It’s flu season again, and you anticipate the worst.

Folks are sniffling and sneezing everywhere you turn, but what about your dog?

The truth is, your dog may be at risk of acquiring dog flu and not just during “flu season.” Canine influenza can infect dogs (and cats) any time of the year.

Like the human influenza virus, dog flu manifests with yucky symptoms and nasty side effects.

Not to worry! The passages that follow will inform you of everything you need to know about canine influenza.

Canine Influenza

Canine InfluenzaCanine influenza or CIV is the virus that causes dog flu and is one of the viral agents that contribute to causing Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, also known as the elusive “Kennel Cough.”

Although CIV often gets lumped in with kennel cough, it is a disease of its own virulence.

Canine influenza is a virus that manifests with similar symptoms as the flu in humans. However, the virus is specific to the canine species.

Can Dogs Get the Flu?

Yes, dogs can get the flu.

Although it is suggested that humans influenza virus can hop from humans to dogs in rare cases, dogs typically get the canine flu from one of two species-specific viral strains.

Canine influenza virus is the result of two influenza strains. Both of these strains were previously known to infect species besides dogs but have now morphed into viral strains that are contagious to canines.

There are two types of canine flu:

  1. H3N8
  2. H3N2

Dog Flu 1 – H3N8

The H3N8 virus originated in horses and created an equine pandemic in Miami, Florida that swept through North and South America. Eventually, the virus jumped to greyhounds in 2004 and became what we now know as canine influenza.

Dog Flu 2 – H3N2

H3N2, a newer strain and variant of the Avian flu, is believed to have originated in Asia. Eventually, it jumped from birds to dogs and became the second strain of canine influenza or dog flu.

The H3N2 strain of canine influenza is responsible for the massive outbreak in the midwestern states of the U.S. between 2015 and 2016

What do these strains of canine influenza have in common?

  • Both manifest with upper respiratory clinical signs
  • Both are highly contagious.

How Does Dog Flu Spread?

Dog flu spreads in two ways:

  1. Direct contact
  2. Contaminated objects

Direct Contact 

Not unlike other viruses, canine influenza can be spread via direct contact. Dogs can spread the virus through nasal secretions, barking, sneezing, or coughing in the general direction of another dog.

Although cuddling and nuzzling among dogs is the cutest thing ever, it is also a sure-fire way to spread dog flu to other canines.

Contaminated Objects

You may not think about it, but canine influenza can be transferred between infected dogs via humans’ hands, skin, and clothing. That’s right!

If you have a sick pup in your midst, be sure to wash your hands well in between getting hands-on with other animals in the home.

Contaminated objects can include:

  • Toys
  • Collars and leashes
  • Food and water bowls
  • Shared surfaces
  • People touching infected dogs then uninfected dogs
  • Clothing
  • Bedding
Canine influenza remains active on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and skin and hands for 12 hours.

Luckily, pet owners can wash away the dog flu virus pretty quickly with soap, warm water, and disinfectants.

Wash contaminated plush toys and bedding in the washer with appropriate soap and a splash of bleach.

Canine Influenza Vaccine

Canine Influenza VaccineSeveral vaccines are available for canine influenza, so it is definitely something to discuss with your vet. Currently, there are vaccines for both the H3N8 and the H3N2 viruses.

The canine influenza vaccine may be necessary for a social pup who hangs out with many dog buddies. Dogs who frequent places like:

  • Dog parks
  • Boarding facilities
  • Doggy daycare
  • Playdates

If your dog doesn’t leave the backyard and isn’t interested in hanging with other pups, then the risk is much lower. You may choose not to opt for this non-core vaccine.

Every non-core vaccine is really a decision dependent on your surroundings, lifestyle, and region. Talk to your vet at annual visits about viral pathogens going around in your area and which vaccines they recommend.

If canine influenza is a vaccine that is deemed necessary, a dog will be given two rounds, 3 – 4 weeks apart, and a yearly booster.

Please note: Your pet is not fully protected for a minimum of 14 days after the second injection.

Canine Influenza Vaccine Schedule

VaccineAge 
Initial dose6-8 weeks
Second dose9-12 weeks
BoosterAnnually

Canine Influenza Vaccine Efficacy

As you now know, dog flu or canine influenza is one of the top culprits of kennel cough next to the Bordetella bacteria.

Much like the kennel cough vaccine, which may include both parainfluenza and bordetella antibodies, the CIV vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection if your dog is exposed to the virus. 

However, the CIV vaccine dramatically reduces the severity of symptoms. The CIV vaccine also shortens the shedding process; therefore, vaccinated dogs are not as contagious as other dogs.

Can Dogs Get the Flu from Humans?

Can dogs get flu from humansThere is some evidence that suggests dogs can get the flu from humans; however, transmission is rare.

Influenza strains are constantly evolving and changing every year. Therefore, a strain of the influenza virus from one year could have a different effect on animals than a strain from another year.

Use these small steps and precautions to limit your dog’s risk of catching the flu from a human

  • Wash your hands often, and between blowing your nose and petting your dog
  • Wear a mask if you’re extra worried about an immunocompromised pup
  • Keep things as clean as possible
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough.

Can Cats Get Dog Flu?

Yes, cats can get canine influenza from infected dogs. So be cautious and separate a sick doggo from the rest of your furry family members. Dogs infected with canine influenza should be isolated for 4 weeks to avoid transmission to other animals in the household.

This study found H3N2 canine influenza virus transferred from infected dogs to uninfected cats at an animal shelter in Indiana.

Cats infected with influenza may display the following clinical signs:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Congestion
  • Malaise
  • Lip-smacking
  • Excessive salivation

Canine Flu Symptoms

Canine flu symptoms80% of dogs who contract CIV or dog flu will develop respiratory signs, while the rest will only be carriers of the virus, spreading it to others without showing any signs or symptoms themselves

  • Canine cough can come about for many reasons, including canine influenza
  • Runny nose
  • Discharge of the eyes
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Dogs with Canine influenza are the most contagious one to two days before the onset of clinical signs. This can make it tough to keep transmission to other animals in the home at bay.

How Is Dog Flu Diagnosed?

Upper respiratory infections are sometimes assumed or diagnosed under the giant umbrella term “kennel cough”, including canine influenza. However, there are several ways to interpret the virus if necessary.

  1. PCR – Polymerase chain reaction test
  2. Blood work
  3. Radiographs

PCR – Polymerase chain reaction test

Canine influenza virus may be diagnosed by a PCR or polymerase chain reaction test. If you have ever had a covid-19 test, you may know these tests all too well.

PCRs are performed by taking deep nasal or pharyngeal swabs. These samples should be collected from dogs within two days of the onset of clinical signs.

Since viral shedding peaks early on in the disease, a PCR test may be of little value in dogs who have been ill for several days. In that case, bloodwork may be a better option.

Blood Work (Serology Test)

At this point in time, bloodwork is the most reliable way to diagnose the canine influenza virus. Serological (CVI HI) testing is extremely valuable in the medical community and the most conclusive.

However, an accurate test for CIV requires two blood samples.

Due to possible prior exposure to canine influenza infections or a previous canine influenza vaccination, the first sample needs to be collected during the initial illness and the second sample 2-3 weeks later.

Because of the time limitations of the serology test, a PCR may be done instead to diagnose acute canine influenza.

Radiographs

Radiographs or chest x-rays can be done to determine the severity of an infection. Chest x-rays allow a closer and more in-depth look at the lungs to determine the culprit, whether canine influenza or Bordetella in dogs.

Radiographs are used to diagnose disease in the:

  • Chest
  • Abdomen
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Intestines
  • Urinary tract

Can Dog Flu Be Fatal?

Dog flu is similar to human influenza in that it can be fatal in rare cases, but it usually isn’t. Although dog flu can be dangerous, most of the time, the prognosis is good.

Only 1 to 5% of dogs who contract canine influenza H3N8 will die from complications of the infection itself. Most of those who do pass on from canine influenza will also be suffering from a concurrent disease.

For the most part, dog flu has a high morbidity rate but a low mortality rate. Canine influenza can lead to devastating secondary infections like pneumonia in dogs if left untreated. From there, the risk becomes higher and the treatment and recovery process longer.

Most dogs who acquire canine influenza will recover perfectly with a bit of coddling and minimal medicinal care.

Still, dog flu can have a more severe effect on immunocompromised dogs than others. Dogs with sensitive immune systems include senior dogs, puppies, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Dog Flu Treatment

Treating the flu in dogs

As with many viral infections, the treatment heavily relies on supportive care that rests on the shoulders of a doting pet parent.

Specific prescriptions are available to quiet a cough or relieve pain, but most of the maintenance will be up to you, the caretaker.

Supportive Care

Make sure your pup is comfortable, with access to his own soft bed, plenty of water, fresh air, and peace and quiet.

Give him plenty of cuddles, and make sure he’s able to take time out if it gets too noisy – if there are kids around, let them know your dog isn’t feeling well and give him some space.

Dog Cough Medicine

Treatments for dog coughing such as:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Butorphanol
  • Dextromethorphan

…might be useful for treating dog flu symptoms. Please consult your vet and always read the instructions carefully before administering these medications to your dog.

Hydration

It’s important to make sure your dog has access to plenty of water to keep his fluids up. If your dog is sick during the winter season, a bowl of warm water or even warm milk might be more appealing to him.

Healthy Nutrition

Giving your dog healthy and nutritious foods will give his body the best chance at fighting off the dog flu.

Here are some healthy snacks and treats you can give your dog (tastes vary, so it might take some experimenting to figure out what he likes):

  • Lean chicken or turkey meat
  • Cooked eggs
  • Fish
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Banana

Isolation

Keeping your dog away from his canine companions is super important for two reasons…

  1. Your dog is feeling weak so exposure to other dogs (especially if they’re rough and noisy) might cause him to be aggressive or at risk of injury
  2. Your dog may be infectious, so it’s important to keep other dogs safe

If you have to isolate your pup, make sure he has access to things that make him comfortable such as:

  • Cuddly toys or his favorite blanket
  • Snuggles from you
  • Put the TV or radio on (quietly) so he doesn’t feel too lonely

Anti Inflammatories & Non-Steroidal Pain Relievers

Your vet may be able to provide you with suitable pain relief and anti-inflammatories that don’t contain steroids.

Common medications include:

  • Metacam
  • Carprofen
  • Previcox

These will help reduce swelling and stiffness and minimize pain. Again, always follow your vet’s directions when administering medications.

Home Remedies for Dog Flu

Dog Flu Home RemediesMany home remedies exist to treat upper respiratory symptoms and signs. Some of the most popular are found below:

Honey

Honey soothes the throat and – if you can find medicated Manuka Honey – has properties that help fight the flu.

You can give your dog a teaspoon of honey straight from the jar, or stir it into warm water for him to drink.

Remember that honey is a high-sugar substance so limit your dog’s intake to 2-3 teaspoons per day – morning, midday, and in the evening.

Steam therapy

Exposing your pup to steam can help to loosen phlegm and mucus in his throat to help him breathe easier and relieve his cough.

When trying out steam therapy, it’s really important to not expose your dog to hot water.

Instead, bring him into the bathroom and help him get comfortable. Then, run a hot shower and let the bathroom fill with steam.

Stay in the bathroom with your dog for 10-15 minutes so that he can breathe in the steam. Just make sure he doesn’t overheat!

Chicken soup for the doggy’s soul

A nutritious and delicious chicken soup can be just as wholesome and nourishing for your dog as it would be for you when you’re sick.

To make a chicken soup for dog flu, you’ll need:

  • A whole chicken or chicken pieces (make sure it’s on the bone to get all the nutrients from the marrow)
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Broccoli

Simply fill a crockpot or large pot with the chicken (whole, you don’t need to cut it up) and chopped veggies. Fill the pot with water until it covers everything and simmer on low for at least 5-6 hours.

When the chicken is cooked, you can take it out and use two forks to shred the meat and add it back into the broth.

Put the soup into a large tupperware to store in the fridge and feed your dog 1 cup morning and evening alongside his normal dry food.

You can freeze the soup to have on-hand whenever your dog isn’t feeling well – there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying it, either!

Home Remedies for Dog Flu and How to Make Them

Remedy IngredientsHow to Make it
HoneyRaw, natural honey

Warm water

-Mix one teaspoon with lukewarm water (not hot) twice a day
Steam TherapyBathroom

Shower

Cozy Blanket

-Steam up the bathroom using the hot shower.

-Allow pup to relax on cozy blanket in the steam to help clear congestion

Vitamin CCarrots

Kale

Pumpkin

Sweet potatoes

Blueberries

-Vitamin C is an essential antioxidant

-Add these foods (a little at a time) to a sick dog’s diet for an immunity boost

Chicken SoupLow sodium chicken broth

Mixed vegetables

Chicken breast

-Boil mixed veggies in chicken broth until tender

-Add cooked chicken chunks

-Allow to cool completely

-Serve lukewarm

GingerRaw ginger root

Ginger tea bags

-Cut the skin off and finely mince the yellow of the root

-Serve up to 3 times daily

Up to 10 lbs – ¼ tsp

10-35 lbs – ½ tsp,

35 lbs and up – ¾ tsp,

Ginger Tea

Serve 1-3 times daily

Up to 10 lbs – less than ¼ cup

10 – 20 lbs – ¼ cup

20 – 50 lbs – ¼ to ½ cup

50 – 100 lbs – ½ to 1 cup

Over 100 lbs – up to 1 cup

Dog Stomach Flu Treatment

Dog stomach fluJust as with the human influenza virus, where symptoms can differ from person to person, canine influenza can affect some dogs differently than others.

Unfortunately, some may experience upset tummy, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Ginger has been a popular belly settler for humans and dogs for ages. Ginger can help soothe symptoms of:

  • Nausea
  • Bloat
  • Flatulence (farts)
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Heartworm

You can make ginger tea from premade tea bags or fresh ginger, or add finely chopped or minced bits to their food to relieve belly aches and nausea. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of the benefits of this natural remedy for your dog or yourself!

Dog Flu is Nothing to Sneeze At!

Many viruses throughout time have mutated to jump from one species to another.

Whether speaking of animals or humans, new infections are constantly evolving and mutating.

For this reason, it can be difficult and even impossible to defend against these new strains without existing immunity.

The best course of action for combating viruses in pets lies in isolation from other pets, vaccination to prevent widespread infection, and plenty of love and supportive care.