The Massachusetts Division of Animal Health is reporting  a cluster of canine influenza (K-9 flu) in Essex County in the northeastern part of the state. Officials are advising the public to consult with their veterinarian if their pet stays in a kennel.

Public domain dog drawing
Public domain dog drawing

“Right now it’s just a few cases of canine influenza but we’re alerting owners to talk to their veterinarians, especially if their pet stays in kennels or doggie daycare or is otherwise prone to illness,” said Krista Selmi, the agency’s spokeswoman. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dog flu is a contagious respiratory disease in dogs caused by a specific Type A influenza virus referred to as a “canine influenza virus.” This is a disease of dogs, not of humans.

The symptoms of this illness in dogs are cough, runny nose and fever, however, a small proportion of dogs can develop severe disease. It is rarely fatal. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.

Formerly a horse flu,  “canine influenza virus” is an influenza A H3N8 influenza virus. The CDC notes, The H3N8 equine influenza virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. Scientists believe that this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has now adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread efficiently among dogs. This is now considered a new dog-specific lineage of H3N8. In September of 2005, this virus was identified by experts as “a newly emerging pathogen in the dog population” in the United States.