Canine Influenza: Everything You Need to Know About It
By: Nicole McCray | Dec 17, 2022
As a dog owner, you always find it challenging to tell if your dog isn’t feeling well. Unlike humans, our furry friends don’t have the ability to tell us when they are ill, so most of the time, sickness goes unnoticed until we bring them into the vet’s office.
Canine influenza, also known as CIV or dog flu, is a very contagious viral disease that occurs from time to time. While it doesn’t mutate every year as the human flu does, it’s a challenging virus to diagnose without testing by a professional. For dogs, the flu is almost purely a respiratory illness.
Here is all you need to know about canine influenza as a dog owner including symptoms, treatment, and prevention.
How Do Dogs Get Canine Influenza?
You may worry that if you come down with the flu, you might be able to transmit it to your furry friend, but this is not the case. Dogs and people can’t share the flu virus. Virus particles can transmit through the air but the risk is extremely low.
Since canine influenza is an airborne virus, dogs typically contract it from being around another dog that has it. The dog likely will bark, cough, sneeze, or lick to put the virus in the air, and then your dog will breathe it in and end up with the virus.
Dogs with the H3N8 flu are contagious for up to ten days from exposure, and the other known strain, H3N2, can keep your dog contagious for almost an entire month! And, just like humans, some dogs can carry the disease without any symptoms and still spread it. The virus can also live on surfaces like food and water bowls and dog toys.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Canine Influenza?
When your dog has the flu, it can show up in signs very similar to other respiratory problems, like a cold or cough. But the flu tends to be more severe in how serious it is, so it’s a good idea to seek treatment as soon as possible.
Dogs usually show flu symptoms that include the following:
- Coughing (it may sound similar to kennel cough)
- Troubled breathing
- Discharge from nose and eyes
More severe cases of the flu exhibit worsening symptoms, such as your dog throwing up blood, and can progress to pneumonia, which is fatal in dogs. If you have any concerns about your dog being sick, even if mild symptoms appear, you should seek veterinary help immediately.
As a side note, cats can also contract canine influenza and show similar signs of respiratory illness. Their symptoms are runny nose, lip smacking, excessive saliva, congestion, and malaise (fatigue).
Treatment for Canine Influenza
Unfortunately, if your dog contracts the flu, there is no specific treatment to cure it. Because it’s viral, antibiotics don’t work. You’ll just have to keep your dog isolated and ensure that it drinks plenty of fluids. In more severe cases that progress to pneumonia, your vet may prescribe antibiotics and supplemental oxygen to help your dog’s breathing.
You need to be far more careful if your dog is very young or very old since they have a greater risk for complications if they get the flu. They are more likely to have it progress to pneumonia. However, the majority of dogs that get canine influenza recover from it. Studies suggest that around 1% to 5% of dogs that contract H3N8 will die from the complications.
Canine Influenza Prevention
The best way to ensure your dog doesn’t end up with the flu is protection with a vaccine. There is one available for canines that covers both strains of the flu in dogs. It’s not a regularly scheduled vaccine though, so it’s something you should talk to your veterinarian about doing.
There are vaccines they consider “core vaccines”, so veterinarians don’t usually recommend the influenza vaccine unless they feel your dog may be more at risk. Vaccines for canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies are considered core vaccines.
Many times, vets recommend the flu vaccine for social dogs. Dogs that attend training or obedience classes, compete in dog sports, are boarded with other dogs, goes to a doggy daycare or dog park often are recommended to get the vaccine. And, like the human flu vaccine, this one doesn’t always totally prevent the illness if your dog happens to come in contact with a strain, but it should reduce severe symptoms.
Our dogs are part of the family, so we must ensure that it is safe, healthy, and free of anxiety due to illness. Understanding canine influenza and getting your dog vaccinated are excellent steps to ensure it doesn’t develop complications from the virus. Prioritize your dog’s health and consider getting the flu vaccine or discussing options with your veterinarian for other preventative measures.
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.