It’s an unfortunate fact of life: at some point, you are going to catch the flu. You may even have suffered through it already this year. But did you know that your dog is also susceptible to a canine version of this ailment? In fact, Canine Influenza, more commonly referred to as the dog flu, has been causing quite the stir these last few years. Read on to learn about Canine Flu, how to recognize it, and what to do about it.

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is a contagious viral infection in dogs caused by Influenza Virus A subtype H3N8. It is believed to have mutated from the horse (equine) influenza virus. It was first reported in 2003 among racing greyhounds and in 2004 among companion pets.

The Canine Flu can be a mild to severe illness, depending on the breed of dog. Brachycephalic (or snub-nosed) breeds such as the pug, Pekingese, Boston terrier, and boxer tend to have a tougher time with it. In mild cases, symptoms can include a soft, moist cough with or without a low grade fever, and potentially a yellow/green nasal discharge if a secondary bacterial infection is present. In more severe cases, a high grade fever can result, as well as rapid/difficult breathing, which is usually the result of secondary pneumonia. Symptoms generally last 10 to 30 days even with treatment. The Canine Flu is rarely fatal; fatalities are usually the result of secondary complications such as pneumonia. However, the mortality rate for dogs with untreated Canine Flu is estimated at 1 to 5%.

The virus is contagious and is spread via airborne respiratory secretions, the same as the common cold. Outbreaks have been reported in 30 states at this point. As this is a fairly new disease, there is currently no natural immunity for it; however, The vaccine requires two doses, two to four weeks a vaccine has been developed Photo by Gina Spadafori (giori) via Flickr.and is readily available. apart, with a booster every year thereafter. It generally costs between $25 and $60. Many vets are now recommending it along with the other standard respiratory disease vaccines; check with your vet for availability and if it is recommended for your dog.

If you have to handle a dog that has been diagnosed with Canine Flu, make sure to use gloves and thoroughly wash your hands and other surfaces the dog came in contact with to prevent spreading the disease to other dogs. The virus can remain viable on surfaces for up to 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours. Its incubation period is usually two to four days from date of exposure, and it is during this time (while dogs are asymptomatic) that infected dogs are actually most contagious. Dogs are generally considered to be contagious during the first 10 days of the illness.

If you suspect your dog has contracted Canine Flu, please try to keep him isolated and take proper precautions to avoid spreading the disease especially during the first ten days when he is most contagious. You should also contact your vet ASAP. A diagnosis cannot generally be made upon physical examination, as Canine Flu symptoms closely mirror symptoms of Kennel Cough and other respiratory infections. There are two tests, however, that can be conducted on your dog to help determine if he does in fact have Canine Flu. If the dog has been symptomatic for four days or less, a nasal swab can be done. If a dog has been symptomatic for up to seven days, a serum (blood) test can be done.

Treatment for Canine Flu generally includes rest and proper nutrition. If a secondary bacterial infection has set in, antibiotics may be prescribed. In severe cases, dogs may require intravenous fluids and antibiotics. Most dogs are back to normal within three weeks.

For more information on the Canine Flu, please visit:

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Canine Influenza Page

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Canine Influenza Backgrounder

WSU’s Canine Influenza Page

The CDC’s Canine Influenza Fact Sheet

Photo Credits:

Top: Audrey (audreyjm529) via Flickr. Image is cropped.

Bottom: Gina Spadafori (giori) via Flickr.