What to Know About Dog Flu and How to Cure It

You may be surprised to learn that your dog can catch the dog flu. As a matter of fact, dog flu is on the rise. This highly contagious disease for dogs is airborne, which means that it is spread through coughing and sneezing from dog to dog.

Canine influenza, dog flu, can make your pup very ill and can be dangerous for them.  Recognizing the signs of influenza in your dog, taking steps to prevent it and knowing the steps to take to cure it can be all life saving for your dog.

What Is It?

Canine influenza, or dog flu, is like human flu, it is a virus. It is spread from dog to dog through airborne saliva and other body fluids.  Like human flu, there is no cure, but there are treatments that can reduce the discomfort of the symptoms for your dog.

How Dangerous is It?

Dog flu can be very dangerous for your dog. In most cases, it passes through their system without too many complications but in some cases, it can cause pneumonia, dehydration and other complications. If your dog is exposed to the flu, there is a 100% chance that they will catch it.  This virus can live on objects for 2 days, so it is a relatively easy to spread virus.

One of the best ways to treat the dog flu is to take steps to prevent the spread to your dog.  Here are some tips to help you to keep the dog flu from getting to your dog:

  • When visiting with other dogs, be sure to wash your hands well before you touch your dog
  • Dog flu can also live on clothing so if you have been around a dog that is sick, you should change your clothing when you get home
  • If you have more than one dog and one gets sick, isolate the dog that is sick to keep it from spreading
  • This virus can easily spread from dog to dog, so if you notice that your neighbor’s dog is ill keep your dog away

sad dog

Recognizing the Signs

Unfortunately, no matter how much we love our fur babies, we can sometimes miss the signs that something is wrong until something is very wrong. There are some signs you might detect that can help you to get a jump start on treatment for your dog.

  • Frequent sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Dry nose to the touch
  • Seems tired a lot
  • Refuses food
  • Is drinking more than usual

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Dogs react to the flu just like humans do. They will be sneezing more, coughing, look like they are feeling down.  Their nose may feel dried out. In some cases, the symptoms are accompanied by an upset stomach with vomiting and diarrhea.

The poor pup may start refusing food and drink more.  It can be hard to miss the signs since about 20% of dogs never show symptoms.


What You Can Do

The fact of the matter is that there is no medication that can kill the flu virus but there are steps that you can take that will help your dog feel more comfortable. Of course, your vet can prescribe medication if necessary to battle secondary bacterial infections.

Many times, when your dog catches the canine flu the virus will weaken their immune system to the point where other secondary infections can show up and cause bigger problems, a vet can identify any other issues and treat for those with medication. In the meantime, there are steps that you can take to prevent those dreaded secondary infections.

Consider what the rules are for humans when you get sick and you can easily apply those rules to your pet. Here are some things you can do to make the flu less of an issue for your pet and to help make them feel more comfortable:

  1. Help your pup to rest. Create an environment that is calm and soothing for your fur baby to ensure that they can rest. Set up a space that is quiet and comfortable.
  2. Provide plenty to drink. A little chicken broth cut with some water can be a great treat for your sick pooch and rehydrating, but be sure that you cut the chicken broth with 50/50 water mix because you do not want to overload them on sodium.
  3. Never give acetaminophen. It can be tempting to give your dog Tylenol and other fever reducing over the counter medications, but DO NOT, it can be highly toxic. A baby aspirin can be given safely to reduce fever.
  4. Keep your dog away from other dogs. If you suspect that your dog is sick, keep them home. Do not send them to the doggy day care if you use one and don’t bring them to the dog park. it is best to keep them away from other animals until they are feeling better.
  5. Let them be the judge. If your pup is not in the mood to eat much that is okay. Let them be the guide as to how much they want to eat, if they are drinking enough fluids they will be fine for a couple of days, but if they refuse to eat beyond a 48-hour period, it is best to get to the vet.
  6. Take them to the vet! If your dog become lethargic. If after 48 hours your pup is still not showing improvement you want to take them to the vet. As a matter of fact, if within the first 24 hours they refuse to get up, go out to the bathroom or really seem out of it, take them to the vet. It is always better to be on the safe side.


Canine flu is very survivable for most dogs but there are some groups of dogs that it can pose a real risk to and it is important to keep that in mind when deciding about seeking professional care:

  • Elderly dogs
  • Dogs that have pre-existing medical conditions
  • Very young dogs (puppies)

Just like humans get through bouts of the flu, your dog can too, but if you feel stressed or nervous about it, take your dog to the vet!