Canine Flu Vaccine: Does Your Dog Need It?

Sneezing, dry cough, runny eyes, and nose… could your dog have canine flu, or is it just the sniffles? If it is the flu, is there something you could have done to prevent it? As loving pet parents, we all want what’s best for our fur babies. Here’s some vital information to help you decide if your dog needs the canine flu vaccine.

What are the symptoms of canine flu?

Back in January of 2004, the first strain of canine influenza in the US was found at a Florida greyhound track. A second strain was identified in Chicago in 2015. Since then, cases have been reported throughout the US and Canada. Common symptoms of canine flu are very similar to those found in humans, including:

  • Fever
  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Dry cough
  • Sneezing

Is your dog at risk?

Although there have been cases of the canine flu throughout the US, it really isn’t all that widespread. Most dogs will probably never even come in contact with the virus. Of those who do come in contact with the canine influenza virus, about 80% will actually contract it. The mortality rate is extremely low, and dogs who get critically ill are typically the ones who already have health issues.

There are currently about 90 million dogs in the US. Since 2015, only 2434 cases of canine flu H3N2 have been positively identified. That means that dogs in the US have a 0.0027044% chance of getting the flu. Obviously, the risk is very low for the vast majority of dogs.

Should you vaccinate?

Only you can decide whether or not your dog should be vaccinated for the flu. If your dog participates in activities that expose him to other dogs, such as boarding at a kennel or going to the dog park, he might be at higher risk. If your dog is old, or has an illness, he may have a harder time recovering from the flu if he gets it.

How is the flu treated in dogs?

Just like with humans, treating a dog with the flu is mainly supportive. The flu is a viral infection, not bacterial, so antibiotics are not helpful. Fluids are crucial for preventing dehydration. A healthy diet and lots of rest are also important, and your vet will have additional recommendations for keeping your dog comfortable. For most dogs, the flu will run its course in about two or three weeks.

And, as with any virus, disinfect anything your pet has come in contact with carefully. It’s important to remember that this virus can live on clothing for 24 hours, hands for 12, and surfaces for 48. Prevent the spread of the virus by not exposing other animals.