Can Dogs Get The Flu Or Bronchitis?

Like humans, dogs can also suffer from respiratory illnesses like the flu and bronchitis. In recent years, outbreaks of canine influenza, also known as dog flu, have spread rapidly among dogs in the United States and other countries. Canine bronchitis is another respiratory disease that causes coughing and breathing difficulty in dogs. While not as contagious as dog flu, bronchitis can make dogs extremely sick. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and prevention of these illnesses is important for any dog owner. This article provides an in-depth look into how dogs can get sick with flu and bronchitis.

What is Canine Influenza (Dog Flu)?

Canine influenza, commonly known as dog flu, is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the canine influenza virus (CIV). It is an influenza A virus that was originally an equine (horse) flu virus. The virus mutated and now spreads between dogs. The canine influenza virus is not contagious to people or other types of animals.

The most common symptoms of canine influenza are cough, runny nose, fever, lethargy, eye discharge, and reduced appetite, though not all infected dogs will show symptoms [1]. Other possible symptoms include sneezing, gagging, breathing difficulties, and rapid weight loss. The severity of symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Canine influenza spreads through direct contact with respiratory discharges from infected dogs, such as coughing, barking, and sneezing. It can also spread by touching contaminated objects. The virus is very contagious and dogs in close contact are most at risk, such as those in kennels, daycare, shelters, dog shows, and parks.

What is Canine Bronchitis?

Canine bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes and lung airways in dogs. It is characterized by a chronic, productive cough with thick mucus. Other symptoms include wheezing, tachypnea (rapid breathing), restlessness, and lethargy. The bronchitis can be acute or chronic in nature.

The main cause of canine bronchitis is irritation from inhaled airborne irritants like dust, cigarette smoke, and allergens. Other causes include infections like canine influenza, kennel cough, parasites, and heartworms.

Bronchitis in dogs usually spreads through the air when a susceptible dog inhales the virus, bacteria, or irritant that causes the condition. Canine bronchitis may also develop secondary to other conditions like heart disease, inhaled foreign objects, or an impaired immune system.[1]

The inflammation from bronchitis causes excess mucus production in the airways. The buildup of thick mucus obstructs normal breathing and causes persistent coughing as the dog tries to clear its airways.


How are Dog Flu and Bronchitis Transmitted?

Both canine influenza and bronchitis spread through contact with respiratory secretions from infected dogs. When a dog coughs, sneezes or breathes, they release respiratory droplets containing the virus into the air. Other dogs can become infected by inhaling these droplets or having direct contact with contaminated surfaces where the droplets have landed. The viruses can also spread through indirect contact, such as sharing toys, bowls, or other objects between infected and healthy dogs (1).

In addition, canine influenza virus can be spread through fomites – objects or materials that are likely to carry infection, such as dog bowls, collars, leashes, toys, bedding, and floors. Dogs housed closely together in shelters, kennels, and veterinary clinics are at especially high risk due to the frequent contact with respiratory secretions and fomites (2).

Proper cleaning and disinfection are crucial to reduce environmental contamination. Both viruses can persist in the environment, especially in low temperature and high humidity. Routine cleaning of shared surfaces and objects with soap or detergent, followed by disinfection, helps minimize the spread (3).

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase a dog’s risk of contracting canine influenza or developing more severe illness from the virus.

According to the CDC, younger dogs (, especially those less than 2 years old, are more susceptible to infection. Older dogs may also be at higher risk for complications. Dogs with other underlying medical conditions, such as respiratory disease, immunosuppression, or heart disease, may also experience more severe symptoms if infected.

Dogs that are frequently exposed to other dogs are at greater risk. Settings like kennels, dog daycares, shelters, breeding facilities, and dog shows provide more opportunity for transmission through direct contact with respiratory secretions. Dogs that live in multi-dog households are also at increased risk ( Proper vaccination and limiting interactions with unknown dogs can help reduce risk.


To diagnose canine influenza or bronchitis, veterinarians will start with a physical exam and medical history. They will check for symptoms like coughing, nasal discharge, fever, and lethargy. Bloodwork may be done to check white blood cell counts, which are often elevated with these respiratory infections.

Specific diagnostic tests can confirm canine influenza virus or bacteria that cause bronchitis. To diagnose dog flu, vets can use polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on nasal or pharyngeal swabs to detect viral DNA. Samples should be collected within the first few days of illness while the virus is active. Serology blood tests can also detect antibodies to the canine influenza virus. For bronchitis, bacterial cultures can identify organisms like Bordetella. Chest x-rays may show patterns characteristic of pneumonia.

Since the symptoms are similar, diagnostic testing is needed to differentiate between canine influenza virus and infectious bronchitis. Without lab tests, vets cannot definitively diagnose the cause based on clinical signs alone [1].


Treatment for canine influenza and bronchitis focuses on providing supportive care to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.

For dog flu, treatment usually involves:

  • Rest – This gives the dog’s immune system the best chance to fight off the virus. Activity should be restricted during illness.
  • Hydration – Providing extra fluids helps counteract fever and keeps mucous membranes moist.
  • Medications – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like meloxicam are given to reduce fever and discomfort. Antibiotics may be used if a secondary bacterial infection occurs.
  • Antivirals like oseltamivir may help speed recovery, but research is limited on their efficacy for canine influenza.

Treatment for canine bronchitis is similar and may also involve:

  • Cough suppressants to control coughing fits.
  • Bronchodilators to open airways.
  • Nebulization with saline to loosen mucus.

Severely affected dogs may need oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids. Hospitalization provides access to supportive care until the infection runs its course.(1)


The best way to prevent canine influenza and bronchitis is through vaccination. There are vaccines available for both H3N8 and H3N2 strains of canine influenza. Though not 100% effective, vaccination helps reduce the severity and duration of illness if a dog becomes infected. Vaccination is recommended for dogs at high risk of exposure such as those who frequent dog parks, competitions, boarding facilities, etc.

Practicing good hygiene and limiting exposure can also help prevent transmission. Owners should wash hands and change clothes after contact with potentially infected dogs. Dogs who are coughing or showing signs of illness should be kept at home and away from other dogs. Facilities and shelters should isolate sick dogs, clean thoroughly, and monitor remaining dogs for symptoms.

Since influenza and bronchitis spread through the air, limiting contact with respiratory secretions can reduce spread. Covering sneezes and coughs, avoiding face-to-face interaction with sick dogs, and not sharing food/water bowls, toys, or bedding can help. Proper ventilation of indoor areas is also recommended.

According to the AVMA, “Canine influenza: Veterinary resources,” quarantines may be necessary after potential exposure:

Outlook and Complications

Most dogs recover from canine influenza within 2-3 weeks, though some may develop secondary bacterial infections that lead to more severe illness and pneumonia (CDC). The overall mortality rate is low, with estimates ranging from 1-5% of infected dogs dying from the disease (AVMA, AKC).

Dogs at higher risk for complications and slower recovery times include young puppies, older dogs, and dogs with underlying health conditions. Complications can include pneumonia, respiratory failure, and in rare cases, death. With prompt veterinary care, most dogs fully recover without permanent lung damage or long-term effects.

Preventing the spread through vaccination and limiting exposure during outbreaks gives individual dogs the best chance of avoiding this highly contagious respiratory infection. While the mortality rate is low, dog owners should monitor their pet’s symptoms and follow up with a veterinarian to reduce the risk of severe illness.

Key Takeaways

Canine influenza and bronchitis are respiratory illnesses that affect dogs. While the flu is caused by a virus and bronchitis can be infectious or noninfectious, they share similar symptoms like coughing, fever, and lethargy.

These illnesses are highly contagious between dogs and prevention is key. Getting your dog vaccinated, avoiding areas with sick dogs, and practicing good hygiene can reduce risk. Proper veterinary diagnosis and care is also critical, as complications like pneumonia are possible.

The main takeaways are:

  • Canine flu and bronchitis have similar symptoms but different causes.
  • Both are very contagious respiratory diseases between dogs.
  • Prevention through vaccination, hygiene, and avoiding sick dogs is important.
  • Early veterinary diagnosis and treatment is key to reducing complications.
  • With proper care, most dogs recover fully within a few weeks.

Understanding these respiratory illnesses in dogs, how they spread, and their treatment will help keep your canine companion healthy.

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