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Can Dogs Get the Flu from Cats?


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The world of veterinary medicine knows that dogs can become ill as a result of being exposed to other sick dogs. This has been shown in cases of the common kennel cough dogs often incur after long bouts in kennels, doggie hotels, or even the dog park. 

In a shelter in Indiana, a large number of dogs tested positive for H3N2, which isn’t too uncommon when a large number of dogs live in close quarters. However, researchers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison were surprised to find that several cats also tested positive for H3N2 (dog flu), indicating that they were contagious to the infected dogs.

This brings the question many veterinarians and zoologists ask: can animals of different species infect each other? It’s not an uncommon question for pet owners, either, especially when their home contains dogs and cats.

Can Dogs Get the Flu from Cats?


Thankfully, your dog cannot contract the flu from their feline neighborhood friend or housemate.
But, it begs the question, if animals such as horses and birds can contaminate dogs, then why can’t cats? While no studies support that dogs can get the flu from cats, some do support that cats contract H3N2; such was the case for the shelter in Indiana.

However, cats and dogs are known to spread diseases to each other, such as ringworm. If you own a dog and a cat, it may be best to keep them separate from each other if one is sick, as a safety precaution. It eliminates any cross-contamination. The precaution is validated by the fact that influenza is constantly evolving and changing. This means that while dogs may not be susceptible to cat flu currently, this could change within time. The morphing abilities of the flu are the biggest reason as to why it can cause pandemics.

Does My Dog Have the Flu?

It’s a common and valid question many pet owners ask. A dog with kennel cough, for example, will show the same symptoms as a dog with the flu.

Perhaps surprisingly, symptoms of the flu in dogs are pretty similar to our own battle with seasonal flu. Your dog may exhibit signs of reduced appetite, coughing, loss of sleep, and even fever. Any of these signs, especially when combined, should be checked out by a veterinarian.

The flu is a viral infection that is contracted through respiratory interaction (coughing, sneezing). A weak immune system and abnormal changes in weather are thought to add to one’s susceptibility to influenza.

A thorough and accurate diagnosis can be assured with a visit to the vet. Other than a physical examination, which tends to be enough to diagnose influenza, the vet may request blood work and urinalysis. For more information on canine influenza, click here.

How do I Treat My Dog’s Flu?

Proper care when your pup is down with the flu is key in their healing process. Typically, the flu may run its course, but in some cases, it can become more severe and even be fatal. Therefore, it’s important to take a pet to the vet if they exhibit signs of influenza.


The best thing you can do for a dog with flu is to keep them hydrated and practice proper administration of medications prescribed by a veterinarian. You can ask the vet about influenza shots, as well. However, canine flu is not seasonal as human flu typically is. With dogs, the ability to come down with the flu year-round makes more than one shot per year necessary.

Influenza should subside after a week or two. The vet can diagnose the illness by ruling out other health conditions with similar symptoms and prescribe medication if needed. 

How is the Flu in Dogs Similar to the Flu in Cats?

The flu is very similar when experienced by dogs and cats. Despite being different species, both domesticated pets will show the same symptoms:

  • Both may cough and sneeze as a result of the flu.

  • The flu in both cats and dogs may cause their appetites and sleeping habits to be irregular.

  • Influenza will give both cats and dogs abnormally wet noses and runny eyes.

How is the Flu in Dogs Different from the Flu in Cats?

There aren’t too many differences between the flu experienced by cats and dogs. Pets are known to be able to spread other illnesses and diseases between each other. If your home has both dogs and cats under its roof, consider keeping them separate when either is sick, just for good measure.

Case Study

In the 1990s, an influenza outbreak surprised Florida. The victims of the viral disease were Greyhound race dogs becoming ill from each other, but the study also found that their initial exposure to H3N8 came from racehorses who happened to use the same track. This highlighted intraspecies (dog to dog) contagion but also interspecies contagion (horse to dog). Since this occurrence, zoologists, veterinarians, and virologists have been more motivated by cases of intraspecies contagious infections. The implications of moments in viral history such as these illuminate the potential for future outbreaks. As they seem random to us, scientists have found that these aren’t random at all, but the result of years of unseen mutations and evolution in strands of influenza.

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