What is Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)?

Learn more about the dog flu or canine influenza.
Written by zfarihe

Flu season is approaching, and that means flu shots for the whole family, including your four-legged family members. Canine flu, or “canine flu” was discovered in 2004 and, like all respiratory viruses, can be easily transmitted within a species, but canine flu poses no risk to humans. Scientists have identified two common strands of canine flu, and although viruses can mutate, canine flu vaccination protects your dog from these two specific strands.1 Of course, you should consult your veterinarian to determine if your pet needs a flu shot. Although canine flu vaccination cannot completely prevent an infection, vaccination can significantly reduce the risk of infection and is believed to reduce the severity and duration of canine flu if infected.1

What is the contagion of canine flu?

Since canine influenza is transmitted by droplets or aerosols in the air through coughing, sneezing and barking, dogs are at risk if they come into close contact with infected dogs, especially in kennels. , daycares, shelters or groomers. Additionally, canine flu can be spread through objects such as food and water bowls, collars, leashes, toys, and even indirectly through people who have come into contact with an infectious dog. The virus can stay alive on surfaces for up to 48 hours and on hands for 12 hours, so it’s important to wash your hands and any objects that may have come into contact with your infected dog.1

Although the virus is contagious, the vast majority of dogs will never be exposed to canine flu. In other words, canine flu is not very common. However, the vast majority of dogs exposed to canine flu will become infected.1 Additionally, there has been a steady increase in reported cases in the United States, and there are cases of canine flu species that jump and infect cats. No human being has ever been infected with canine flu.

A significant difference between canine flu and human flu is that there is technically no “flu season” for dogs since infections occur year-round. In some ways, canine flu is similar to “kennel cough,” which is caused by a bacterial or viral infection and can infect dogs at any time of the year.1 Of course, not all dogs will necessarily benefit from a canine flu shot, but dogs that have frequent contact with other dogs will likely benefit the most from vaccination. Consult your veterinarian to decide what is best for your dog.

What are the symptoms of canine flu?

For the most part, dogs with canine flu will have similar symptoms to humans with the flu:

  • to cough
  • sneeze
  • runny nose
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy

Fortunately, most dogs will be asymptomatic and show no symptoms. These dogs are however contagious and can transmit the canine flu to other dogs. In severe cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), canine flu can lead to pneumonia and, in rare cases, lead to death.2

If you suspect your dog has the canine flu, you should seek medical attention immediately. Because the symptoms of canine flu are similar to those of the common cold or other respiratory illnesses, your veterinarian will need to administer a test to properly diagnose canine flu. More importantly, the tests will identify which strand of canine flu is present and what treatment is needed. While you wait for test results, you should isolate your dog from other dogs and cats for safety.

How to treat canine flu?

If your dog is diagnosed with canine flu by a veterinarian, treatment options will vary depending on factors such as symptoms, your dog’s general health, age, and any pre-existing or at-risk respiratory conditions. For the most part, treatment consists of alleviating the symptoms. Most dogs recover in two to three weeks, but there is always a risk of secondary infections which may require further diagnosis and treatment.

Depending on your dog’s symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe medications or administer fluids to prevent dehydration. Additionally, infected dogs should be isolated from other dogs and cats for at least four weeks. Also, if you suspect canine flu, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible and be sure to tell him you suspect canine flu so he can take the necessary precautions to avoid infecting others. patients.

The approach of human flu season is a good reminder to discuss canine flu with your healthcare professional. Additionally, if your dog is in frequent contact with other dogs, especially in environments that increase the risk of infection, you should identify a care plan for your dog to reduce the risk of canine flu as well as any highly contagious disease. Fortunately, your Pets Best insurance plan can provide preventative treatment, including canine flu vaccinations. The key to ensuring your dog’s good health is to identify the risks and take the necessary steps to keep your dog healthy and happy.


1 American Veterinary Medical Association (2020). Canine flu. Retrieved September 21, 2020 from

2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018). Fast facts on canine flu (canine flu). Retrieved September 21, 2020 from

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