Yes, it’s true. Dogs can become ill from the flu, as humans can, but while humans and dogs get influenza, humans cannot contract canine flu. Canine influenza is not seasonal—the virus can invade your dog’s body at any time of year, and he can be exposed anywhere an infected dog has been. But, protecting your dog from the dangers of canine influenza is easy. At Caldwell Animal Hospital, we want your dog to live a happy, healthy life, so we created this guide to help you protect your pup from canine influenza.

What is influenza in dogs?

Canine influenza is an acute respiratory infection caused by the canine influenza virus. The virus is highly contagious and spreads by respiratory secretions, such as coughing or barking, and direct contact with contaminated objects, such as food and water bowls, kennels, blankets, and toys. People who have been in contact with an infected dog can also spread the virus. Canine influenza can affect a dog of any age, breed, or gender, regardless of health status. 

What are the symptoms of canine influenza?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of dogs exposed to canine influenza become infected. Twenty percent of exposed dogs don’t exhibit symptoms, but can still carry and spread the virus. 

There are two known strains of canine influenza currently affecting dogs in the U.S.: H3N8 and H3N2. If your dog contracts the virus and shows signs, they can mimic other respiratory infections, such as bordetella, or kennel cough. Dogs with canine influenza may exhibit the following signs: 

  • High fever
  • Thick nasal discharge
  • Runny eyes
  • Coughing 
  • Sneezing 
  • Lethargy 
  • Reduced appetite 

Some dogs can develop other health conditions as a result of the virus, such as pneumonia and secondary infections. Breeds with flat faces, such as pugs, Boston terriers, boxers, and bulldogs, commonly suffer from respiratory issues and are considered high risk if they become infected. Senior dogs and dogs with heart conditions are also at increased risk. If your dog has any of these symptoms, please contact us immediately.  

How is canine influenza diagnosed?

Diagnosing canine influenza based on symptoms alone is challenging, because the symptoms mimic other respiratory infections. The first step toward a diagnosis for your dog is a physical exam and evaluation by our team. We’ll likely also recommend lab work to confirm the diagnosis. Our team will treat your dog based on his lab results. 

How is canine influenza treated?

Treatment will vary with each case. Dogs with a mild case of the flu are usually treated with medication, rest, and isolation from other dogs, while dogs with severe cases require more aggressive treatment, including hospitalization, fluids, and supportive care. With treatment, most dogs recover from canine influenza in two to three weeks. Severely ill dogs may take longer to heal, and will need close monitoring and possibly medical intervention or supportive care for secondary conditions for a few weeks. 

How do I protect my dog from canine influenza?

We recommend vaccinating your dog against canine influenza if he travels or is often exposed to other dogs. Dog parks, boarding facilities, and daycare facilities are high-risk for spreading the virus. Talk with one of our veterinary team members about vaccinating your dog against canine influenza. 

If a flu outbreak is reported, take precaution and avoid popular areas where dogs congregate. Dogs who exhibit symptoms or are infected should be isolated from other dogs to reduce the spread of the virus. Also, practice good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly and changing your clothing after an encounter with another dog, to reduce the potential for spreading the virus. The canine influenza virus can survive in the environment for two days and remain viable on your body and clothing for approximately 24 hours. 

We want to help protect your dog from canine influenza. Contact our team for more information.