How Do Puppies Get Canine Influenza?

When you adopt a puppy and become a puppy parent for the first time, you take on a world of responsibilities. One of those is to protect your puppy from anything that could harm it. That’s a massive task, of course, because there are so many things that could potentially cause harm to your precious pup.

For example, toxic plants around your home can cause a world of hurt if your puppy decides to nibble on them. Small objects that fit in their mouth can cause them to choke, just like a small child. Different foods can also be dangerous, including ingredients like the artificial sweetener Xylitol, certain nuts, and chocolate, among others.

Protecting your puppy from these things is a big task but, frankly, not impossible. Removing toxic plants or at least putting them far out of reach is relatively straightforward. Getting rid of anything too small that might cause a choking hazard shouldn’t take you too much time, either. To be honest, keeping them away from food takes a little more vigilance, but it still isn’t impossible.

However, one thing you need to protect your puppy from is more complicated than the rest; diseases and health conditions caused by germs, viruses, and bacteria. Let’s face it; you can’t exactly see a virus if it’s floating around your home or detect a germ on something your puppy might put in its mouth.

That got me thinking the other day how difficult it is to protect a puppy from these tiny things you can’t even see. It also reminded me of a question I get from readers all the time, namely, how do puppies get canine influenza? 

Veterinarians and scientists believe that canine influenza spreads chiefly through tiny droplets of saliva that dogs and puppies produce when they sneeze or cough. These respiratory droplets can linger in the air for some time and, if inhaled, can cause a healthy puppy to become sick. 

If you have a dog or puppy in your household that is coughing or sneezing more than usual or showing other signs that they might have a respiratory problem, quarantining them from your other dogs and pets is essential. Also, anything that was exposed to that puppy should be cleaned thoroughly, including clothing, leashes, dog toys, and of course, your hands. 

Now that you know how puppies get canine influenza, you might have more questions about this critical puppy healthcare subject. Should they get the canine influenza vaccine, for example, and what are the signs and symptoms of canine influenza? I have the answers to those questions and several more below. If you’d like to know more about how to keep your puppy safe-ish from canine influenza, read on. 

What are the Symptoms of Canine Influenza?

In most cases, the symptoms caused by canine influenza will be easy to spot. The thing is, they’re very similar to the symptoms that you’ll see as a human with the flu, signs you’ve likely seen many times throughout your life. They include:

  • A constant cough that gets worse over hours and days.
  • A runny, snotty nose that seems to keep dripping all day long.
  • Fever, which can be overlooked in some puppies.
  • A lack of energy (lethargy) that’s inconsistent with your dog’s daily behavior.
  • Significantly reduced appetite or not wanting to eat at all.
  • A discharge from around their eyes that’s similar to pus but a bit crustier.

If your puppy has any of these symptoms or a combination of several, you must bring them to your local veterinarian as soon as possible. That’s especially true if you have other pets in your home, including dogs and cats. If not treated immediately, canine influenza is highly contagious and can be passed on to them, especially to puppies and dogs.

Should my Puppy get the Canine Influenza Vaccine? 

Before I answer this question, let me first address the pink elephant in the room; Yes, there is an ongoing debate about whether or not dogs should be immunized. Most veterinarians agree that they should, although it’s not a hundred percent. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of vaccinating your puppy, but I will say this; a vaccinated puppy is less likely to get canine influenza and thus less likely to die from it.

Ask for what dog experts and veterinarians recommend; it’s this; if a dog is participating in social activities with other dogs, including going to dog parks, being walked with other dogs, etc., they should be fully vaccinated.  

Communal or social activities pose the highest risk for canine influenza, including dog parks and grooming shops, boarding facilities, and doggie daycare centers. In fact, some daycare centers might require that your puppy or dog be vaccinated before they’re allowed to stay in their facility. 

Can Puppies Die from Canine Influenza?

Unfortunately, yes, a puppy can die from canine influenza. However, the good news is that it’s rare for that to happen. Your puppy would need to have a severe case of canine flu and be left untreated throughout. If that happens and your precious pupper develops pneumonia, the chances of their survival fall precipitously. It’s for this reason that bringing your puppy or dog to the veterinarian as soon as you start noticing symptoms of canine influenza is essential.

How Does Canine Influenza Spread?

It’s important to know that canine influenza is highly contagious and can spread quickly from one puppy to another. Indeed, research shows that over 80% of dogs and puppies exposed to the canine influenza virus will contract it and need treatment.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, tiny droplets of saliva expelled from your puppy’s mouth when they cough or sneeze is the primary method of transmission for canine influenza. If one puppy has the disease and is close to other dogs, it can spread quickly. (The reverse is true, also.)

It’s also essential to decontaminate yourself when moving from an infected puppy to a non-infected puppy. If an infected pup coughs or sneezes on you, and you touch or interact with another, you can easily pass the influenza virus to the new, uninfected puppy.

How Long is a Dog or Puppy Contagious with Canine Influenza? 

Research shows that dogs with canine influenza will be contagious for three to four days prior to showing any symptoms.  Keep in mind that, once their symptoms subside, your puppy will still be contagious for a week to 10 days. 

It’s also important to note that some dogs may have the canine influenza virus but show no symptoms. Unfortunately, infected puppies with no outward signs are some of the biggest canine influenza spreaders.

Final Thoughts 

Puppies get canine influenza in a similar fashion to humans; when they’re exposed to another person or, in this case, puppy that has the disease. When that puppy coughs or sneezes, tiny, nearly invisible droplets containing the disease are passed on to them. That’s why it’s essential that any puppy showing signs of canine influenza be quarantined from other dogs and puppies.

I hope the information in today’s blog has been helpful and given you some real-world data that you can use to protect your puppy and, if they get canine influenza, take the correct action to help them. If you have more questions or want to learn more about being the perfect puppy parent, please see my other blogs on the subject. All are filled with real-world, actionable information and advice you can use to raise a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted dog.