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The Dog Flu – Symptoms & Treatment for Canine Influenza

The dog flu, also known as the canine influenza virus, is usually spread throughout certain regions and passed along in waves when there is an outbreak.

While the dog flu isn’t fatal, it’s best to know what to look out for if your dog happens to get the flu or there is an outbreak where you live.

The dog flu is a respiratory disease that is very contagious and easily passed among dogs.  The dog flu is caused by what is known as the influenza A virus which can also occur in humans.

There are two strains of the virus that causes dog flu: H3N8 and H3N2.  Both affect the upper respiratory system and are very contagious.

How Is The Dog Flu Contracted?

The dog flu is airborne just as it in humans.

Your dog can contract the flu by being near an infected dog that is merely coughing or barking.

The flu can also spread throughout the flu-ridden environment and even picked up by contaminated water bowls or dog collars.

Kennels, grooming places, and doggy dare care are places where a dog can contract the flu fairly easily if any of the dogs at the facilities have the flu.

The flu can even be spread even if an exposed dog has just the beginning stages of the flu and has yet to show symptoms.

Symptoms Of Canine Influenza

The dog flu can be either mild or more severe and can occur at any time of year.


In more mild cases, dogs will usually have a moist cough and nasal discharge, the symptoms last from 7 to 30 days and will usually go away on its own.


In severe cases, dogs will have a very high fever (more than 103 degrees) and will develop symptoms quickly.  Pneumonia can occur because the flu affects the capillaries in your dog’s lungs. Your pup might cough up blood and breathing could be difficult.

Some dogs will also develop a bacterial infection or even bacterial pneumonia.

German Shepherd getting vaccine The general symptoms of both flu types are the following:

  • Moist & Dry Cough
  • Nasal Discharge
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Eyes runny
  • Lethargic
  • Fever
  • Difficulty Breathing

Some of the symptoms of dog flu are very similar to kennel cough which primarily consists of a dry cough.

If you think your dog might have another condition other than the flu, you can take a look at our dog health guide to see what other illnesses might be occurring.

How To Diagnose The Dog Flu

If your dog has any of the symptoms of the dog flu, particularly when an outbreak has occurred in your region, take your dog to vet as soon as possible.

Your veterinarian will usually give your dog a physical as well as perform some blood work.

If your dog has the flu, the blood work will show a rise in your pup’s white blood cells.

X -rays might be taken to see if there is an infection or if pneumonia has developed in your dog’s lungs.

Your vet might use a bronchoscope to view your dog’s trachea to determine if there is extra unwanted bacteria or a secondary infection has developed.

Treatment For Canine Influenza

In the more mild cases of the flu, your dog is usually given cough suppressants.

If there is a secondary infection, antibiotics are given to your dogs to ward off the infection.

Your dog should be isolated from other dogs while he recovers as well as get some rest.

In the more severe cases of dog flu, your dog will be given supportive care which includes fluids, antibiotics or other forms of medication.

Your dog might have to be hospitalized until he is stable.

When your dog is back home, it is important that he remains at home and isolated from other dogs until all the symptoms are gone.

Your vet will usually provide to you the best way to quarantine your dog to prevent the flu from spreading.

Prevention Of The Dog Flu Virus

The best prevention for your dog is to keep your pup away from any public park, kennel or area that has reported an occurrence of the dog flu.

If you happen to be with another dog that has the flu, make sure to wash all your clothes and hands thoroughly before touching your dog.

However, not to worry.  You won’t develop the flu from your dog.

There are currently vaccines available for both strains of the dog flu.

If your dog does get the vaccine, he will need a booster shot as well a few weeks later.

Your vet might recommend the vaccine if your dog is on the road a lot or has to spend time in kennels often.

Can Pet Insurance Help With The Dog Flu?

If your dog develops the dog flu, either mild or severe, pet insurance can help pay for the diagnosis of the dog flu as well as the treatment that might be necessary.

In a severe case where your dog needs to be hospitalized, pet insurance will also pay a big percentage of the bill for the hospital stay which can be pretty darn expensive!

Pet insurance providers like Healthy Paws and Embrace will pay for up to 90% of the bill which can be very helpful.

We recommend Healthy Paws as the #1 pet health insurance provider!

Fetch Rates With Healthy Paws!

Just make sure to insure your dog while he is still young so the flu condition isn’t considered pre-existing.

Any pre-existing condition is not covered under any pet insurance plan.

Things To Keep In Mind With The Canine Flu

Your dog might develop the dog flu despite your best intentions.

However, if you notice the symptoms and bring your dog to the vet right away, you can get your dog treated and back to normal soon.

Most of the dog flu strains are not fatal but need to be treated as soon as possible.

And remember to keep your dog away from other dogs while he or she is recuperating.

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