Can Dogs Get the Flu?

Every winter flu season arrives with almost as much regularity as Thanksgiving and Christmas. When suffering with a case of the flu, 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 several hours on many surfaces, your clothing, and your hands. Be sure to disinfect all surfaces and wash your clothes and hands frequently to avoid continued contamination. 

Humans try to keep a cold or the flu to themselves by staying home from work when sick and taking medication to clear the illness up quickly. No one wants to spread the misery to family and friends.

You may be wondering, "Can my dog get the flu?" The answer is yes and because dogs love to share toys, play together, and often bark and sneeze close to each other the flu virus is easily passed from dog to dog.

Can Dogs Get The Flu?

The doggy flu is called canine influenza and it can make your dog feel pretty miserable. Many people aren't aware that dogs can get the flu because our pooches seem so resilient to many illnesses we humans have to deal with, but canine influenza is on the rise. Kennels, doggy daycares, grooming centers and dog parks are places where your furry buddy can come in contact with the flu.

In fact, veterinarians around the world are now recommending that dog owners take their canine friends in to see their vets for their flu shots. In 2004, it was discovered that the H3N8 virus, which at first was only seen in horses, was being found in dogs who had contracted the flu. There is also another newer strain, discovered in 2015 and called H3N2.

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 and they may develop a persistent cough and discharge from the 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 of the flu may present as follows:

  • Coughing and sneezing persistently

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

  • Running a fever

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

  • Lack of appetite

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Lethargy

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

  • H2N3 is believed to have developed in Asia and moved from birds to dogs

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

  • It can also be spread by contact with items that are contaminated with the virus, like water bowls and toys, and people who move between infected and uninfected dogs

To learn more about canine influenza visit Flu in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Flu?

If your dog has a persistent cough that lasts for more than 48 hours along with nasal discharge, fever, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, and lethargy, consult the vet immediately. Although most cases do not worsen, there are dogs that will develop pneumonia. 

The vet may suggest a test to see if your dog has the flu and then prescribe a plan of action for helping your companion feel better. Treatment for canine influenza is typically supportive care, as there is no real cure.  Your vet will recommend ways to keep your dog comfortable while sick and during the recovery period. There are a few things your vet may suggest 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

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, a full and complete recovery will take about two to three weeks. Be sure to take your pup for a checkup to ensure all is well and follow any instructions you have been given. 

Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting The Flu?

If you travel often and board your dog, it may be wise to have them vaccinated for canine influenza. Although the vaccine does not always prevent the flu, it may lessen the symptoms the way the human flu vaccine does. If you come in contact with a dog who has the flu, wash your hands thoroughly before petting and feeding your own dog at home. 

In the event your pooch has a bout of the flu, keep them home from the dog park and doggy daycare for a few weeks to prevent the spread of the illness to other dogs. Allow them to rest and spend your time at home doing a spring cleaning of your pup's toys and bedding.

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