The flu isn’t just for humans. Dogs can catch the flu from other dogs, and, similar to the human flu, is highly contagious.
According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, dog flu—or canine influenza—is spreading throughout the country, including in California. According to a San Francisco Chronicle article in January, one pet hospital in the Bay Area had more than 50 cases in two weeks.
Canine flu can spread through direct contact, barking, coughing, and sneezing, as well as through contaminated objects, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Symptoms of dog flu are coughing, sneezing, fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite; most dogs can recover within two to three weeks. Some infected dogs show no symptoms, while others have severe symptoms, which can lead to pneumonia and even death. According to the AVMA, less than 10 percent of canine flu cases are fatal.
To reduce the spread of the canine infection, keep your sick dog isolated from other dogs. Keep your hands clean to reduce the spread of germs, and sanitize what your dog comes in contact with, such as pillows, blankets, and toys.
A vaccine for canine flu is available. Check with your veterinarian to see whether you should consider immunizing your dog. Remember to always check the status of your veterinarian’s license by going to the Veterinary Medical Board website at www.vmb.ca.gov.
To date, there is no evidence that dog flu viruses transmit to humans. However, similar to human flu viruses, those that affect dogs are constantly evolving, so they could alter in ways to infect humans as well.