With recent cases of canine influenza virus (CIV) confirmed in the U.S. and Canada, many pet owners may be worried about whether their pet’s runny nose indicates a possible case of CIV, and their concerns are certainly well-founded. As a highly contagious virus much like the human influenza virus, the number of reported and identified CIV cases is likely lower than actual cases, as many dogs showing flu symptoms are not tested for the virus.
The good news to share with clients is that CIV is typically not fatal for healthy dogs and is rare for cats. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no human cases of canine influenza have ever been reported.
The bad news is that CIV can cause pneumonia and other serious health complications for senior dogs, puppies and dogs with underlying health problems. Brachycephalic breeds (dogs with short noses and flat faces like Pugs, French Bulldogs and Lhasa Apsos) are also at higher risk of developing complications.

Is a pet’s runny nose a possible sign of CIV?

Yes. The signs of CIV are similar to those of the flu in humans, and include:

  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Eye discharge
  • Reduced appetite

Can CIV be prevented?

There are approved CIV vaccines available in the U.S. and Canada for dogs, administered in two doses about 2-4 weeks apart. Just like the human “flu shot,” CIV vaccination is not a guarantee that dogs will not become ill. Yet approved CIV vaccines help reduce the risk and severity of illness.

How do veterinarians treat CIV?

Treatment may include cough suppressants, and antibiotics may be used if secondary infection like pneumonia develops.

Vaccination should be considered if:

  • Pet owners are traveling with their pet to areas where CIV has been reported.
  • Pets are in contact with other dogs at obedience classes, doggy daycare, kennels, dog shows and other places where other dogs will be gathered.
  • Pets are in a high-risk group (brachycephalic, elderly, very young or with underlying health problems).

If pet owners suspect their pet may have a case of CIV, they are encouraged to contact their veterinarian right away and let the clinic know that they suspect CIV. This will enable veterinary teams to take precautions in order to help prevent the spread of CIV to other pets.

Help pet owners learn more about CIV by using ClientEd, LifeLearn’s online library of pet health articles specifically designed for effective client education and improved compliance.