Can Dogs Get the Flu? Major Virus Risks That Dog Owners Need to Know About

In 2022, we experienced one of the worst flu seasons in over 13 years, and many concerned dog owners across the country found themselves asking, “Can dogs get the flu?” Yes, they can. But, not from the same influenza viruses that are plaguing humans. Here are some key points all dog owners need to know:

  • Humans are getting infected by the influenza A (H3N2) virus at high rates this flu season.
  • Dogs can get the influenza A (H3N2) virus too. But, the strains of the influenza A (H3N2) virus that affect humans are different from the ones that affect canines.
  • The canine influenza A H3N2 virus is a highly contagious strain of the influenza A virus. It causes a disease called “canine influenza.”
  • According to The New York Times, several dogs in different parts of the US have been infected with the influenza A (H3N2) virus in 2022.
  • Dogs have no natural immunity to the influenza A (H3N2) virus because it is a relatively new virus.

So, can dogs get the flu? Yes, they can and if you are a dog owner, the influenza A (H3N2) virus is the one that you need to be worried about this flu season. But, what if you or someone in the family has the flu (the human version)? Can your dog get the flu from you or from any other human? Yes and No.

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Can My Dog Get the Flu from Me?

As stated above the strains of the influenza A (H3N2) virus that affect humans are different from the ones that affect canines. There are no verified cases of humans catching the flu from infected dogs. However, recent research suggests that in some rare occasions, dogs can catch the flu from influenza-infected humans. Thankfully, such instances are very uncommon.

Still, if you are a dog owner exhibiting symptoms of the flu, here are some ways to prevent your dog from catching it:

  • Vaccinate your dog against canine influenza.

Now that we have covered human influenza, let’s move on to canine influenza or dog influenza: the #1 disease threat facing your dog this flu season.

Can Dogs Catch the Flu?

There are two types of dog flu:

  • Canine Influenza: Commonly known as dog flu, canine influenza is a super-contagious respiratory disease. It is caused when dogs get exposed to influenza A viruses, like the influenza A (H3N2) virus. It is similar to the flu that humans get in terms of symptoms. This disease is transmitted among dogs via the respiratory droplets they produce during coughing/sneezing.
  • : This respiratory disease also affects dogs but it is not as severe as canine influenza. Canine parainfluenza is caused by the canine parainfluenza virus (CPiV). This virus is also transmitted through the respiratory droplets dogs produce during coughing/sneezing. CPiV is less contagious than influenza A viruses.

Both of these diseases spread among dogs when they are in close proximity, barking or sneezing at each other. That is why dogs that spend much time in dog parks, public kennels, and other dog-friendly spots are at a higher risk for catching canine influenza and canine parainfluenza. There are no specific treatment procedures for either of these two diseases.

However, there are vaccines that can safeguard our four-legged friends from both of these viruses. The Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine offers in-depth guidelines on flu vaccine schedules for dogs. Check it out. If you cannot get access to vaccines, you can take other precautionary steps like other dog owners in the US:

What Is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza is a respiratory disease that is caused by two strains of influenza viruses: H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 had an equine origin, i.e., it originated in horses. It was detected in 2004 at a horse ranch in Florida. However, the most recent outbreaks of Canine influenza have been caused by H3N2: a much more contagious strain of the dog influenza virus.

H3N2 originated in birds. It most likely arose from the avian influenza virus which was tearing through multiple parts of Asia in the early 2000s. H3N2 was first detected in canines in South Korea in 2007. In 2015, the virus reached the shores of the US and spread like wildfire through thousands of veterinary clinics, animal shelters, and kennels.

Since then, H3N2 has reappeared in many parts of the world, including the US, numerous times. In 2023, the H3N2 strain of the dog influenza virus is suspected to be the main culprit behind the sharp rise of canine influenza cases in the US. The symptoms of dog flu caused by this relatively common virus manifest themselves in two forms:

  • Mild Dog Flu Symptoms: The dogs will cough and have nasal discharge for 1-2 weeks.
  • Severe Canine Flu Symptoms: The dog will have a high fever (104°F or higher), trouble breathing, and dry coughing for 1-2 weeks. If the dog does not receive proper treatment for canine influenza, symptoms will worsen and can lead to more severe conditions like hemorrhagic pneumonia.

If you are in the US, check out this interactive map that tracks the number of dog influenza cases in the country.

Canine Influenza Symptoms

The most common dog influenza symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Red or runny eyes
  • Runny nose 

Here is a cool video guide on how to spot these symptoms in your dog:

Can Dogs Die from The Flu?

Infected dogs that do not receive timely treatment for canine flu are highly likely to fall severely ill. But, death? According to an old study by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), the fatality rate for canine flu is less than 10%. So, 9 out of 10 dogs survive this disease.

How to Treat Dog Flu Symptoms?

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to treat the symptoms of dog flu:

  • Take your dog to a veterinarian. The vet may ask you to have a series of blood tests performed. These tests will reveal whether or not your dog has canine influenza.
  • Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the vet may administer the latest canine influenza vaccine. The vaccine may diminish the severity of the disease.
  • Vaccinated or not, the infected dog must be isolated for at least 21 days. During the isolation period, do not handle your dog. If you do touch your dog, wash your hands thoroughly before and after. Or else, the virus could be transmitted to other pets in your home.
  • The vet will probably recommend a mixture of antibiotics, fluids, cough suppressants, and other medications. Hospitalization is not necessary. The dog must receive loads of rest and be in complete isolation from other dogs.

How Long Does Dog Flu Last?

In most cases, dogs start feeling better 10 days after the treatment begins. All symptoms of the disease typically go away after 30 days of rest, isolation, and treatment.

Always remember, your dog has no natural immunity to the influenza A (H3N2) virus that is tearing through the world right now. This relatively new virus is something all dog owners should know about and prepare for in 2023. Use this guide to help your dog beat the risk of canine flu this flu season!

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