Dog Flu Symptoms: How To Recognize Canine Influenza

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Canine influenza is a relatively new virus. Nonetheless, it has got a lot of attention under a short period of time. This article will take a look at the symptoms, treatments and precautions when it comes to this virus.

Dogs, just like people, can get the flu! However, it’s not exactly the same thing.

It can affect any dog, of any age and breed, so it’s important that you’re aware of the symptoms and know how to recognize it.

The question is – how can you tell that your dog has contracted canine influenza?

Dog flu, or canine influenza, is a respiratory disease that many dogs have contracted lately. It’s a very contagious virus, but since it’s relatively new, even experienced dog owners who’ve had dogs in the past haven’t dealt with this kind of virus yet. So, we’ve decided to take a closer look at this particular virus and answer some of the most common questions!

What Are The Symptoms Of CIV?

Unlike human flu, canine influenza virus can range from mild to severe. Additionally, it doesn’t come in seasons but can affect dogs all year long. The symptoms vary a bit from case to case, but the most common ones are:

  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Lethargy
  • Runny eyes
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dog refusing to eat

As mentioned, the syndromes can be mild or severe. When it’s a mild case of influenza, the cough is usually moist with discharge. In these cases, the symptoms will go away on their own after 10 to 30 days.

If your dog has a severe case of flu, it will manifest through high fever and other symptoms mentioned above. They can lead to pneumonia, especially hemorrhagic pneumonia. The dog may also cough blood and have problems breathing.

In some cases, up to 20%, affected dogs don’t show any symptoms. This is especially tricky as they continue to spread the virus, but don’t behave like they’re sick.

Before you continue reading, check out this video that sums up the basic information about canine influenza very well!

Is Dog Flu Serious?

Fortunately, canine influenza isn’t very serious IF diagnosed and treated quickly. However, diseases caused by this virus can be really dangerous and even fatal. Pneumonia is one of the examples of serious diseases dogs can get as a result of severe influenza. Puppies and senior dogs are more prone to severe illnesses, so you should be extra careful if your dog falls down under one of these categories.

How Do Dogs Get Canine Influenza?

The first case of canine influenza virus was noted in Florida, in 2004. Before it had only existed among horses. That year it started among greyhounds and quickly spread to other breeds. This makes it a new virus dogs aren’t immune to, which makes it really contagious.

CIV is spread through the air, just like human flu. Through coughing, barking and sneezing the virus is being spread among dogs who come in contact with each other. The virus can also be spread through contaminated objects, such as water bowls.

As you can imagine, boarding facilities and dog parks are ”great” places for contracting the dog flu. Once again, this is a highly contagious virus so most dogs who are exposed to it will get affected.

How Long Are Infected Dogs Contagious?

It usually takes two to four days from exposure for the dog to contract the virus. Depending on the type of flu, dogs stay contagious up to 26 days. It’s usually recommended to isolate dogs from two to three weeks.

As mentioned, not all dogs show symptoms. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t spread the virus. This is why some apparently fine dogs spread the disease among other dogs, without dog owners being aware of the risk.

Can People Get Affected?

So far no case of people getting the dog flu has been reported. There is no evidence that this is possible. While it’s really easy to contract between dogs, humans seem to be immune. Good news for dog owners taking care of their dogs with the flu!

How Is Dog Flu Diagnosed?

As you’ve maybe noticed, these are not very specific symptoms and are pretty similar to symptoms of other illnesses. So, the vet won’t be able to give a diagnosis based on the symptoms only. This is why a specific antibody test for identifying dog flu exists.

This test is performed in two rounds. The first blood sample is taken when it’s suspected that the dog has canine influenza, and the other one 10-14 days later. Based on the results, the vet will be able to tell if it’s canine influenza you’re dealing with.

If the dog suspected to have the flu is taken in very early on, within 72 hours, the respiratory sections can be tested for presence of the virus.

Can Canine Influenza Be Prevented?

Naturally, canine influenza can’t be completely prevented, but there are certain measures you can take that will reduce the chances of contamination a bit. The following tips are also applicable when you want to protect other dogs from your contaminated dog.

  • If you’re planning to take your dog to a boarding facility or a day care, be sure to inform yourself about the kennel in question. Ask if the kennel cough is a concern, as CIV is one of the causes behind kennel cough
  • Vaccination against canine influenza and kennel cough exists, but it won’t protect completely against the new virus. However, it will probably make it less likely.
  • Dogs with respiratory illness or infection should stay at home for some time. This will give the dog time to recover and prevent transmission to other dogs.
  • If your dog is infected, don’t take him or her to boarding facilities or dog parks. The dog should stay in quarantine as long as it’s needed.
  • Any contaminated clothes or objects should be cleaned and disinfected
  • Don’t let your dog share toys and bowl with other dogs

Before we move on to the next segment, let’s just focus on the vaccine for a while. An approved vaccine against dog flu exists, however it won’t treat the disease, only prevent it to a certain point. Furthermore, dogs who have been vaccinated against it are less likely to spread the virus.

Veterinarians don’t recommend that every dog should be vaccinated, only those who run a higher risk of getting infected. That usually means dogs who spend a lot of time at boarding facilities, in dog parks or somewhere else crowded. Your vet will give you his or her opinion on the matter.

How Is Dog Flu Treated?

Just like human flu, dog flu can’t be cured – it just goes away with time. That said -you should under no circumstances let your dog be around other dogs while recuperating! Dogs with the flu have to be isolated, at least 7 to 10 days after the flu has been diagnosed. In most mild cases the dog shouldn’t be hospitalized but left at home.

The ”treatment” in mild cases is the following: staying in a quiet, calm and safe environment. The only excursion being to go out when necessary. The dog has to stay hydrated by drinking enough water and be fed a healthy diet. Antibiotics are also commonly prescribed, in order to control and prevent other infections. Cough suppressants should only be used if the cough is dry and non-productive, otherwise it serves its function and shouldn’t be stopped.

When it comes to severe cases, it’s usually recommended to hospitalize the animal where intravenous antibiotics and drops are available. If the dog were to develop pneumonia, it will need antibiotics for a couple of weeks and rest for several months.

It’s vital that you consult with your veterinarian who will together with you determine a treatment plan. Every dog is different and the symptoms vary a lot. This is why the treatment plan should be individual for every dog, even though some methods work for several dogs.


Canine influenza is a highly contagious respiratory virus. Over a bit more than 10 years, as long as this virus has existed, a lot of dogs have been diagnosed. Unlike human flu, it’s not a seasonal things and any dog, at any time can be affected.

The symptoms can vary, as the dog might have a mild or severe case of canine influenza. Some of the most common signs are coughing, fever, runny nose, lack of appetite and lethargy. But once again, this can be very different from case to case. In the most severe cases, other disease such as pneumonia can develop from CIV.

Considering the fact the the symptoms are very similar to other disease, it can be quite tricky to diagnose this virus. However, if your dog has been spending time around other dogs with the flu, for instance at boarding facilities and in dog parks, chances are very big that it’s canine influenza you’re dealing with.

Nowadays, there are vaccines against this flu, but you should still keep your dog isolated if it has the flu. Once again, this virus is spreading through the air really quickly and easy, so you can’t be cautious enough.

Finally, it’s very important to take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice any of these signs and you will together determine a treatment plan that will prevent things from getting worse and becoming more complicated than necessary.