With all of the talk about viruses these days, many pet owners wonder can dogs get flu? Current studies show that dogs and cats do not transmit COVID-19, but pets can get colds and flu. These bugs are generally mild or moderate. Some can become life-threatening when untreated or in immunocompromised dogs. 

Because we often get questions about dogs and flu at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital, we decided to devote this blog to explaining the types of flu that dogs can get.

Can Dogs Get Flu and Colds?

Many pet owners wonder if they can give their pet their seasonal cold, or vice-versa. In rare cases, the transmission of viruses between dogs and humans has occurred, but it is rare. That is because the strains that affect our pet companions are different from the kinds that plague us each winter. Bacteria and infections are also species-specific, so you can give your fuzzy one a cuddle, even if you have the sniffles.

Unfortunately, the types of flu that dogs can get are highly contagious to other dogs. Thankfully there are vaccines to protect your dog from some of these strains. There are a few common types and strains of flu that dogs get, so let’s explore the ones most often seen in our dog friends.

Kennel Cough

Bordetella or “kennel cough” is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the bacterium, Bordetella bronchiseptica m–. Dogs contract this illness when they inhale the particles of the bacteria/virus during contact with infected dogs. When a dog has kennel cough their coughing has a distinct honking sound. This is because the virus affects the lining of the respiratory tract, lodging particles in the lining. This causes irritation and the telltale cough.

Symptoms of kennel cough include: 

  • Forceful, honking cough
  • Sneezing
  • Eye discharge
  • Runny nose
  • Decreased appetite
  • Tiredness

Canine Influenza

Canine influenza or dog flu is similar to the types of flu we get, with the actual strains varying between species. Dog flu is an upper respiratory illness that an infected dog transmits to unvaccinated dogs. There are two strains of canine influenza that affect dogs, H3N8 and H3N2.

H3N8 was first diagnosed in 2004 when the virus spread to a group of greyhounds housed next to infected horses. The equine strain mutated and was able to infect the dogs. Previously, it was only seen in hooved animals. From there, the virus quickly adapted to dogs and spread throughout the United States. It was most prevalent in shelters and places that house dogs in small quarters.

H3N2 was an avian flu that spread to dogs in Asia. From there, the first case in the United States occurred in Chicago in 2015. Like the arrival of H3N8, the virus spread rapidly between dogs who had not yet been exposed to this new strain. That included any unvaccinated dog. 

As with kennel cough, dogs with these flu strains exhibit symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, loss of appetite, eye discharge, and lethargy. Unlike kennel cough, many dogs acquire fevers which can run high, causing dehydration and other health concerns. This is why dog owners should closely monitor their pets if they contract the virus.

To date, we have developed a vaccine for both strains of canine influenza. Please ask us about it at your next visit if you have any concerns. 

What Types of Flu Can Dogs Get?

The best approaches to preventing the spread of these illnesses are vaccines and minimizing contact with potentially infected dogs. If you would like more information on the question of can dogs get flu, please contact our team.