March 22, 2021 5 min read


Canine influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory disease that affects dogs. It's caused by a virus called Influenza A and kills about 20% of the dogs that get it. It is mostly spread through direct contact with infected dogs, but can also be spread from room to room, and by touching dogs or their toys.


In dogs, the virus causes vomiting and diarrhea. It also causes kidney failure, sometimes leading to death. Because of the high risk of death, you should avoid being in the same room as your own pet.

Serious cases of the virus often lead to quite severe cases. The more severe the case, the less inflammation in the body and the less chance of a successful vaccine response.

Symptoms tend to appear one or two days after exposure to the virus. Most symptoms may become apparent within 10–14 days of being infected, but sometimes (depending on different factors, such as age, weather) it may take longer.

The dog seems well, but may scratch or cough. The pet is also unable to go outside or interact with other dogs, and they may also seem very ill. They may seem cold.

In most cases, the dog is dehydrated, and lethargic (like a drunk) for the first two to three days after the severe infection.

Dog-to-dog transmission is the primary way in which canine influenza is spread. Signs of canine influenza can be seen as early as four days before the onset of symptoms, and symptoms can appear as early as 24 to 48 hours after the initial exposure.

People can therefore avoid potentially spreading the virus by being vigilant about their dogs, vaccinating them, washing their hands frequently, and avoiding splash play in parks (the transmission method that causes the highest volume of infections). If you suspect your dog might have been exposed to the virus, contact your local or county health department. The best way to determine if your dog has been exposed is to test for the virus using a fast, sensitive, and specific method, such as a skin or mucous membrane sample.

If you believe your pet might have COVID, see a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Because it takes the right amount of time for the body to rid itself of the virus, it’s important to abstain from strenuous physical activity during the course of the infection.


In order to prevent your dog getting dog flu, you need to make sure that he has a vaccination. It’s recommended that you vaccinate your dog every year, so if you haven’t done so in that time, then it’s about time you did. Every dog needs to be vaccinated against distemper if dog flu is to be prevented.


What to do if you think your dog has been exposed to the virus.

If your dog has been exposed to the virus it's important that you assess the risk to your dog, if at all possible. If you're not sure if your dog has been exposed to the virus, the best thing to do is to take your dog to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Deciding who should stay home, and who should not, often rests on the judgement of small children, and as a consequence, the competence of health and safety personnel. Make sure you’re giving the people who are going to have the responsibility and decision-making power, the information that is required of them. The emotional and physical needs of a sick pet can sometimes scare even the most experienced and savvy pet parents. This is an incredibly difficult time, not necessarily for your dog, but also for you.

The best thing to do to reassure your partner, and yourself, is to take control of your dog’s wellbeing.

The first and most important thing to consider is who your dog will live with for the next few days and how you and your partner will both act if the dog develops any illness. The decision to keep or throw your pet to someone else, is a decision that involves a great deal of emotional and, yes, physical strength.

If you want to keep your dog, you need to understand the ways in which your feelings towards her will change when she is sick. An under-nourished, sick dog is far from your ideal pet, and it’s not easy to make that decision. When you keep your dog, you’re taking on the emotional and physical responsibility for someone who is not your own, for a period of time.

When your veterinarian tells you that your dog needs to be put somewhere, the decision is nearly always going to be stressful; most people are not prepared for that.


How long does it take for a dog to recover from canine influenza?

The time your dog takes to recover from canine influenza depends on how sick your dog gets. If your dog is only mildly sick, you can expect her to recover within 5 days. If your dog is sicker, your dog may take longer, sometimes weeks to recover.

Experts recommend keeping your dog home while it’s contagious. Your dog’s owner should keep her pet on a short leash, while you remain near your pet. Your should immediately isolate your pet and then restrict social contact (especially four-legged contact) with other people for the duration of the outbreak. Pet owners should also ensure their living areas are isolated from other households with pets and from people who come into contact with the virus. In general, pet owners should avoid going out in general. Each individual case is different, but CDC recommends limiting your dog’s exposure while everyone in your household is quarantining. This highly contagious virus has no symptoms and does not seem to cause serious health issues. However, some pet owners have experienced coughs that were so severe their pets developed flu-like symptoms. Get vaccinated now if you have a sick or fearful pet. The vaccine is highly effective and can be given as soon as the day you present with your pet if you have access to one.

Take care of the animals indoors and away from others. If you take your pet outside, keep him or her on a short leash. If possible, keep your pet cooped up inside until the virus passes. If your dog has Covid-19, you’ll probably start to notice symptoms within a few days. About 20 percent of dogs and cats that get sick with Covid-19 develop more serious complications.

We get one vaccine if we catch the disease in time. Then we wait. It’s going to take a long time before we’re able to return to all “normal” lives.

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