Can My Dog Get the Flu?

This month in the Midwestern U.S., more than 1,000 dogs have been diagnosed with the canine influenza virus. Yes, your dog can get the flu — but fortunately, you can’t get flu from your dog nor can you give the human disease to your canine friend.

However, canine influenza is nothing to take lightly. Out of the more than 1,000 cases identified in the Chicago area, six have died because of respiratory difficulties. The strain, influenza A H3N2, was first identified in Asia in 2006 and had not been seen in the U.S. before this 2015 outbreak. It has been seen in cats (though not in the U.S.) but there is no evidence it can migrate to humans.

What are the Symptoms of Canine Influenza?

Dog flu looks a lot like kennel cough, but if your dog has been vaccinated for Bordatella (which causes kennel cough), you’ll know that’s not likely to be the case. Symptoms include:

  • Persistent cough lasting for up to 3 weeks.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Fever, which can get high in severe cases.
  • Difficulty breathing.

Fatalities occur in about 5 to 8 percent of cases, usually because the disease causes pneumonia and isn’t caught or treated quickly.

How is Canine Influenza Spread?

Your dog can get the flu from an infected dog sneezing or coughing nearby. The virus can also live on chew toys, food bowls and other hard surfaces for up to 48 hours.

Right now, experts estimate that around 20 to 25 percent of dogs can get infected and not have any symptoms. These dogs can still spread the disease while they carry the virus.

All dogs, regardless of age or breed, can get the virus.

How Can Canine Influenza Be Prevented?

If you want to keep your dog safe, keep it at home, especially if you are in an area where outbreaks have been occurring. Places where dogs may pick up diseases include dog parks, boarding kennels and grooming facilities.

You should also wash your hands carefully if you touch other dogs before you pet your own dog.

But, much like the human flu, you can’t always stay in a sterile environment. What’s most important is that you watch for symptoms and see your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing a bad cough. Some forms of antibiotics can help lessen the severity of the disease and prevent pneumonia from developing.

Talk to your veterinarian (like those at TLC For Pets) if you have any questions about canine influenza in your area or if your dog is exhibiting any symptoms.