Can Dogs Get Colds? #1 Guide to Dog Flu Symptoms, Treatments, & More

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can dogs get the flu, dog with high feverFeeling listless, congested and sniffly is that horrible experience we get when coming down with the flu. It’s not much different from the dog flu!

Yes, you read that right, the dog flu is very similar to that of human influenza! Canine influenza is a respiratory illness, presenting as flu-like symptoms in infected dogs.

But don’t be worried, the dog flu isn’t too complicated to treat! Here we can go through the ins and outs of the dog flu virus.

Do Dogs Get Colds? Can Dogs Get Colds?

Definitely! Sometimes the reason your dog is moping around and wanting to sleep all day isn’t that he’s sad or tired – he could have a cold – or worse, the flu!

Like humans, our furry friends get over colds just the same. Time and rest and fluids. However, when the flu is involved, it’s a whole different story.

Can Dogs Get the Flu: What is the Dog Flu?

It may be a surprise, but yes, dogs can get the flu. It is very similar, both in pathological terms and presenting symptoms, to human influenza!

Caused by a flu virus, this respiratory illness can become a big problem if left untreated! With the rapid spread and forever changing viral components, this virus can be a struggle for veterinarians to treat.

There have been several outbreaks of different strains of the canine influenza virus, with a mortality rate of about 10%. Heres a quick summary of the dog flu outbreak from the last couple of years!

Dog Flu 2017

There are currently two strains of dog flu identified in California alone. This highly contagious disease started in just one state, but by 2017 both pathogenic strains, the H3N8 and H3N2, were found in almost all states. If not both strains, every state across America has at least one form of the virus!

Dog Flu 2018

In 2018 was the first time in years the dog flu had such a significant outbreak. Affecting both dogs and even healthy cats! In 2018, dogs with symptoms of the influenza virus turned up everywhere, from California to Washington and even Canada!

Can Dogs Catch a Cold? Types of Canine Influenza!

Canine influenza, or better known as dog flu, is an extremely contagious viral infection, affecting dogs and sometimes cats too! The dog flu is a type A influenza virus, further identified by two specific proteins making up the outer lipid layer. The two different strains currently identified in the US is H3N8 and H3N2.

Although they are both types A influenza viruses, the two strains have different surface proteins to each other. This is significant because different strains mean a new treatment is needed to combat the infection.

Canine influenza has the ability to quickly develop new strains of the virus aiding its impeccable resistance in the environment. The H3N8 strain was the first dog flu detected in America, with its first outbreak in 2004.

Since its initial outbreak in Florida, H3N8 has been seen in almost every state across the US. It’s thought that this strain developed from the equine influenza virus H3N8 and jumped from horses to dogs!

puppy with dog pneumonia

The second strain, H3N2, was found much later on in the state of Chicago. Since the outbreak in 2015, the H3N2 strain has made its way to most states across America. Before the US, it was seen in Asia and likely made its way over through the direct transfer of avian influenza virus!

What surprises most about this strain is that it can infect cats too! But how doe this virus actually infect these poor little animals? Let’s find out!

Dog Illness: How Does the Dog Flu Virus Make Dogs Sick!

As of any flu, it affects the respiratory tract and lungs! No dogs are safe, almost all dogs are susceptible to the canine influenza virus, both strains. The virus spreads by respiratory droplets shed by infected individuals. If these droplets land on any exposed surface of another dog.

The virus moves into the blood vessels where it begins replicating in the endothelial cells. This sudden replication of the virus causes lesions to occur in the blood vessel walls.

The virus causes impaired fibrinogen deposition, preventing the healing of the lesion. This allows the virus to escape the circulatory system and move into other tissues.

Once in the lung epithelium, the virus causes an immune response cell a cytokine storm. This causes a cascade of inflammation, pain and excess mucus produced inside the lung tissue!

Flu Contagious: What Causes Flu in Dogs!

So what causes this nasty bug?! Well as mentioned above, its a highly contagious virus which travels in respiratory droplets of infected dogs. The chance of this contact-to-contact transmission occurring is greatly increased when dogs are in a housing such as kennels or daycare.

Sick dogs need to be shedding the virus in their lung epithelium before this can occur. Coughing, sneezing and even drinking provides a route for infection! Not only in kennels but also dog parks the vet can be ideal places for this virus to thrive.

The lesions in the lungs caused by the virus may not be the sole contributor to the clinical signs. Because there is a depressed immune system seen in most infected dogs, it leaves a lot of room for secondary bacterial infections.

The excess mucus and high fever experienced by most dogs with dog flu virus provide a perfect environment for nasty bacterial infections! This can make the sick dogs even worse, and in some cases cause severe respiratory illness.

vet checking Pomeranian for dog flu vaccine

What About Pneumonia in Dogs! Is this Different From Dog Flu?

Broadly speaking, pneumonia is a respiratory disease where lung tissue becomes inflamed and typically filled with pus. This can be caused by a variety of mechanisms but mostly by bacterial or viral infections. Canine influenza virus can certainly cause pneumonia, though it is rarely seen.

The dog flu is known for a high morbidity but a low mortality in dogs. This means dogs that are infected will usually show signs, though not very many become severely sick.

Pneumonia would be considered and a severe progression. If the sicks dogs do develop pneumonia, it can cause what’s known as a kennel cough. Both canine influenza and a number of other infections can cause pneumonia!

Incubation Period for Flu in Dogs! What Could this Mean for Fiddo?

This is where we learn why the dog flu virus is so highly contagious! The incubation period is the period between infection of the virus and when the first signs begin to show. For canine influenza virus, the incubation period is 2-4 days.

This means if your four-legged mate becomes infected, you probably won’t know until a couple days later. We start seeing abnormal amounts of coughing and sneezing. However, before these signs start to pop up, the virus is already contagious!

This means dogs begin spreading the virus before we even know they have the virus. This makes it very hard to control and keep quarantine of infected animals!

Because most dogs start shedding the virus during the incubation period, it is best to keep fiddo away from any sort of influenza outbreak!

Symptoms of Dog Flu

dog sleepy as one of the dog flu symptoms

Now that we know the transmission of the virus, we best know the signs! The canine flu will show two forms of disease formed by the virus. The first is the milder form, and the second can cause very severe clinical signs.

The milder form of the disease shows symptoms very similar to that of a kennel cough. These include a chesty cough, a runny nose, and high fever. In most dogs, this will last around 2-3 weeks and resolve itself. However, other early symptoms include:

  • a loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • greenish nasal discharge

These are probably the first signs of the dog flu you will see in you Fiddo!

Most cases will resolve after a couple of weeks with no real harm caused to the animal. Though there are some cases where the disease does resolve and progresses to become much worse! This is the more severe form of the disease and fortunately is rarer.

However, it is worth a mention because of the severity! If the milder form doesn’t resolve, we start to see signs of pneumonia and potentially more serious diseases like heart disease and even some types of cancers.

These sick dogs will start showing signs more typical of these diseases such as trouble breathing, chills, and intolerance to exercise. And with high fever comes seizures! But by this stage, these dogs should seek immediate veterinary attention!

How Long Does the Flu Last?

There is a window by which most cases of the dog flu will pass, however, there is variation and some can last for months! If a dog is infected with the dog flu virus and suffers the milder form, clinical signs should only appear for 2-3 weeks.

However, if your dog doesn’t recover from the canine influenza virus, the prolonged depression of the immune system increases the chances of a secondary bacterial infection. Secondary bacterial infections can cause all sorts of problems, from the likes of a gut infection or further respiratory illness.

This is how pneumonia comes about! If your canine develops pneumonia, the road to recovery could be months or even years! Luckily, the majority of dogs will recover from the virus within 3 weeks and the flu-like symptoms disappear.

How Does My Veterinarian Know?

Unfortunately, we can not be sure its the canine influenza virus solely based on the clinical signs. This is because a cough, nasal discharge and loss of appetite also resemble the signs of other respiratory diseases. This is why googling symptoms will not help! Instead, take your dog to the vet where they can run a specific test.

black frenchie with pneumonia in dogs

This test detects the specific viral components present in the body and can rule in or out canine influenza virus. The test kits include viral isolation, immunoassays, PCR, and serology.

Although they are all trust-worthy tests, the most reliable of them all would be the PCR. Regardless of the test, it is guaranteed your vet will have a better idea of diagnoses, so take your coughing canine in as soon as possible!

Dog Flu and Dog Colds Treatment

Well now that we can tell if our dog has the flu or not, how do we treat it? Treatment isn’t actually too complicated! With the very mild cases of dog flu, your vet may just encourage you to rest and monitor your four-legged friend from home.

If your dog has a severe cough, veterinary medicine may be prescribed to help suppress and relieve a cough as well as antiviral drugs. Also, if there is a secondary bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to slow progression.

How Long Does It Take for a Sick Puppy Get Over the Flu?

Puppies get sick too! Unfortunately, because it’s quite a new virus, there is no immune resistance in the dog world. This means almost every puppy exposed to the virus, will likely become infected and get sick! To make it worse, the dog flu doesn’t just come about in flu season! Your puppy can become infected anywhere and at any time, so be sure to stay aware of the clinical signs.

The Dog Flu Vaccine! Prevent that Dog Runny Nose

Surprisingly, the canine influenza virus can quite easily be controlled and prevented! The virus itself can last several days in the environment, so simple disinfectant protocols in kennels as such work fine.

If you’re wanting to prevent your pooch from catching it regardless of where he goes, there is a vaccine! The vaccine available is effective against both the H3H8 and H3N2 strain.

Although it can not guarantee your canine won’t become infected, it can decrease the severity of the sickness. Most veterinarians would recommend influenza vaccine for your dog, as it can also reduce the chances of initial infection too!

can dogs get colds, tired sick dog on bed

Is Your Pooch Showing Dog Flu Symptoms? It May Be Time to Take Them to the Vet

The last thing you want is to leave it too late! The further along the disease progresses the harder it becomes to treat. As soon as you start seeing abnormal coughing or nasal discharge, your best bet is to get your dog to the vet. The vet can then decide what is best for your dogs’ health and offer helpful veterinary medicine!

Now that you have a better understanding of the dog flu, there should be no excuse! Get the dog flu vaccine, and as soon as you start seeing any signs of a kennel cough or respiratory illness, take him to the vet! It may not seem so urgent now, but better safe than sorry.


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