You’re stuck in bed with a fever, runny nose and sore throat, and of course your beloved pet wants to cuddle with you. But as much as you want to cozy up with your furry friend, you can’t help but wonder—can I give my dog the flu? While yes, it is possible to give your dog the flu, the chances of that happening are slim. Human flu and dog flu are subtypes of the same influenza virus and we can’t say with certainty it’ll never happen, but if you avoid super close contact with your dog while you’re sick, your pup will likely be in the clear. The greater risk is your dog catching dog flu from another pup, whether through playdates, dog park scuffles or boarding time at a kennel. Good hygiene at home and manners out in the world, like keeping sick dogs away from other pets, will help diminish the spread of dog flu. Keep reading for everything you need to know about passing on (human) flu, whether you can give your pooch Covid and what to do about dog flu.
Can I Give My Dog the Flu?
A vet and a physician’s assistant weigh in
Meet the Experts:
- Mollie Dwivedi, MS, PA-C, DipACLM, is a physician’s assistant who worked in Family Medicine early on in the pandemic and is passionate about mitigating the effects of COVID-19. After a stint as the Director of Long Covid at Washington University Living Well Center®, she now owns a healthcare consulting business for lifestyle medicine called SEMM: Sleep, Eat & Move Mindfully, LLC.
- Dr. Kristine Smith is the Biologicals and Infectious Disease Medical Lead at Zoetis, a pet wellness company dedicated to researching animal health and developing the best products and processes to keep pets healthy and happy. She is board-certified in zoological medicine and has two decades of experience working with infectious diseases in animals.
Can I Give My Dog the Flu?
It is possible to give your dog the flu, but unlikely. According to Mollie Dwivedi, a physician’s assistant and founder of the lifestyle medicine company SEMM, there have been occasional reports of human flu viruses infecting dogs, but those cases did not lead to serious illness.
Dwivedi says dog flu and seasonal influenza (what we call “the flu” for humans) are different subtypes of the influenza viruses. This means it’s possible that we can infect our dogs—and vice versa, though the dog to human route is even more rare. “There isn’t any evidence that humans have ever been infected with canine influenza viruses,” Dwivedi says. “However, viruses are always changing, and animal to human transmission remains a possibility.”
While giving your dog the human flu may not be common, it’s entirely possible that you could transmit canine influenza to your dog after coming into contact with a sick pup. If you hang out with a friend’s sick dog, arrive home and immediately kiss and cuddle your own dog, you might transmit the illness between the two.
To prevent the spread of dog flu between animals (and people), especially vulnerable ones like elderly pets or dogs with weakened immune systems, Dwivedi recommends careful and compassionate care. “Masks, gloves, avoiding close contact, and good hygiene can help mitigate the spread of viruses,” she says.
What Is Dog Flu?
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dog flu (also known as canine influenza or CIV) is a respiratory disease caused by two separate Type A viruses. (Type A means the virus can infect animals, and its strains are always changing.) The first virus, CIV H3N8, showed up in Florida in 2004. The other, CIV H3N2, was discovered in Asia in 2006.
According to Merck Animal Hospital, in 2007 in the U.S., only Florida and Tennessee reported cases of H3N8 in dogs. By 2014, 36 states confirmed infection from H3N8. The next year, Chicago experienced a huge outbreak of H3N2, the first time this strain was reported in the U.S. Since 2018, 46 states have claimed cases of one or both strains.
Dr. Kristine Smith, the Biologicals and Infectious Disease Medical Lead at Zoetis, says signs of dog flu include coughing, runny noses, watery eyes, sneezing, lethargy, decreased appetite and trouble breathing. CIV is usually more severe than kennel cough, but can affect individual dogs differently.
How Does Dog Flu Spread?
Dog flu can spread quickly. First of all, CIV is not seasonal (aka, your dog can contract it at any time, not just during a polar vortex). All it takes is a sneeze, cough or lick to share germs and transfer CIV. Romps in the dog park, stays at a kennel and sharing toys can all lead to spreading dog flu.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are no known cases of humans contracting either strain of CIV, in 2016 UW-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine reported a group of cats in an Indiana shelter contracted H3N2 after contact with infected dogs. This means dog flu can spread to other pets in the house, which could be a pretty miserable situation.
Though the CIV vaccine isn’t a core vaccine for dogs, meaning most states don’t require it, it could be an option to explore for your pet. Ask your vet if where you live or your dog’s specific health condition warrants a dog flu vaccination.
Can I Give My Dog Covid-19?
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, many pet parents have worried about transmitting this scary new disease to their pets. Dwivedi, the former Director of Long Covid at Washington University Living Well Center®, says it’s possible for humans to spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, to dogs. The CDC agrees, but warns against putting masks on pets.
“Because dogs can be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and we don’t fully understand the effect of the virus on a dog's health, it’s recommended that someone with COVID-19 avoid contact with pets (e.g. petting, kissing, sharing food, etc.) while they are contagious,” Dwivedi says.
The good news is there’s no strong evidence indicating dogs can give humans Covid-19.
The bottom line is the flu virus is sneaky and a sick human could, technically, give the flu or Covid-19 to their dog. It’s highly unlikely your dog can give the flu to you. If someone in your household is sick, play it safe and keep the dog at a distance, just in case. If your dog is sick, let them rest in a comfy bed and check in with your vet. Dog flu can spread quickly and your vet will be able to offer expertise on how to best care for your pup.