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Can You Catch the Flu from Your Dog?

Can You Catch the Flu from Your Dog?

Here’s what you need to know about the canine flu virus, including transmission.

In Wes Anderson’s animated film Isle of Dogs, an outbreak of canine influenza rips through the fictional Japanese city of Megasaki. The town’s mayor, fearing the virus will spread to humans, banishes all dogs to Trash Island, a.k.a. Isle of Dogs. The ultra-smart exiled pups, missing the great meals their owners used to provide, eventually find a way to help upend the government conspiracies that forced them out of town.  

This dystopian film is, of course, a work of fiction. In real life, there’s never been a documented case of animal-to-human transmission of a dog flu virus. (They’re named subtype H3N8 and subtype H3N2; each name identifies its antigen.) But it’s important to know that your pooch is vulnerable, and somewhere under 10 percent of infected dogs die of flu-related complications.

Canine influenza is transmitted through droplets that become airborne when a dog breathes, barks or sneezes (cats can catch it from them). Symptoms include cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge and reduced appetite. Your vet’s treatment will include support care to keep your dog hydrated and prevent a secondary bacterial infection.

So make the flu shot an annual healthy habit for your entire family—one kind for people and one for dogs that spend a lot of time around other animals in boarding or day care facilities, parks or dog runs. The vaccine is administered in two doses, three weeks apart—and, like for people, getting it early (September or October) makes sense, but it’s not too late now to help too!

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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