Dog Flu: Know the Signs

Image: Chad Mayer

Flu Season

As we prepare for this year’s flu season, it is important to know that your dog is susceptible to his own strain of the flu. While most cases are not fatal, the canine influenza virus can make your pup uncomfortably sick, causing him a lot of stress and time spent at the vet’s office. If you are a dog owner, you don’t need to panic about the dog flu. You should, however, familiarize yourself with the symptoms so that you know what to look for in the event of an outbreak in your area.

According to PetMD, there are two strains of the virus that cause dog flu (Influenza Type A): H3N8 and H3N2. Both primarily infect the respiratory system and are extremely contagious. While some dogs become very ill with dog flu, others can be exposed to the virus and fight off infection without ever getting sick. No need to worry about yourself; canine influenza is not a contagion issue for humans or other species.

Flu Symptoms

So, how do you know if your pup has dog flu? Anna Burke of the AKC says, “There are several symptoms all owners should be aware of. Dog flu cases range from mild to severe and, unlike human influenzas, are not seasonal.” Keep an eye out for the following symptoms year-round:

  • Coughing (both moist and dry)
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Purulent nasal discharge
  • Runny eyes
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing

Dog flu symptoms resemble kennel cough symptoms, which is also an illness you should talk to your veterinarian about as soon as you notice symptoms. 

Flu Prevention

The best way to prevent your dog from contracting dog flu is to keep him away from public places or kennels with recently reported cases. If you come into contact with a dog that you suspect has dog flu or has recently been exposed to it, wash your hands, arms, and clothing before touching your own dog. This will reduce the risk of transmission from you to your dog.

Burke says that there are vaccines available for both the H3N8 and H3N2 strains of canine influenza. Your vet may recommend the vaccine based on your lifestyle. For instance, if you live in an area with a high incidence of dog flu or if your dog regularly spends time in kennels or travels to shows around the country, then he could be at an increased risk of contracting canine influenza and your vet may recommend the vaccine as a precaution.

So, keep an eye on your pup this flu season and be sure to see your vet should you suspect that your pet has been exposed.

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