Can You Get the Flu From Your Dog?

Sick Dog On Exam Table

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Canine influenza—also known as dog flu—is a growing problem in the United States. In April 2015, an outbreak of dog flu in the Midwest sickened over 1000 dogs. Since then it has spread to other states and continues to concern veterinarians and public health officials.

This is certainly worrisome if you have a canine family member, but is there any threat to the humans in your household if your dog gets sick? Can the flu be passed from dog to person?

Is There Any Risk to Humans?

As of late June 2015, there have been zero cases of the dog flu causing illness in a human. The strain of canine influenza that is currently infecting dogs in the United States was first identified in South Korea in 2007 and has never sickened a human.

At this time, public health officials and the CDC believe the risk of transmission is extremely low but they continue to monitor the outbreaks and the virus to watch for signs of mutation.

Concerns that an influenza virus could mutate to infect humans always exists, as this is how flu pandemics occur. However, all documented flu pandemics in the past have occurred as the result of the mutation of a bird (avian) or pig (swine) flu virus, never from a strain of canine influenza.

What You Should Do If Your Dog Gets Sick

If your dog shows signs of illness, contact your veterinarian. He can help you determine whether or not your pet needs to be seen. The good news is that a majority of dogs that get canine influenza recover. Dogs that get it may experience cough, runny nose, and fever but others may have no symptoms at all. A few will have serious complications like pneumonia and may not survive the illness.

More Facts About the Dog Flu

Two types of influenza A have been found to cause canine influenza—a strain of H3N8, which was originally an equine (horse) influenza and a strain of H3N2, which was initially identified in birds.

You may be familiar with the fact that a strain of H3N2 influenza has also caused a lot of illness in humans in recent years. Although they have the same H and N identifiers, they are not the same strains of the influenza virus—the seasonal human H3N2 influenza virus is genetically different than the canine H3N2 influenza virus.

Unlike human influenza, canine influenza does not occur during a "season." It can infect dogs any time of the year and outbreaks may occur in communities year-round. If you have a dog and have heard of outbreaks of dog flu where you live, use caution when taking your dog places where they could come into contact with other dogs and pay attention to their symptoms if they have been exposed to other animals. There is also evidence that the H3N2 influenza virus may spread to cats.

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Article Sources

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  • "Key Facts About Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)". Influenza (Flu) 22 Apr 15. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health.
  • Preidt, Robert. "Dog Flu Outbreak Unleashes Warnings From Veterinarians". HealthDay 16 Apr 15. MedlinePlus. US National Library of Medicine. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health.