When you've got what you think might be the flu, you might be tempted to grab a blanket and some medicine and curl up in bed with your dog until you're feeling better. Unfortunately, if you do that, your dog may be the next household member that gets down sick. If you think you may have caught the flu, this is what you should know (for both you and your dog).

How common is the flu?

If you live in the U.S., you stand a 5%-20% chance of getting the flu during any given year. Depending on the particular strain that you have, you can be contagious to other humans from about the day before you actually feel sick yourself through the next 10 days (even if you feel better). 

How can your dog get it from you?

Science has known for a while that people can catch the flu from animals, in a process known as zoonosis. Increasing evidence, however, also indicates that "reverse zoonosis" can cause your dog to get the flu from you. That can be as dangerous to your dog as it is to you–possibly more so.

Why is the flu dangerous?

Most people who get the flu suffer from fevers, chills, coughing spells, body aches, headaches, and fatigue. However, some people will develop complications. Complications can range from the sort of thing that can make you miserable, like sinus infections, to the kind that can be life-threatening, like pneumonia. 

Dogs can suffer symptoms that are very similar to that of humans. A dog with the flu will typically suffer from lethargy, a cough, a runny nose, and a fever (which is anything over 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Just like humans, once a dog has a bacterial or viral infection, he or she can develop complications that can be serious. 

If you suspect that your dog has the flu, you need to watch carefully to see if there is any sign that it is turning into a sinus infection or pneumonia. If your dog has a discharge from his or her nose that's full of mucus, that's a good sign that a sinus infection has developed. If your dog seems to have labored breathing, he or she may have developed pneumonia.

What can you do to protect your dog from the flu?

The best thing that you can do to protect your dog from catching the flu from you is to take a few extra precautions:

  • Don't let your dog snuggle next to you in bed
  • Don't give your dog any of your food
  • Make sure that you try to avoid coughing or sneezing on your dog
  • Make sure that you throw away used tissues where your dog can't get to them

If your dog does start to show signs that he or she has caught the flu from you, such as a fever or labored breathing, take him or her to the nearest pet hospital, such as All Care Pet Hospital of Harbour Point, or see your vet. It may be necessary to get some antibiotics or other medication to help ease your dog's symptoms until the illness passes.