Is Canine Influenza Fatal? Learn how to manage and treat canine flu.

Is Canine Influenza Fatal?

If you've heard about canine influenza, you might be wondering if it's something your dog could get and whether or not it's fatal.

Canine influenza also called dog flu, is highly contagious and can spread quickly among dogs. The virus is most often spread through the air when an infected dog coughs or sneezes. In this article, we'll explain what canine influenza is, how it affects dogs, how to spot symptoms of infection, and when to seek medical attention.

Symptoms include coughing and runny nose that typically lasts a few days to up to two weeks but can last up to six weeks if not properly treated. Other signs of canine influenza may include lethargy, fever, and loss of appetite (especially in puppies).

If your pet has developed flu symptoms after being around other dogs or people who have been exposed to the virus, it's important for you to see a vet as soon as possible because antibiotics for dogs may be required for the effective treatment of this condition.

Dog Flu Symptoms To Look Out For

The signs of canine influenza can vary from mild to severe, but keep in mind that if your dog has the virus, he or she will most likely be feeling pretty miserable.

Get medical attention as soon as possible if you notice any of these symptoms in your pet:

  • Coughing (sometimes with yellowish or greenish mucus)

  • Sneezing (often accompanied by a nasal discharge)

  • Lethargy and depression, loss of appetite, or fever

  • Nasal discharge; may be either clear or greenish/yellow in color

Dog Flu Causes Symptoms Similar To Kennel Cough

There are two types of canine influenza: H3N8 and H3N2. Both are highly contagious, so you should always avoid contact with your dog if he or she has the virus.

Symptoms include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, and fever. Lethargy is also common in dogs infected with the flu virus; some will refuse food or water when sick with canine influenza symptoms. If your dog has been exposed to other dogs infected with the virus and shows any of these symptoms, even if it's mild, you should take him or her to see a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible.

Canine Influenza Can Be Fatal

Canine influenza can be fatal, depending on the strain of the virus and the health of the dog. The H3N2 strain is considered less severe than other strains. Dogs with a compromised immune system or underlying medical conditions are at risk for developing pneumonia, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. 

The best way to protect your pet from canine influenza is by keeping them away from other dogs and avoiding sharing dog chew toys or dog beds with the dogs exposed to this virus. If you're concerned about being around other dogs or need advice on what preventatives you should use for your dog, consult with your veterinarian before taking any action regarding vaccines or pet medications for prevention.

Mild And Severe Canine Influenza

You may have heard that canine influenza is highly contagious and fatal, but that's not the whole story. Both mild and severe cases are possible with canine influenza. Although severe cases can be treated by your vet if diagnosed early enough.

For most dogs, a mild case of canine influenza will require no treatment at home except for keeping their symptoms under control using over-the-counter pet medicines like cold and cough medicines for dogs from the pet pharmacy. However, if you notice any of the following signs in your dog, it's time to take them to see the vet.

  • coughing up blood or green mucus (sputum)

  • difficulty breathing because they cannot expand their lungs fully while inhaling or exhaling

  • fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or more than three days after the onset of flu symptoms (it usually takes two days to develop)


Dog flu can be serious, even deadly. Knowing what to look for and when to get care is important. If your dog shows any of the symptoms we've described here or is acting out of character, take them in to see a vet immediately.

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