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Dog Flu Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, And Prevention


Last Updated: December 7, 2023 | 4 min read | 14 Comments

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Sick dog in bed with ice pack on head and thermometer in mouth

If you haven’t heard, a canine flu outbreak is spreading across the nation, leaving plenty of pups feeling down in the dumps. Find out what symptoms to look for, how to treat canine flu, and when to see the vet. Plus, some facts on the virus and how to prevent it in the future.

What Is Canine Flu?

The dog flu, or Canine Influenza Virus (CIV H3N2 or H3N8), is a highly contagious infection caused by an influenza virus and is transmitted by aerosolized respiratory secretions — think coughing and sneezing.

Canine Respiratory Disease Outbreak

In 2023, veterinarians saw an increase in canine respiratory disease spread across the U.S. Regular treatment methods have no impact on the illness, and the cause is unknown. Affected dogs suffer from a more severe and longer respiratory disease than what is typical of other canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD) complex, a common type of kennel cough.

Respiratory diseases are spread through direct contact, commonly from sneezing or coughing. Symptoms of the outbreak include coughing, sneezing, labored breathing, discharge from the nose or eyes, lethargy, and decreased appetite. Avoid boarding kennels, dog parks, doggy daycares, and other high-risk locations to prevent potential exposure. Don’t share toys, dog chews, or dog bowls.

Causes: How Does A Dog Get The Flu?

Dog influenza can also be transmitted between dogs via contaminated objects such as food and water bowls, collars, leashes, toys, bedding, and nose-to-nose contact.

The virus is able to live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for up to 12 hours.

What Dogs Are At Risk Of The Flu?

Dogs that are most susceptible to infection are those that spend a good deal of time around many other dogs during boarding, daycare, or playtime at the dog park.

Dog Flu Symptoms

“Most canine influenza symptoms are mild and it can be very hard to distinguish from other forms of CIRD complex.”

Carrie Jelovich, DVM

So if your dog shows any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian so they can test to confirm whether or not your dog has Canine Influenza H3N2.

Canine Flu Symptoms May Include:

  • Persistent cough
  • Nasal discharge – not just your dog’s normal wet nose
  • Fever
  • Eye discharge – look for goopy, mucus-like discharge or a noticeable increase if your dog normally has eye discharge
  • Reduced appetite
  • Reduced activity, lethargy

It’s important to recognize dog flu symptoms so you can seek treatment for your pet quickly.

Treating Dog Flu

Wondering how to treat dog flu symptoms? The flu needs to run its course. How long does dog flu last? Usually 15-30 days for mild cases. Treatment for canine flu is mostly supportive: fluids, rest, and cough medicine prescribed by your vet. (Please don’t give human meds to dogs.) Very severe cases may require hospitalization or more intensive therapies.

3 Way To Prevent Dog Flu

You may notice warning signs about the canine flu popping up at doggie daycares, boarding facilities, dog parks, veterinarian’s offices, and even dog-friendly businesses. And for a good reason: prevention is the best cure. Here’s what you can do to help keep your pup from catching the bug and control the outbreak:

  1. Stay home! Don’t you get annoyed when someone shows up to work, hacking and sneezing all over the place? The same applies here: if your pooch is showing dog flu symptoms or has been diagnosed with canine influenza, keep them home and away from other dogs until they’re well. For the time being, you may want to limit your dog’s contact with other canines and avoid places where canine flu has been reported.
  2. Speak up! If you absolutely must bring your dog to daycare or a boarding facility, ask if they’ve had any cases of dog flu and what they’re doing to prevent it from spreading. And visit your vet a few weeks prior to travel to determine whether the vaccine is a good option.
  3. Wash your paws! If you can’t help petting every dog you see, wash up well before you spread the love – and the virus – to your own dog.

Video: Preventing Dog Flu

Here’s a recap of everything we’ve discussed and a little more about this flu and what to look out for from National Geographic.

6 Dog Flu Facts

  1. Dog flu is not usually fatal. The death rate is reported to be less than 10% among flu-infected dogs.
  2. There is now a vaccine for both the H3N2 and the older H3N8 strains. Talk to your vet about the best option for you and your pup, especially if they spend a lot of time around other dogs.
  3. You can’t catch the flu from your dog. According to the CDC, this is highly unlikely since it would take a sizable cell mutation for human infection from a dog CIV to infect you.
  4. June 2018: A new strain was detected (H1N1) in dogs in China (no cases in the U.S. were detected). This is related to the swine flu strain that infected humans in 2009. The CDC does not currently consider H1N1 or any other strain in dogs to be a threat to human infection. However, studies have shown it may be possible for the H1N1 virus to jump from dogs to cats.
  5. May 2017: Canine flu H3N2 had shown up in dogs in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
  6. The 2015 canine flu outbreak (H3N2) has been traced back to Chicago. This virus was transferred from birds to dogs.

Keep Your Dog Protected With Pet Insurance

A big, tail-wagging thank you to Carrie Jelovich, DVM, for contributing to this article. Dr. Jelovich cares for critters at the Lawndale Veterinary Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina. Speaking of outbreaks, you may wonder if your dog can get infected with the COVID-19 virus. See the latest news in our article on coronavirus in dogs.

As always, we can’t recommend getting dog insurance enough. It saves you from paying extensive out-of-pocket expenses should an illness like dog flu arise unexpectedly.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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