Canine Influenza Virus (Dog Flu)



Therapy is controversial because in the early stages, it is difficult to determine if this virus is the new virus or kennel cough virus. Most infected dogs will recover with no treatment. A small percentage of dogs will develop severe and possibly fatal pneumonia. It has been recommended that all dogs with a fever and cough should have appropriate blood tests submitted and treated aggressively to minimize fatalities. Treatment may include the following:

  • Antibiotics are used in some patients, especially if a secondary bacterial infection is likely.
  • Intravenous fluid therapy has been used and associated with improvement and less fatalities in affected pets.
  • Antiviral drugs such as amantidine and tamiflu may be effective, however, their usefulness in this syndrome may be limited as they are most effective if given before infection or exposure or in the very early stages of infection.
  • Cough suppressants may be appropriate for some pets. Your veterinarian can discuss the pros and cons of this treatment. Injections or pills (butorphanol) are often used, but occasionally, a stronger medicine is needed (codeine-related) to break the cough cycle. Don’t use over-the-counter human medicine without first speaking to your veterinarian.
  • Dogs should be kept in isolation if treated in the hospital and very good disinfection measures need to be used.

    For more information on Home Care and Prevention go to:Canine Influenza Virus (Dog Flu).


    Home Care

    If your dog is infected, to prevent the spread of the virus, keep your dog away from other dogs for at least one week. In addition, do the following:

  • Limit exercise and enforce periods of rest; don’t exercise or play with your dog. Activity often initiates periods of loud, uncomfortable coughing.
  • Encourage adequate fluid intake to maintain hydration. Provide soft food if dry food irritates the throat.
  • If your dog normally wears a restraint collar, remove it or replace it with a harness to decrease airway irritation.
  • Avoid environmental stresses including house dust, vapors, chemical fumes and tobacco smoke.
  • To mobilize secretions and reduce coughing, provide humidified air (e.g. a vaporizer in the dog’s room or in a steamy bathroom for one or two hours).
  • Preventative Care

    There is currently a vaccination available for canine influenza. The benefits of this vaccine are similar to the benefits of other “flu” vaccines – including human vaccines.

    The vaccine is intended to help control virus infection and spread. The vaccine may not totally prevent infection in all dogs. What it will do is reduce the severity of disease, reduce the duration of clinical illness, and reduce lung damage. The vaccine has also been shown to reduce the amounts of virus shed and the duration of virus shedding.

    Vaccinated dogs develop less severe illness and are less likely to spread the virus to other dogs.

    The vaccine is recommended for dogs “at risk”. Dogs that frequently interact with other dogs, participate in activities with other dogs or are boarded are considered at risk and can benefit from vaccination.

    Dogs that benefit from the kennel cough vaccine (Bordetella/parainfluenza) vaccine will also benefit from the canine influenza vaccine.

    To prevent infection, minimize exposure to other pets, especially in high-density situations such as kennels, doggie parks, or puppy class. May sure your pet is kept away from any symptomatic coughing dog. Take special care if your dog is a puppy or older as they are at higher risk for difficult infections.

    The virus is spread in the air by infected dogs, through contamination of objects in the environment and by people that may interact with infected and uninfected dogs.

    The virus is killed by routine disinfectants such as quaternary ammoniums or a 10% bleach solution. Thorough cleaning of crates, cages, bowls, bedding, floors and other surfaces is recommended to prevent transmission to other dogs. Clothing, equipment, surfaces, and hands should be cleaned and disinfected after exposure to dogs showing signs of respiratory disease to prevent transmission of infection to susceptible dogs. People interacting with infected dogs are advised to wash their hands well before and after interacting with infected dogs. Clothing can be effectively cleaned by using a typical laundry detergent at normal washing temperatures.

    Because the virus is spread in the air, avoid being around dogs that are coughing is the best prevention at this time.

    If your pet begins coughing, call your veterinarian immediately to discuss recommendations for care.


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