Dogs do get a type flu, but they do not commonly get the same type of flu that infects humans. Instead, most dogs that develop flu are infected with the canine influenza virus. This respiratory virus is highly contagious from dog to dog but does not cause symptoms in humans. There is, however, evidence that in very rare cases, dogs may also be able to catch human influenza from their owners. To protect your dog, it is important for you to understand how influenza spreads, what its symptoms are, how to treat it and how to prevent it.
How Do Dogs Catch Canine Influenza?
Dogs are exposed to canine influenza through contact with the respiratory secretions of infected dogs. They can be exposed directly through contact with a sick dog that is coughing and sneezing or indirectly through contact with people, surfaces, clothing, bedding or other items coughed or sneezed on by an infected dog. According to the AVMA, the virus remains infective for up to two days on surfaces, 24 hours on clothing and 12 hours on hands. Clinical signs typically appear two to five days after exposure.
What Are the Symptoms of Dog Flu?
Most dogs that contract canine influenza only develop mild symptoms, and some develop no obvious symptoms at all. In a small percentage of cases, however, infected dogs develop life-threatening symptoms.
Typical symptoms of canine influenza include the following:
- Cough that lasts for 10 to 21 days .
- Nasal discharge.
Can Dogs Get Human Flu?
Until 2009, most veterinarians would have said that dogs could not catch flu from their owners. In 2009, however, IDEXX, a veterinary diagnostic laboratory, confirmed that a mixed-breed dog with flu-like symptoms had tested positive for H1N1, the flu strain that usually infects humans. The dog’s owner had also tested positive for this virus. While this means that dogs can potentially contract the flu from humans, according to the AVMA, all evidence suggests that this rarely occurs.
How is Dog Flu Treated?
Treatment for canine influenza is supportive, and most dogs with mild disease recover with rest and care. Some common supportive treatments used to ease moderate to severe symptoms of canine influenza include the following:
- Antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections.
- Fluid therapy to correct dehydration.
- Nutritional support for dogs that stop eating.
How Can You Prevent Flu in Dogs?
Good hygiene, appropriate vaccination and quarantine of sick animals are the best strategies for preventing the spread of influenza in dogs. To protect your dog, take the following steps:
- Keep your dog away from sick animals and sick people.
- Wash your hands before and after you pet your dog or other dogs.
- Thoroughly clean toys, surfaces, clothing and other items that have had contact with sick or potentially infected dogs.
- Talk to your veterinarian about whether or not your dog’s lifestyle puts the animal at increased
- Canine Influenza from the AVMA.
- Canine Influenza Fact Sheet for Veterinarians from the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab at the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
- H1N1 Flu Virus:For Pet Owners from the AVMA.
- H1N1 Influenza Virus Infection from IDEXX Laboratories.
- Key Facts About Canine Influenza from the CDC.