What to Do If Your Dog Gets the Flu

The canine influenza virus (CIV) is a relatively new virus and is part of the canine infectious respiratory disease complex, also known as ‘kennel cough.’

Although the H3N8 label might make you think of the human H1N1 swine flu virus, there’s no relationship between the two.

H3N8 was initially an influenza virus occurring in horses. The equine virus mutated and can now be transmitted among dogs as well.

The canine influenza virus is unrelated to any known human virus, and it is not a zoonotic disease, meaning your dog can’t pass it on to human family members.

Canine Influenza Transmission and Symptoms

According to Dr. Cynda Crawford, clinical assistant professor in the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine inGainesville, and one of two people who discovered the existence of H3N8:

Virtually all dogs exposed to the canine influenza virus become infected; about 80 percent develop a flu-like illness, while another 20 percent do not become ill. Fortunately, most dogs recover within two weeks without any further health complications. However, some dogs progress to pneumonia, which is usually due to secondary bacterial infections.

H3N8 CIV is highly contagious and is associated with overcrowded conditions like those found in some shelters, kennels and dog racing facilities.

Stressful environments are also closely linked to outbreaks of CIV.

The infection can also be spread from one dog to another by human hands, clothing, bowls, toys, tools – any method of transmission that can pick up the virus from one dog and deliver it to another.

Symptoms include an acute onset of coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, fever and lethargy. Symptoms typically last a week or two.

Infected dogs will shed the virus for about seven days, with peak shedding during the first two to four days of infection but before onset of symptoms. This makes it difficult to isolate your dog during the time when the infection is most likely to be transmitted to other dogs. But as soon as acute symptoms appear, you should keep your pet away from other dogs to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Also use proper sanitation (wash hands, disinfect tools and surfaces) after handling a sick dog to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus between dogs.

CIV Vaccines

Just say no!

Too many vaccines, in particular non-core vaccines like those for CIV, can wreak havoc on your dog’s immune system, actually compromising its ability to protect your pet from pathogens like the H3N8 virus.

Unfortunately, many vets jump on the ‘latest and greatest vaccine’ bandwagon, making every recently created vaccine a part of their required protocol.

The only vaccine required by law is the rabies vaccine. If a particular veterinary clinic tells you any other vaccine is ‘required,’ they are citing their own business policy – not state law. If any pet-related enterprise (vet practice, groomer, boarding kennel, etc.) has vaccine requirements you don’t agree with, you’re under no obligation to do business with them. You’re free to take your pet elsewhere, which is certainly what I would do rather than submit my dog or cat to unnecessary, potentially toxic vaccines.

Also, an H3N8 vaccine doesn’t protect your dog against infection – it only reduces viral shedding and may lessen the severity and duration of symptoms.

It is unlikely most family dogs will be in a situation to contract CIV, but even if your pet does acquire the virus, chances are she’ll recover quite nicely without medical intervention, thanks to a healthy immune system.

If your dog’s symptoms seem to be getting worse, make an appointment with your vet for an exam. Because influenza symptoms are similar to those of other viral and bacterial pathogens common in canine infectious respiratory disease complex, in order to make a definitive diagnosis your vet will need to test for either viral shedding or the existence of serum antibodies.

Natural Remedies for CIV

The best remedy for canine influenza is, of course, prevention.

If your dog is exposed to the influenza virus, I recommend you ask your holistic vet about homeopathic nosodes and remedies for symptom relief.

Also inquire about natural immune boosters like turmeric, oregano and fresh garlic, as well as useful herbs and essential oils to support the immune system.


  1. Shelli says on  03/01/2012 at 8:17 am

    Love your page & website … so glad I found you! Thanks for the great info & keep up the good works you’re doing. Oh, and more cute puppy pictures! MORE I tell you!

  2. You forgot to mention whilst they can “recover” in two weeks they can “carry” it for another three months thus infect others this is why it’s so prevalent in kennels.

  3. Michelle says on  03/01/2012 at 8:19 am

    I just get my dogs vaccinated for it once a yr. it’s not that expensive

  4. Deb says on  03/01/2012 at 8:20 am

    Love Dr. Karen Becker!!! A non core vaccine like CIV is a good way to cause vaccinosis in your pet, leading to seizures and autoimmune complications.

  5. Mary says on  03/01/2012 at 8:21 am

    this was great info up until she recommended homeopathy, which has no scientific evidence for being useful whatsoever — I’ll pay attention to flu risk, but mostly, that hurt her credibility.

  6. Hilary says on  03/01/2012 at 8:23 am

    like all flu vax they dont prevent just lessen the symptoms and duration your pet can still get the flu

  7. Lorie says on  03/01/2012 at 8:28 am

    I agree Debbie, dogs and cats are being over vaccinated no doubt.

  8. Wendy says on  03/01/2012 at 8:30 am

    Mary just because you don’t believe in homeopathy, doesn’t mean it isn’t an option. As for flu shots, I’ve always thought they were unnecessary, they only cover whatever strain the vax is for in an illness that can have several different strains. My husband and I do not get vaxed for it, and neither will our dogs.

  9. My vet said mostly city dogs would need the vaccine if at all. My vet doesN’t push vaccines and thinks it’s unethical to do so.

  10. Linda says on  03/01/2012 at 8:33 am

    It’s important to know about the emergence of a new canine flu virus labeled by the CDC as H3N8. Several cases have been seen in southern states, including here in Oklahoma. This strain is deadly and is NOT prevented by current available vaxx. It requires aggressive vet treatment for survival. Please educate yourselves on this new threat to our canine companions!

  11. Poor babies, You know they feel yuckky, just like we do when we get the flu, they just can’t tell us..

  12. I work at a vet clinic and in order to board u much have vaccinated. The next town over had a few positive cases.

  13. Paula says on  03/01/2012 at 9:02 am

    My dogs’ regular innoculations include that agaisnt keenel coug for some years now. Is there a new virus ? :(

  14. Grethel says on  03/01/2012 at 9:02 am

    tnx for sharing

  15. Hilary says on  03/01/2012 at 9:13 am

    I worked in kennels for years when ever we got an out break i would brew up vegemite honey and crushed garlic with hot water and pour it over there food seemed to ease there symptoms and helped a quicker recovery

  16. I have get my dog Vaccin against it

  17. We started giving our dogs vaccinations for this last Spring at the suggestion of our vet.

  18. Lynne says on  03/01/2012 at 10:35 am

    Thank you Dr. Becker for telling the truth about vaccinations. They are one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated on the public.
    And for those questioning the effectiveness of homeopathy, Cuban officials chose homeopathic nosodes over vaccination to prevent a Leptospirosis outbreak. This is just one report about it:

  19. Remember to vaccinate against distemper, too….Simple less than $4 vaccine (if given at home) can save lives <3

  20. Lynn says on  03/01/2012 at 11:01 am

    To each there own you have to become knowledgable in order to make informed decisions on your pets behalf but knowledge IS power its all in interpretation after that

  21. I heard about this around Christmas and heard that you could get two shots for about $25 over 2 wks. and then they should be protected. Moses got the flu shot.

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