethargic

How is the Flu Different in Dogs Different and Humans?

For all intents and purposes, canine flu and human flu exhibit the same signs and symptoms. There are very few differences worth noting, except:

  • Dogs can take from 15 to 30 days to recover

  • Humans typically recover within a few days

  • You can't give human flu meds to dogs

  • You can’t give dog meds to humans

  • You can't catch the flu from your dog (so give him lots of love)

  • Your dog can't catch the flu from you

Case Study

The first case of canine H3N8 influenza was diagnosed in racing greyhounds in 2004 in Florida. Experts believe this was a strain of the H3N8 equine flu that managed to jump from horses to dogs. From these initial cases, the virus has since spread to the majority of states.

Following this, during the months of June through August of 2004, numerous outbreaks of H3N8 were reported at 14 dog tracks in 6 states including Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, West Virginia, and Texas. By the following year, the virus had spread to no less than 20 dog tracks in 11 states and has now been reported in at least 40 states and Washington D.C.