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Canine Flu

February 1, 2023

Did you know that your canine companion can get the flu? In fact, there’s an outbreak going on now. Fido’s version, canine influenza virus (CIV)–also often called the dog flu—is an influenza A virus. There are several strains, but the two that are most common in the US are H3N8 and H3N2. These strains are both extremely contagious, and are the culprits behind the current outbreak. A local vet offers some information on this below.


If Fido gets the flu, he’ll likely have many of the same symptoms as you would, such as coughing, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite. Of these, coughing is the most common. It may also be the most persistent. That said, our furry friends all react differently to the flu. Some pups will not show any symptoms at all. Other dogs may bounce back after a few days, or stay sick for weeks. A few will become severely ill. In rare cases, dog flu can be fatal. Senior dogs and pooches with chronic illnesses and/or immune deficiencies are at highest risk.


Fido’s flu can spread extremely quickly. The virus is transmitted through droplets of saliva, and can remain active in respiratory droplets on surfaces for several hours. Pups can easily contract it through shared toys or dishes. Fido could also get sick by greeting or nose-booping another pooch, or even just by sniffing a stick at a park that a sick dog played with hours ago. 

Dogs that have contracted the flu remain contagious for about a month. As one can imagine, places like dog parks, daycares, grooming salons, and kennels can quickly become hotspots of contagion. Another potential source of spread? People! Someone who pets an infected dog and then a healthy one may quickly spread the illness from pooch to pooch. Be aware of the risks when taking Fido to different places. You can also track the current outbreak online here.


Unfortunately, there is no cure for the canine flu. In most cases, dogs recover on their own, though they may need some extra TLC. You’ll need to keep your furry pal comfy and hydrated, and monitor him carefully. If you know or suspect that your pup has the flu, reach out to your vet and ask for specific care tips. 

Our Advice on Canine Flu in 2024

What is the canine influenza virus (CIV), and what are the common strains in the US?

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV), or dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection in dogs caused by an influenza A virus. The two most common strains in the United States are H3N8 and H3N2. The H3N8 strain originated in horses and jumped to dogs, while H3N2 is believed to have been adapted from the avian flu virus. Both strains are highly infectious among dogs and have been responsible for numerous outbreaks nationwide. These strains do not typically infect humans but can cause significant respiratory illness in affected dogs.

How do dogs vary in their reaction to the flu?

Dogs’ reactions to the flu can vary widely. Some dogs may display mild symptoms such as coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy, while others show no signs, remaining asymptomatic. On the other end of the spectrum, certain dogs might experience severe symptoms, including high fever and pneumonia, which can be life-threatening. Factors like age, overall health, and immune status influence their response. Older dogs, puppies, and those with underlying health conditions or weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer severe symptoms. The variability in response underscores the importance of monitoring and veterinary care if flu is suspected.

How long do dogs remain contagious after contracting the flu?

After contracting the flu, dogs can remain contagious for a significant period. Typically, a dog with canine influenza is contagious for 2 to 4 weeks after infection. During this time, they can spread the virus to other dogs through respiratory secretions, either directly (through coughing or sneezing) or indirectly (via contaminated objects or surfaces). Owners need to isolate infected dogs from other canines during this contagious period to prevent further spread of the virus. Even if symptoms improve, dogs can still shed the virus and be a source of infection to others.

What precautions should dog owners take during a canine flu outbreak?

During a canine flu outbreak, dog owners should take precautions to protect their pets. These include isolating dogs that show symptoms, avoiding areas with high dog traffic like parks and kennels, practicing good hygiene by washing hands after handling dogs, considering canine flu vaccination, seeking veterinary care for sick dogs, and staying informed about local outbreaks. These measures help prevent the spread of the virus and ensure the well-being of your canine companion.

What is the treatment for dogs with canine flu?

The treatment for dogs with canine flu primarily focuses on supportive care. There is no specific antiviral medication for dog flu, so managing symptoms and complications is crucial. This may include providing plenty of rest, maintaining hydration, and ensuring proper nutrition. In severe cases, mainly if pneumonia develops, dogs may require hospitalization and supportive therapies like intravenous fluids and antibiotics to address secondary bacterial infections. It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian for a tailored treatment plan, as the severity of symptoms can vary among dogs. Early intervention and monitoring are vital to helping affected dogs recover.

Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? We’re here to help! Contact us, your local animal clinic in West Greenwich, RI!

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