HOW TO Treat Your Dog’s Canine Influenza

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Canine InfluenzaIt comes every year without fail, like the changing of the seasons. But did you know that your dog can catch the flu too? Here’s what you need to know about canine influenza.

According to, “The dog flu is a common yet serious health issue with a variety of symptoms that are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for your pet. Out of all the dog illnesses, dog flu compromises the dog immune system the most.”

Be aware that the dog flu is very contagious and can easily be passed from one dog in your household to another. reports, “It is often mistaken for infections caused by kennel cough (Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex). The virus may appear similar to kennel cough, which is a highly contagious inflammation of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchial tree caused by a contagious virus (adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, canine distemper virus) or bacterium (Bordetella bronchiseptica). However, with most cases of kennel cough, a mild to moderate cough without other symptoms is usually self-limiting; however, occasional cases become lingering and cause chronic bronchitis. With this new virus, the cough is often associated with high temperatures, coughs and nasal discharge.”

What Can Cause Canine Influenza?

The virus that causes dog flu is called Influenza Type A (H3N8) and was first identified in Florida in 2004. It primarily infects the respiratory system and is extremely contagious. explains, “A vaccine was granted full license by the United States Department of Agriculture in 2009 (Nobivac® Canine Flu H3N8). Some dogs can be exposed to the virus and fight off infection without showing clinical signs.”

What are the Symptoms of Canine Influenza?

According to, dogs that are infected with the canine influenza virus may develop two different syndromes:

  •  Mild – These dogs will have a cough that is typically moist and can have nasal discharge. Occasionally, it will be more of a dry cough. In most cases, the symptoms will last 10 to 30 days and usually will go away on their own.
  • Severe – Generally, these dogs have a high fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and develop signs very quickly. Pneumonia, specifically hemorrhagic pneumonia, can develop. The influenza virus affects the capillaries in the lungs, so the dog may cough up blood and have trouble breathing if there is bleeding into the alveoli (air sacs). Patients may also be infected with bacterial pneumonia, which can further complicate the situation. and list the general signs of these syndromes as follows:

  • Coughing
  • Blocked sinuses
  • Sneezing
  • Anorexia
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Red and/or runny eyes and runny nose may be seen in some dogs.
  • Yellow or green thick discharge from the nose (sinus infection)

“Symptoms develop within two to five days after exposure. Most infected dogs recover within two to three weeks. Dog flu can progress into pneumonia if not treated or if the immune system is too weak to fight off the infections,” adds.

How is Canine Influenza Diagnosed?Canine influenza

You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. explains, “Besides a physical, the veterinarian will want to perform a complete blood count and clinical chemistry on the dog. Usually, increases are seen in the white blood cells, specifically the neutrophils, a white blood cell that is destructive to microorganisms. X-rays (radiographs) can be taken of the dog’s lungs to characterize the type of pneumonia. Another diagnostic tool called a bronchoscope can be used to see the trachea and larger bronchi. Cell samples can also be collected by conducting a bronchial wash or a bronchoalveolar lavage. These samples will typically have large amounts of neutrophils and may contain bacteria.”

How is Canine Influenza Treated?

According to

  • The mild form is usually treated with cough suppressants. Antibiotics may be used if there is a secondary bacterial infection. Rest and isolation from other dogs is also important.
  • The severe form needs to be treated aggressively with a broad spectrum of antibiotics, fluids and other general support treatments. Hospitalization and isolation are necessary until the dog is stable.

“Therapy is controversial because in the early stages, it is difficult to determine if this virus is the new virus or kennel cough virus. Most infected dogs will recover with no treatment. A small percentage of dogs will develop severe and possibly fatal pneumonia. It has been recommended that all dogs with a fever and cough should have appropriate blood tests submitted and treated aggressively to minimize fatalities,” adds.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Developing Canine Influenza?

The best prevention is to minimize exposure to other pets, especially in high-density situations such as kennels, doggie parks or puppy class during the flu season.

According to, “There is currently a vaccination available for canine influenza. The benefits of this vaccine are similar to the benefits of other ‘flu’ vaccines – including human vaccines.  The vaccine is intended to help control virus infection and spread. The vaccine may not totally prevent infection in all dogs. What it will do is reduce the severity of disease, reduce the duration of clinical illness and reduce lung damage. The vaccine has also been shown to reduce the amounts of virus shed and the duration of virus shedding.”

You may also want to give your dog a daily multivitamin that can help to boost his immune system.

PHOTOS: Pacdog, Sterlic

Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

Do you have a question about Canine Influenza? Submit it to i Love Dogs’ Ask a Vet here.

Next week: HOW TO Treat Your Dog’s Gingivitis

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Kara Ogushi

Contributing writer Kara Ogushi is a pet mom to two dogs and five rabbits. When she isn't writing travel tips for pooches, she's exploring new ways to share and create media.

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