It is a fairly common question: Can dogs get the flu? The answer is yes! I was not aware of canine influenza, aka dog flu, until I saw a video about it at my Vet’s office.
According to the CDC, dog flu likely originated in horses before spreading to dogs. It does not pass from dogs to humans, so there is no worry that you can get sick from your pet, and he or she won’t get the flu from you either. However, any dogs that is routinely are around other dogs is at risk for the flu. So, for example, if you go to training classes, dog day care, the dog park, or other areas where dogs are present, you should be more concerned about it than you would be if your dog rarely sees other canines. Anyone who has dogs in kennels or shelters should be particularity on watch for it.
Canine flu causes essentially the same symptoms that it does in humans. While dogs usually will recover fine from it, just as in humans, it can develop into pneumonia and become life threatening. Dog flu can also be difficult to firmly diagnose, and there is not a lot that can be done for it other than treating the symptoms with supportive care.
Photo Credit: Kaelin
AS with humans, there also is a dog flu vaccination. But vaccinations are not without their concerns. Some vets, such as Dr. Karen Becker, warn that over-vaccinating pets create risks of compromising a pet’s immune system. Further, the dog flu vaccine does not completely protect dogs against a flu infection. Instead, it reduces the overall viral shedding and may help reduce the overall symptoms. So, it is far from a perfect solution.
The dog flu vaccine is actually intended for use as a lifestyle vaccine to be given to those most at risk, such as dogs who are routinely in close contact with other dogs. For more, see the article 10 Things You Should Know About the H3N8 Dog Flu. the upshot is that the dog flu vaccine is not necessarily for everyone.
I previously decided to not vaccinate my dogs against Lyme disease because of over vaccination concerns. So, I also decided to not vaccinate my dogs against canine influenza. While my dogs do sometimes attend classes, such as obedience, agility, or noseworks, they are not routinely in close contact with other dogs.
So, can dogs get the flu? Yes, but in the end, if you are concerned that your dog might be at risk for canine flu, it is best to discuss the pros and cons of the dog flu vaccine with your veterinarian.