Dog Flu Spreading in California and Across the Country: 2018 Year of the Dog Flu


Surveillance for dog flu or canine influenza virus (CIV) is a tricky thing. While there is no CDC for pets, there are 12 agencies cooperating to positively identify CIV and note which strain it happens to be, although H3N2 is the most common.

We do know there is an outbreak currently in San Jose and surrounding cities in California. H3N2 CIV is also occurring in San Francisco, San Francisco South Bay, and the Silicon Valley.

However, California is hardly alone:

According to the Chinese Calendar, this Chinese New Year (beginning February 16) will be the Year of the Dog. Could 2018 also be the year of the dog flu? The virus does seem to be hop-scotching the country faster and with more impact than ever before. Most states have experienced some dog flu.

The partners tracking dog flu are doing it right (check out the list of these partners below). The problem is that most clients don’t test their dogs for flu, and no one can count dogs who haven’t been tested.

Here’s why most dogs are never tested: A sneezing, sick dog arrives at the clinic. Veterinarians increasingly know how to identify dog flu and differentiate it from other upper respiratory viruses, though the treatment is quite similar. Not all pet owners want to wait for lab results to come back before treating, or pay for those tests when the treatment is about identical no matter what the results happen to be.

So, there’s much more CIV than official numbers report. But, is it ten times more? Five times more? Twice as much? No one knows that answer.

While most dogs recover nicely from the flu, some suffer a great deal and may require hospitalization. Some—up to 5 percent—will even succumb to the virus. That means that if 1,000 dogs are sick, about 20-50 of those dogs will die. It’s a small percentage, but it doesn’t feel small if your dog is one of the unlucky ones. And those unlucky ones aren’t only older dogs with other health issues.

The families of dogs with flu suffer, too. There is often a deep cough that lasts a few weeks, which can keep everyone up at night.

A bivalent vaccine that covers both the H3N2 and H3N8 versions of the virus is available from your veterinarian. The problem is most pet owners, and even veterinarians, don’t talk about vaccination until an outbreak hits their town, and by that time the virus has already begun to spread to hundreds (if not thousands) of dogs. Vaccination, or the absolute and total avoidance of other dogs (and people who interact with dogs, since the virus can live on our shoes or clothing for a time) are the only known ways to avoid the highly contagious virus.

Meanwhile, dog flu continues to spread, now wreaking havoc throughout much of California.

CIV Surveillance Network Partners:

  • Antech Diagnostics (national)
  • Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center
  • Idexx Reference Laboratories (national)
  • Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Pop. and Animal Health
  • Ohio State Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab
  • Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System
  • South Dakota Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory
  • University of Georgia Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
  • University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory
  • Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Learn more about the canine influenza virus here.