Flu season has come and gone, but we're not out of the deep end yet. Why? Because now we have to worry about dog flu. Taking care of your loved ones is a top priority, so it only feels natural to wonder "Do dogs get the flu?" (because Fido is a member of the family, too). The answer is yes, dogs can get the flu — and it's highly contagious among dogs. Vets across the country are reporting cases of canine influenza, so here's what you need to know to keep your pup happy and healthy.
What is dog flu?
Canine influenza — otherwise known as dog flu — is a respiratory disease caused by the H3N8 virus. Originally, H3N8 was known as equine influenza. Around 2004, it made the jump from horses to dogs, appearing first in greyhounds. The virus has mutated and adapted to the point where it is easily spread between dogs, especially those kept in kennels or shelters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Dog influenza is transmitted by "aerosolized respiratory secretions," as the CDC puts it, which basically just means coughing and sneezing. When an infected dog at the park sneezes or coughs near your pet, your poor pooch can pick up the virus.
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What are common dog flu symptoms?
Your dog can't tell you when he or she feels sick, so you must be extra vigilant and keep an eye out for these symptoms of the dog flu: sneezing, coughing, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye and nasal discharge, and a decreased appetite. (When people say they feel as sick as a dog, it's no joke!) That said, not all dogs will exhibit symptoms, so scheduling a checkup with your vet is your best bet if you don't want to risk your pup's health.
If your dog is not sick, your vet may recommend vaccination options — yes, there is a dog flu vaccine — if it's appropriate. And if your pooch does indeed have canine flu, your vet can also advise you on the best treatment. In some cases, this does require medication. The CDC also recommends keeping your dog away from other animals to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should all be cleaned if you've come in contact with a sick dog.
Dog Flu Vaccine
There are dog flu vaccines for two different strains of the virus: H3N2 and H3N8. If it's likely your dog will be exposed to canine influenza — say you need to board him or her often because you travel — it might be a good idea to get the vaccine. As soon as your dog is seven weeks of age or older and healthy, he or she can get the vaccine. It will be administered in two shots that are two to four weeks apart. Vets may also recommend annually updating your dog's shots because studies show that dogs do not have great long-term immunity to the virus. The cost of the dog flu vaccine may vary based on where you live, but the estimated $100 price tag seems like a good deal when you consider the thousands you might end up spending if your dog catches the flu and has to be treated in isolation at an animal hospital.
Can you give a dog the flu?
Dogs seem to have the supernatural ability to know when you're feeling sick and tired. And when you're under the weather, there's nothing more comforting than curling up on the couch with your dog. But are your coughs and sneezes putting your furry friend at risk? Can your dog catch the flu from you?
"Under normal circumstances, the chance of passing on your human flu virus to your furry cuddle buddy is quite low," Vanessa Yeager, DVM, said. "Canines cannot normally catch the type B and C influenza viruses we suffer from each year."
That said, it is possible that you can unintentially spread the flu to your dog. There was a case in 2009 of a cat contracting the H1N1 virus, presumably from his owner. Other cases of domesticated animals catching H1N1 have been reported, but they are rare one-off stories.
Can dog flu spread to other pets like cats?
If you live in a multi-pet household, you may be wondering whether Fido's flu can be picked up by your cats or birds. The scary answer is yes, dog flu can spread to other animals. In 2016, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine put out a report revealing that cats in an Indiana shelter had contracted the H3N2 canine influenza virus. The sick cat exhibited behaviors similar to dog flu symptoms: runny nose, congestion, and tiredness. The cats also showed signs of lip smacking and excessive salivation. Fortunately, in this case the felines were feelin' fine in no time and there were no fatalities.
Can you get the flu from your dog?
OK, so we've covered whether you can give a dog the flu, but can you catch canine influenza from your beloved pup? According to the CDC, dog flu is not likely to be contracted by humans. "There is no evidence of spread of canine influenza viruses from dogs to people, and there has not been a single reported case of human infection with a canine influenza virus in the U.S. or worldwide," their website reads.
Aim to be more careful when it comes to detecting and preventing dog flu because nothing breaks your heart more than seeing your usually energetic pup turn into a sick, sneezy, miserable pooch.