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Can Dogs Get the Flu from Humans?


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Many of us are aware of the paranoia and fatal results some strains of influenza can cause, especially given our experiences with bird flu and swine flu. If we know that humans can become ill from exposure to sick animals, it’s only natural to wonder if our illnesses can affect them, and ask: Can our dogs get the flu from us?

Sadly, the veterinary field may be showing us that our pets are in just as much trouble of catching our sickness as other human members of the household.

Can Dogs Get the Flu from Humans?

Based on the preliminary studies, yes, dogs can get the flu from humans. However, it is highly uncommon. Additionally, viruses change and evolve over the years, which may explain why epidemics and pandemics do not occur continuously. This fact complicates the research of virologists, as current results may differ as years go on.

During the height of the H1N1 (swine flu), the state of Oregon found that over 10 domestic cats and one dog had contracted the H1N1 virus. Researchers concluded that at least one of these pets had contracted it directly from their H1N1-infected owner, as they had had zero exposure to any other humans or animals before their owner was admitted and quarantined.

In another study, conducted in Finland, researchers found that only four out of 92 household dogs living in a contaminated home had contracted the stomach flu from their owners. In all four of these cases, the household was a family with children and more than one family member was presently ill.

Currently, many veterinary and virologist professionals may conclude that cases of dogs gaining influenza from their owners are rare, but possible.

Does My Dog Have the Flu?

While we may warn our children or partners to keep a safe distance when we’re experiencing a cough and fever, we may not extend the same courtesy to our dogs. Surely, they’re fine. Look at them, with those wagging tails, and playful licks. If a dog does contract the flu, either from you or another dog, there are certain signs to look for.


  • Loss of appetite

  • Irregular sleeping patterns

  • Lethargy

  • Disinterest in typical hobbies

  • Fever (indicated by a dry, warm nose)

  • Coughing

  • Difficulty breathing


Dogs catch the flu the same way we do. Sharing water, food, kisses, or hugs with anyone that is infected can cause a dog to come down with the flu. If your dog is older or happens to be on any medications that tend to weaken the immune system, they may be more susceptible.


Because symptoms of the flu can appear similar to a plethora of other illnesses, gaining an official and accurate diagnosis is key in treating canine influenza. Once at the veterinarian’s office, a physical examination will occur. Additionally, blood work and urinalysis may be requested.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Flu?

If your dog doesn’t currently have the flu, there are tips in helping prevent it, as well as treating it if it does occur.


Hydration is key in cleansing the body of illnesses as well as keeping the immune system healthy and equipped to fight them off. If your dog enjoys running and napping in the sun, always be sure to keep their water bowl in a cool, shady place and well-stocked. Keeping it out of the sun will prevent evaporation and encourage them to take a break in a cooler spot.

If you suspect your dog has the flu and symptoms continue for longer than a week, make an appointment with the vet.


Flu can be a fickle beast. It can pass in as little as a week or in some cases, last up to a month. Flu-like symptoms should always be confirmed with a veterinarian, as they may find that the dog is suffering something else altogether, as well as prescribe medications to speed up the recovery.

For more information on preventing and treating dog flu, read Canine Influenza in Dogs.

How is the Flu Similar in Dogs Similar and Humans?

The flu can make our furry friends just as miserable as we are when we’re bed-ridden, with a fever and throbbing head. Both canine and human influenza are:

  • Contagious

  • Contracted through respiratory contact

  • Common with symptoms (coughing, fever, irregular sleeping and eating)

How is the Flu Different in Dogs and Humans?

The key difference between canine and human influenza is its contagion properties.

  • There are no reported cases of humans getting the flu from an infected dog.

  • There is more than one case of dogs becoming ill from an influenza-infected human.

Case Study

A situation in which a dog may gain influenza from a human occurs in a multi-person household. The dog is a member of the family, the children often play with him, hugging his neck and allowing him to lick them, and generally keeping close contact with each other. Unknowingly, a child may have early signs of the flu, which have already begun to spread throughout the house, to the parents or perhaps brothers or sisters.

The dog sleeps in its owner’s bed at night, cuddles with them on the couch, and thusly is frequently intercepting germs. Depending on the particular stand of flu, this may be likely to contract the flu from his tight-knit family.

He begins to show signs of sickness, with disinterest in playing with the children in the backyard, naps in less-frequented parts of the house and has a dry, hot nose. Members of the household, who are also sick, may not notice the change in their pet, and left untreated the influenza could lead to more severe illnesses, such as a respiratory disease.

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