Dog Flu – What Every Pet Parent Needs to Know

By Madison Guthrie

It’s that time of year again! We dog owners are out and about, taking our dogs to dog parks, groomers, doggy daycare centers, and boarding our dogs while we go on vacation.

With all the extra socialization our dogs are doing this summer, we here at Petsadena Animal Hospital want you to be informed about the dangers of dog flu and how you can help keep your dog healthy and safe.

Let’s talk about dog flu!

Canine Influenza – Can Dogs Really Get the Flu?

Yes, unfortunately, canine influenza is real and it’s actually quite common.

Canine influenza is a respiratory infection in dogs that causes difficulty breathing, lethargy, coughing, sneezing, and other symptoms similar to those we humans suffer when we come down with a case of the flu.

There is no cure for dog flu, and while most cases of dog flu are not fatal, it is still a serious illness that can make your dog feel just plain awful.

There are currently two known strains of dog flu in the US:

– H3N8
– H3N2

Unlike human flu, there is no dog flu season.

But while dogs can contract canine influenza year-round, there are times of the year when dog owners are traveling more often, taking their dogs to dog parks, and generally exposing their dogs to other dogs.

With that being said, warmer months like summer, spring, and early fall mean we here at Petsadena Animal Hospital sometimes see a spike in canine influenza cases.

Is Dog Flu Contagious?

Canine influenza is highly contagious to other dogs and is transmitted through the air.

This airborne virus can be conveyed through secretions in another dog’s cough or sneeze and can even be transmitted through drinking bowls or on the hands or clothes of another dog’s owner.

This means that if your friend is at the dog park and has come in contact with an infected dog, they can transmit the flu to your dog at home, even though your dog was not present at the dog park that day.

Unfortunately, dogs are most contagious during the incubation period of dog flu, which is roughly two to four days before symptoms begin to show. However, dogs with dog flu can still be contagious up to ten days after their initial exposure to the virus.

Some good news is that while canine influenza is contagious to dogs, there are no documented cases showing that the dog flu can be transmitted to humans.

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Flu and How Long Does It Last?

The symptoms of the canine influenza virus are somewhat similar to the symptoms of the human flu in the way it makes your dog feel.

While not all dogs who contract the flu will show symptoms, most dogs begin showing signs of flu symptoms within two to four days of initial exposure.

Common symptoms of dog flu include:

– A wet or dry cough
– Sneezing
– Runny nose with clear or colored discharge
– Watery eyes
– A fever of 103°f or higher
– Loss of appetite
– Shivering
– Difficulty breathing
– Lethargy or weakness

How to Treat Dog Flu

As we mentioned above, there is no cure for dog flu. However, there are steps you as a dog parent can take to help keep your dog safe and healthy.

Because dog flu symptoms can be similar to kennel cough, we recommend contacting your veterinarian as soon as possible after noticing any initial symptoms to ensure they are in fact suffering from the flu.

The good news is that most cases of dog flu are not serious and often require some TLC and light medications to help it run its course.

You can help your dog get through canine influenza by speaking with your vet about specified treatment options.

Different dogs may handle the flu differently, and your vet may offer a specialized treatment option based on your dog’s symptoms.

Dog Flu Prevention Tips

Keeping your dog up to date on their vaccines is one of the best ways to help prevent them from contracting the dog flu virus.

There are vaccines for both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains of dog flu. We suggest talking with your veterinarian regarding these vaccines, especially if you plan on boarding your dog, visiting local dog parks, traveling, or scheduling your dog for doggy daycare.

We also suggest washing your hands thoroughly after coming into contact with dogs you do not know and try to avoid letting your dog drink from community water bowls.

And remember, if you think your dog is exhibiting any symptoms of dog flu, contact your veterinarian immediately.

For more on canine influenza and keeping your dog healthy this summer season, contact us at

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