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Did You Know That Your Dog Can Get the Flu?

Did you know that there is a form of canine influenza? I didn’t until I was sitting at my Vet’s office where they happened to have a video running about it.

4219333949_aba6b82590_zPhoto Credit: Kaelin

According to the CDC, canine flu probably originated in horses and then spread to dogs. It does not pass from dogs to humans though, so you won’t catch this version from your pet, and he or she won’t catch it from you. However, dogs who routinely are around other canines are at risk. So, for example, if you use doggie day care, or go to the dog park a lot, you will want to be extra concerned. Those who have dogs in kennels or shelters also have to be on a particular watch for it.

Canine flu causes much of the same types of symptoms that it does in humans. Most dogs will recover fine from it, but just as in humans, it can develop into pneumonia and become serious in some. Canine flu can be difficult to firmly diagnose, and it typically is treated with supportive care.

There is also a vaccination for it. I recently wrote about concerns about vaccinating your pet for Lyme disease. There are also concerns over the flu vaccine for dogs. Some vets, such as Dr. Karen Becker, warn that over vaccinating a pet creates a risk of compromising a dog’s immune system. Further, Becker notes that the canine flu vaccine does not protect dogs against infection. Instead it reduces overall viral shedding and may reduce symptoms. So, it isn’t a perfect solution.

The vaccine is actually intended as a lifestyle vaccine for those most at risk, such as dogs that routinely are in close contact with other dogs. For more, see 10 Things You Should Know About the H3N8 Dog Flu. Thus, it isn’t necessarily for everyone.

As with my decision to not vaccinate my dogs against Lyme disease, I also decided not to vaccinate them against canine influenza. While the dogs do at times attend obedience, agility, or noseworks classes, they are not routinely in close contact with other dogs. If you think your dog should have the vaccine, it is best to discuss the pros and cons of it with your veterinarian.

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