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Canine influenza (or dog flu) is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by an influenza A virus. These are called “canine influenza viruses.” No human infections with canine influenza have ever been reported. There are two strains of influenza A dog flu viruses: one is an H3N8 virus and the other is an H3N2 virus. Canine influenza A(H3N2) viruses are different from seasonal influenza A(H3N2) viruses that spread annually in people.

Symptoms

Two clinical syndromes have been seen in dogs infected with the canine influenza virus—a mild form of the disease and a more severe form that is accompanied by pneumonia. If your dog shows any of these symptoms it is recommended you contact your family veterinarian for care and advice.

Mild form — Dogs suffering with the mild form of canine influenza develop a soft, moist cough that persists for 10 to 30 days. They may also be lethargic and have reduced appetite and a fever. Sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose may also be observed. Some dogs have a dry cough similar to the traditional "kennel cough" caused by Bordetella bronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus complex. Dogs with the mild form of influenza may also have a thick nasal discharge, which is usually caused by a secondary bacterial infection.

Severe form — Dogs with the severe form of canine influenza develop high fevers (104ºF to 106ºF) and have clinical signs of pneumonia, such as increased respiratory rates and effort. Pneumonia may be due to a secondary bacterial infection. 

Diagnosis 

While there is currently no reliable rapid test available to veterinarians for diagnosing canine influenza, tests are available at certain diagnostic labs. For more information, contact your local veterinarian.

Coughing can be caused by many different medical problems, and your veterinarian can examine and evaluate your dog and recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Treatment 

If canine influenza is suspected, treatment will usually focus on maximizing the ability of your dog's immune system to combat the virus. A typical approach might include administration of fluids if your dog is becoming dehydrated and prescribing an antimicrobial if a secondary bacterial infection is suspected. Some dogs have asymptomatic infections (no signs of illness), while some have severe illness with infection. Severe illness is characterized by the onset of pneumonia. Most dogs recover from illness in 2-3 weeks. If you think your pet has canine influenza, keep it away from other pets and contact your veterinarian right away.

Vaccination and Prevention

Take your dog to see your Veterinarian to get vaccinated against canine influenza. There is no vaccination available for cats.

Vaccination against other pathogens causing respiratory disease (such as Bordetella, adenovirus and parainfluenza) may help prevent more common respiratory pathogens from becoming secondary infections in a respiratory tract already compromised by influenza infection.

Additional Resources

More information on canine influenza in pet dogs can be found at the following links: