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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. If you have an older dog, you might want to check out our article on Caring For A Super Senior Pet for additional tips on keeping your aging furry friend healthy.


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

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

Canine influenza (CIV) is a highly contagious respiratory virus affecting dogs. In the US, the two most common strains are H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 originated in horses and crossed over to dogs, while H3N2 is believed to have jumped from birds to dogs. Both strains cause similar symptoms and are known for rapid transmission among dogs, particularly in places with high canine populations, like kennels and dog parks. Neither strain typically infects humans. Vaccinations are available for both strains, providing an essential preventative measure to protect dogs from this virus.

What symptoms can dogs exhibit if they contract the flu?

If dogs contract the flu, they may exhibit symptoms similar to human flu. These include coughing, nasal discharge, fever, lethargy, and a reduced appetite. Coughing is often the most noticeable and persistent symptom. However, the severity of symptoms can vary widely among dogs. Some may show mild symptoms and recover quickly, while others might experience more severe illness, particularly senior dogs or those with underlying health conditions. In rare cases, canine flu can lead to more severe complications and even death. Dog owners must monitor for these symptoms and consult a veterinarian for proper care if their pet shows signs of the flu.

How is the canine flu spread among dogs?

Canine flu spreads among dogs primarily through direct contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs. This can happen through nose-to-nose contact, sniffing, or licking. The virus also spreads through the air via coughs and sneezes, and it can remain viable on surfaces like toys, bowls, and human clothing for a time. Dogs can pick up the virus by interacting with contaminated objects or environments. Crowded conditions, like those in kennels, dog parks, and grooming salons, facilitate rapid virus transmission. Dog owners must be aware of outbreaks and take preventive measures to reduce their pets’ exposure.

Can people inadvertently spread canine flu between dogs?

Yes, people can inadvertently spread canine flu between dogs. While the virus doesn’t typically infect humans, it can be carried on our hands, clothes, and shoes after handling an infected dog. This makes it possible to transmit the virus to other dogs through direct contact or by touching shared objects like toys, bowls, or bedding. To prevent this, dog owners and handlers should practice good hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly and changing clothes after contact with a dog suspected of having the flu, especially before interacting with other dogs. This precaution is essential in multi-dog households or facilities like kennels and doggy daycares.

What treatment options are available for dogs with the flu?

Treatment primarily focuses on supportive care for dogs with the flu to ease symptoms and prevent secondary infections. This includes ensuring proper hydration, maintaining a comfortable resting area, and providing nutritious food. In some cases, veterinarians may prescribe medications to reduce fever, alleviate coughing, or address secondary bacterial infections. Antiviral drugs are rarely used. It’s crucial to isolate infected dogs from other pets to prevent the spread of the virus. Owners should monitor their dogs closely and follow the vet’s instructions on care. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary for more intensive treatment, such as IV fluids or oxygen therapy.

Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? We’re here to help! Our Veterinary Wellness & Pet Vaccinations service can help keep your pet protected against various diseases, including canine flu. Contact us, your local animal clinic in Peterborough, ON!