Canine Influenza Vaccine: What You Need to Know

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Did you know your dog can get the flu, too? Canine influenza is relatively new — the first strain was reported in 2004 in racing greyhounds and was spread from horses to dogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A second strain developed in the United States in 2015 and is thought to have originated with birds. So far, dog flu has been reported in forty-six states. Only North Dakota, Nebraska, Alaska and Hawaii have had no reports of dog flu, reports Merck Animal Health.

A dog with the flu can feel as miserable as you when you're under the weather. Canine flu symptoms include sneezing, fever and discharge from your poor pooch's eyes or nose. Your dog might also develop a cough that could last as long as a month. While your dog can get very sick from the flu, the chances of death are low.

Fortunately, canines and humans cannot spread the flu to each other. Unfortunately, dogs can spread it among each other easily. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends dogs that have the flu be isolated from other dogs for four weeks.

Vets inspecting brown dachshund on table.

Dog Flu Treatment & Prevention: Vaccines for At-Risk Dogs

Vaccines are available that help protect against canine influenza strains. The vaccine works by preventing an infection in most cases or reducing the severity and duration of the illness, according to the AVMA.

Unlike a rabies and parvovirus vaccine, for instance, the vaccine against canine flu is considered a "lifestyle" or "non-core" vaccine. It's only recommended by the CDC in cases where dogs are socially active, meaning if they travel frequently, board with other dogs, attend dog shows or frequent dog parks.

The vaccination is recommended for dogs that are socially active because the virus is spread through direct contact, or through nasal secretions (which can happen when a dog is barking, coughing, or sneezing), and from contaminated surfaces (including food and water bowls and leashes). A person who is in contact with an infected dog may unintentionally expose another dog by spreading the virus through contact.

"Dogs that may benefit from canine influenza vaccination include those that receive the kennel cough (Bordetella/parainfluenza) vaccine, because the risk groups are similar," according to an AVMA report. Merck Animal Health, which created the USDA-approved vaccine Nobivac Canine Flu Bivalent, reports 25% of pet care facilities now require dogs to have the canine flu vaccine.

The Animal Hospital of North Asheville explains that the vaccine is administered in a series of two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart in the first year, and then requires an annual booster shot. It can be given to dogs 7 weeks of age and older.

Think your dog should get vaccinated against canine flu? Your first step is to consult your veterinarian to determine your dog's risk of exposure to the canine influenza virus and to determine if a vaccination against canine flu is the right choice for your four-legged family member. Also, with any vaccine, make sure to continue to monitor your dog after receiving the vaccine to ensure there are no adverse affects that should be reported to the vet.


Kara Murphy