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How do Dogs Get the Flu?

With the colder weather comes the flu – but did you know dogs can get the flu, too?

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) affects dogs in many of the same ways that human flu viruses affect humans – but you should know that the viruses are different. You can’t give your dog the flu, and your dog can’t give it to you.

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How do dogs get the flu?

  • Dogs can catch CIV if an infected dog coughs or sneezes – so anywhere that dogs congregate, such as doggy daycare, the dog park, the grooming parlor, and the kennel, can all be places to catch the flu.
  • CIV can also live on surfaces for up to 48 hours. This includes dog bowls and toys, and your shoes and clothing, so even if your dog hasn’t been anywhere near other dogs, you can still bring it home to him. 
  • 80-90% of dogs who are exposed to CIV will get sick; the other 10-20% can carry and spread the virus completely undetected.
  • Just like with people, infected dogs can spread the virus before they start showing clinical signs – so you may never know where your dog caught it, and you might unintentionally help the virus spread before you know your dog is sick. 
  • If your dog does become sick with the flu, he can continue to shed the virus for another 10 days, so to help stop the spread, keep your dog isolated during that time.
  • Dogs at greatest risk are those that are immuno-suppressed – including young puppies, seniors, and dogs with medical conditions.
  • While we are used to taking precautions during “flu season,” there is no season for CIV – it can be spread year-round.

 

Most dogs that get sick with the flu feel miserable, but it’s generally fairly mild. You might notice:

 

  • A dry or not-so-dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever up to 104 degrees F
  • Listlessness or lethargy

 

Up to 20% of dogs who catch CIV will have a more serious infection. They might have a high fever (up to 106F) and can develop serious respiratory disease or pneumonia.

 

Just like human flu, there is no cure for CIV. For more serious cases, treatment would include antibiotics for secondary infections, and IV for hydration.

There is a safe and effective “flu shot” available for dogs, and some boarding kennels require that dogs have this immunization before they come in – getting this immunization involves an initial vaccination, followed by a booster 2 to 4 weeks later, then annual boosters after that. This may not prevent your dog from getting sick, but it will mean they don’t get as sick, and won’t be contagious for as long.

You can also help keep your dog healthy by avoiding places you know have had an outbreak, washing toys and bowls in hot, soapy water frequently, and washing your hands and changing your clothes when you’ve been exposed to other dogs.