Can Dogs Get the Flu?

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By LITTLE PUPPY PAWS | April 16, 2023
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While it is rare, dogs can potentially catch some strains of the human flu virus. However, it is important to note that the human flu virus is not typically transmitted from humans to dogs and vice versa. The flu virus that affects humans differs from the strains that affect dogs. 

Yes, dogs can catch the flu. Two types of flu viruses can affect dogs: the canine influenza virus (CIV) and the H3N2 virus, a type of flu virus known to infect both dogs and cats. Symptoms of the flu in dogs can include coughing, sneezing, fever, nasal discharge, and loss of appetite. In most cases, the flu is not life-threatening to dogs and can be treated with rest, fluids, and supportive care.

What is Dog Flu?

Canine influenza is not the same as human influenza. Although the symptoms may appear similar, the influenza viruses that cause the infections are entirely different.

If your dog exhibits cold or flu-like symptoms, they are likely suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, possibly caused by dog flu. Upper respiratory infections can quickly become very serious, so knowing what to look for and what to do if your dog develops symptoms is critical.

The term dog flu refers to a contagious upper respiratory infection in dogs caused by the canine influenza virus. Dog flu, unlike human influenza, is not seasonal and can be contacted anytime.

What Causes Dog Flu?

The canine flu is caused by two virus strains: CIV H3N8 and H3N2.

These viruses are highly contagious and spread quickly because most dogs do not have immunity to them unless vaccinated. Canine influenza can be contracted through close contact with other dogs, shared food bowls and toys, and airborne droplets from sneezing, coughing and barking.

Dogs of all breeds and ages are susceptible to the virus, and almost all dogs who are exposed to it will contract it.

Can Humans Get Dog Flu?

The canine influenza virus is not zoonotic, meaning there is no evidence that either strain can be transmitted to humans. Humans cannot become infected, but they can still spread the virus by touching infected animals. Dogs of all breeds and ages are susceptible to the virus, and almost all dogs who are exposed to it will contract it.

Symptoms of Dog Flu

How do you know if your dog is sick with the flu? There are a few key signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Lethargy
  • Around the nose and eyes, there is a green or yellow discharge.
  • Exhausted breathing
  • Reduced appetite

A wet or productive cough that lasts at least one week is one of the most common symptoms of canine influenza.

What Other Conditions Would Be Similar to Dog Flu?

Dog flu symptoms are fairly generic and can mimic those of other viral infections such as canine distemper, adenovirus type 2, and canine coronavirus. Kennel Cough, which is often caused by the highly contagious bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica, is another common upper respiratory tract infection that can be confused with dog flu.

If you suspect your dog has a respiratory infection, take him to the vet immediately because some conditions can be fatal.

How Do Vets Diagnose Dog Flu? 

Canine influenza cannot be diagnosed solely based on symptoms because the symptoms mimic many other conditions. Your veterinarian will need to perform tests to detect and identify which virus your dog may be infected with to diagnose the influenza virus properly.