Dogs can get the flu too!

Alicia Farmer
January 13, 2018

This year's flu season is going to be bad.

How much of a threat is canine influenza to humans?

It's flu season, and two strains of canine influenza are sweeping the country, now making their way up California.

He may have dog flu.

The symptoms of dog influenza are similar to those seen in humans.

"Sometimes the signs can be hard to notice - they seem more exhausted than usual, less of an appetite, what we think of as a regular flu in a person - coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge", said Dr. Mariana Turner, who works at Wags & Whiskers. There have also been several outbreaks in the US, but Canada has never seen any cases until now.

How serious is dog flu? And Can It Spread to Humans?

There are two strains going around California - H3N8 and H3N2 - and there are almost 50 confirmed or suspected cases as far north as the bay area.

But like the flu, it could cause complications for older dogs or canines with existing health problems.

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It's not just humans that can get the flu - your dog can too.

Of course, that doesn't mean it's biologically impossible.

As mentioned, it doesn't appear that humans can contract dog flu.

Dr. Carotenuto said she has treated a dog with influenza. In fact, the CDC claims that the H3N8 subtype jumped from horses to dogs in 2004, and the H3N2 subtype jumped from birds to dogs in 2007. When that happens, the viruses can swap genes, a process known as genetic reassortment.

A paper published in 2014 in the journal Archives of Virology found that dogs in China showed immunological signs of having been infected by the human influenza viruses that caused the seasonal flu and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

What is canine influenza and how did it get to Canada?

Humans can also spread the virus by touching a dog or item contaminated with the virus and then transferring that to other dogs, says Weese, which is why it's so important for dog owners to wash their hands after with a sick animal.

Canine influenza can't infect humans, but it can be unsafe for dogs and might even lead to death, with a mortality rate of 10 percent, if not treated, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Weese advises that, if you're out and see a dog that's coughing and looks sick, keep your dog away from that animal. That would be a concern, says Weese, because it would create a novel virus that humans had no immunity to.

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