A Dog Owner’s Guide to Canine Influenza

Canine influenza is a serious risk to pet healthThe arrival of cooler weather also brings the arrival of another less enticing time of year – flu season. While you’re gearing up for sleet and snow, we want to remind dog owners about the dangers of canine influenza (also known as dog flu). Keep reading to learn more about how to protect your pet.

What is Canine Influenza?


Canine influenza is a highly contagious upper respiratory infection caused by two influenza strains: H3N2 and H3N8. The H3N2 virus caused a national uproar when it emerged on the scene in 2015. In fact, hundreds of dogs were affected in the Chicagoland area. Both strains were present in birds before mutating and infecting dogs.

Much like human flu, canine influenza is spread through coughing and sneezing and through contact with contaminated surfaces, such as food and water bowls or chew toys. The disease spreads rapidly in areas where dogs tend to congregate, such as dog parks, doggie daycares, grooming salons, and boarding kennels.

What to Look for


The most common symptoms of canine influenza include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal discharge
  • Pneumonia and other secondary infections (in extreme cases)

Can Cats Get the Flu?


There have been reports of cats becoming infected with canine influenza. If you have both dogs and cats in your home and your dog has been diagnosed with the flu, take all necessary precautions to keep them separated. Thoroughly clean all common areas with a diluted bleach solution or other cleaning product.

The Importance of Vaccination


One of the main reasons the H3N2 strain has infected so many pets is that the virus is relatively new, meaning that any dog who has not been previously exposed (which is the majority of dogs) is highly susceptible to infection. Fortunately, a vaccine for H3N2 was introduced in the fall of 2015. When combined with the H3N8 vaccine (which has been on the market for many years), this is a pet’s best chance at avoiding the illness.

We understand the concern that many owners share when it comes to over-vaccinating their pets. However, while the majority of infected dogs will only exhibit mild to moderate symptoms, more severe illness can develop (especially when it comes to very old or young pets and those with compromised health). Vaccination is the only way to truly protect your pet.

Please contact the team at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates with additional questions about  canine influenza.