Can Dogs Get the Flu? How to Spot the Signs of Canine Influenza?

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Author: Jacob Kay

Influenza or “the flu” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces. But can dogs get the flu, and also be affected by these viruses?

Here’s what dog owners should understand about canine influenza, including how to prevent it and what to do if your dog gets sick.

Can Dogs Get the Flu? How to Spot the Signs of Canine Influenza?

How Do Dogs Get Infected with Influenza?

Yes, dogs can get the flu. Canine influenza is an infectious respiratory disease of dogs caused by Type A influenza viruses. Two known influenza strains have adapted to spread among dogs:

  • Canine influenza virus H3N8 – The originated as an equine flu virus in horses. It was first detected in racing greyhounds in Florida in 2004 and has since spread across most U.S. states.
  • Canine influenza virus H3N2 – This strain was adapted from an avian influenza virus in Asia before emerging in pet dogs in South Korea in 2007. It was first reported in the U.S. in 2015 and is now endemic in some dog populations.
How Do Dogs Get Infected with Influenza

Dogs get infected through close contact with other dogs carrying these viruses. It spreads through coughing, barking, sneezing, or contact with contaminated surfaces. The virus can also be brought into kennels or homes on people’s hands, shoes, clothing, or other objects. Less commonly, dogs can get influenza from infected people, but this does not happen often.

Once exposed, most dogs develop symptoms within 2-4 days. Infected dogs typically shed the virus for 7-10 days but some may continue to spread it for up to a month after recovery.

Signs of Canine Influenza

Signs of Canine Influenza

Dogs with canine influenza will show symptoms similar to kennel cough or other respiratory infections. Watch for:

  • A persistent cough that can last 10-21 days
  • Nasal discharge that may start clear but often becomes thick and discoloured
  • Fever, usually 103-105°F
  • Lethargy and loss of appetite
  • Rapid, shallow breathing in some cases

Most cases are mild but more severe infections can lead to pneumonia, especially in young puppies, seniors, or dogs with other health conditions. See your vet promptly if your dog has these flu symptoms.

Understanding Different Strains of Canine Influenza Viruses

There are two main influenza viruses adapted to infect dogs:

Canine Influenza Virus H3N8:

  • Originally an equine (horse) influenza virus
  • First identified in racing greyhounds in Florida in 2004
  • Now considered endemic in dog populations across most U.S. states
  • Also detected in Canada, Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world
  • Causes mild to severe respiratory infections in dogs

Canine Influenza Virus H3N2:

  • Originated as an avian (bird) flu virus in Asia
  • Spread from birds to dogs before emerging in South Korea in 2007
  • First reported in the U.S. in 2015 after appearing in Chicago
  • Now considered endemic in parts of the U.S. and Asia
  • Also been identified in Canada, Europe, and elsewhere globally
  • Causes similar respiratory symptoms and illness in dogs as H3N8

Both viruses continue spreading geographically and cause outbreaks, especially in high-risk facilities like kennels, shelters, daycares, and boarding facilities. H3N2 in particular led to widespread outbreaks after emerging in naive dog populations.

What Puts Dogs at Risk of Canine Flu?

What Puts Dogs at Risk of Canine Flu?

Any dog exposed to an infected dog is at risk of getting sick. However, some factors increase susceptibility[1]:

  • Dogs that are unvaccinated against influenza strains
  • Dogs housed in kennels, shelters, daycares, and similar facilities where viruses can spread rapidly
  • Dogs frequently interact with other pets, such as in grooming salons, dog parks, etc.
  • Dogs travelling to regions with active outbreaks
  • Certain breeds like greyhounds and brachycephalic breeds may be more susceptible to flu complications like pneumonia
  • Puppies and senior dogs tend to be more vulnerable to secondary infections

Keeping dogs away from coughing, and sick canines and maintaining good hygiene helps reduce the odds of exposure. Vaccination is key for prevention.

Preventing Canine Influenza in Dogs

Preventing Canine Influenza in Dogs

Since treatment can only ease symptoms, not “cure” canine influenza, prevention is vital. Steps to protect dogs include:

  • Vaccination – Core vaccines for puppies should include at least H3N8 protection. Some vaccines now also cover H3N2 for broader immunity.
  • Avoiding sick dogs – Keep puppies or unvaccinated dogs away from kennels or facilities during outbreaks. Don’t let them mingle with coughing/sickly dogs.
  • Practising good hygiene – Wash hands, change clothes, and disinfect surfaces when coming home from high-risk places. Clean and disinfect dog bowls, toys, leashes, etc. regularly.
  • Quarantining new arrivals – Isolate and monitor new dogs joining a home/facility for at least 2 weeks. Reduce introducing dogs from unknown health backgrounds.

Routine yearly vaccination and avoiding influenza “hot spots” gives the best protection during flu seasons.

Caring For a Dog With the Flu

Caring For a Dog With the Flu

Since canine influenza can’t be cured, treatment aims to ease symptoms while the infection runs its course. Steps include:

  • Rest and hydration – Allow extra sleep and rest. Make sure the dog drinks enough fluids. Provide appetizing food to keep up calorie intake.
  • Controlling fever – Reduce high fever with cool (not cold) water baths. Give fever-reducing medications only under veterinary guidance.
  • Medications – Antibiotics may be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection develops. Cough suppressants can provide comfort but do not affect the viral infection.
  • Hospitalization – Dogs with high fevers, pneumonia, or difficulty breathing may need hospital intensive care and oxygen support.

With rest and supportive care, most dogs start to recover within 2-3 weeks. However, the cough may persist for several weeks even after the dog stops shedding the virus. Canine influenza is rarely fatal in healthy adults but consult your vet if symptoms concern you.


Can dogs get the flu?

Yes, it is still possible for vaccinated dogs to become infected with influenza. However, they tend to experience milder symptoms and faster recovery than unvaccinated dogs. The vaccine helps reduce disease severity.

What disinfectants kill the canine influenza virus?

Disinfectants containing quaternary ammonium, potassium, accelerated hydrogen peroxide, and bleach solutions can inactivate the canine influenza virus. Routinely disinfecting kennels, crates, bowls, etc. helps control outbreaks.

Can cats get infected with the dog flu?

There are no reported cases of cats becoming ill from canine influenza. But cats can carry the virus on their fur after contact with infected dogs, potentially spreading it between dog populations.

Is canine influenza seasonal like human flu?

Dog flu cases can occur year-round but tend to peak in the spring and fall when dogs are mingling often at kennels, parks, competitions, etc. The virus thrives in cooler, less humid environments.

How long can the canine influenza virus survive on surfaces?

On porous surfaces like fabric, carpet, and wood, the virus can survive up to 48 hours. On non-porous surfaces like metal, plastic, and concrete, it survives even longer – up to 96 hours.


In summary, dogs are vulnerable to their specific strains of influenza virus which circulate globally and cause seasonal outbreaks. By understanding how it spreads, monitoring for symptoms, vaccinating promptly, and taking precautions during outbreaks, canine influenza can be effectively managed.

Getting dogs routine flu shots, avoiding high-risk settings when illness is active, and never exposing other pets when your dog is sick can protect the health and well-being of our beloved pets. With proper prevention and veterinary guidance when needed, the vast majority of dogs can beat off the flu and live a long healthy life.


  1. Dog Flu: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention | AKC
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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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