Dog Flu: The Importance of Vaccinating Your Pets

Did you know dogs can get the flu, too? Yes, just like their owners, dogs can contract influenza causing similar symptoms. Canine influenza is a relatively new virus, having only developed in the last 12 years. But it’s becoming a growing concern.

These days most pet diseases are prevented with vaccination and it’s easy to take the wonder of immunity for granted. Basically, immunity can be summed up with one word: “prevention”. From a veterinarian’s perspective, it is always easier to prevent a disease rather than treat it. Vaccines stimulate your pet’s own immune system to make antibodies which provide long term protection from various infectious diseases. These are usually in the form of an injection, though some nasal alternatives are now available.

vet-vaccination

Our pets start their vaccination programs early on (usually at around 7 weeks of age) to prevent a number of diseases, and these vaccines work very well.

Commonly recommended canine vaccines include: rabies, distemper, parvo, Hepatitis, bordetella, leptospirosis, dog flu, Lyme, and parainfluenza.

If you’re skeptical about how pets contract diseases and viruses, it’s surprisingly easy. Domestic pets are social creatures for the most part. Dogs often come into direct contact with other canines when they visit dog parks or doggie day cares, and we all know they enjoy a good sniff (in some very choice places) during their daily walks where sick dogs may have visited. With all this potential contact, there are countless opportunities for viruses to be transmitted from one animal to the next. Throw in the interactions at boarding, grooming and at the vet’s office and it’s virtually impossible for pet owners to prevent their dogs coming into contact with germs.

canine-flu-virus

Unfortunately, there are some extremely unpleasant bugs out there. Which brings us back to prevention – as opposed to treatment. It’s far more beneficial to have a population of vaccinated animals. You’d hate for your beloved pet to get sick unnecessarily, wouldn’t you?

2015’s outbreak of the newest strain of canine influenza, H3N2 demonstrated just how quickly viruses can spread. Thousands of animals contracted CIV H3N2 dog flu in the Midwest during the original outbreak, and less than one year, this new flu strain was confirmed over half the country.  Since this is a relatively new pathogen, most dogs are susceptible to infection because they have no natural or vaccine-induced immunity when first exposed to the virus.

What is Canine Influenza?

Canine influenza – or dog flu – is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by an influenza A virus. Here in the US, canine influenza has been caused by two strains classified as H3N8 and H3N2. H3N8 was first discovered in 2004 in the US.

The infection is spread through the germs released while coughing, barking and sneezing, or through contact with any contaminated objects – including hands, clothes and any surface dogs come into contact with. The virus can remain alive on these surfaces or clothing or hands for several hours.

To add to the complexity, dogs are most contagious during the 2-4 day incubation period, but exhibit no symptoms during this time. So exactly how and where your dog caught the virus could prove difficult to determine.

What are the Symptoms?

Canine influenza is fairly nasty (though not life-threatening), with around 80% of infected dogs showing symptoms. These include coughing, sneezing, lethargy and loss of appetite. Infected dogs may present with one of two different syndromes:

Mild – The more common of the two, with symptoms including coughing and nasal discharge, usually lasting several weeks.

Severe – Infected dogs will have a high fever with symptoms developing very quickly. At worst, these include intense coughing, weakness, lethargy, and trouble with breathing. In rare cases, pneumonia can develop too.

Which Vaccine is used to Prevent Canine Influenza?

A very popular vaccine used to tackle dog flu is called Nobivac Canine Flu Bivalent®. Adverse reactions to the Nobivac vaccine are very rare and it provides excellent protection. Nobivac Canine Flu Bivalent® is unique because it’s the only vaccine currently available which provides comprehensive protection against both strains of the flu virus (CIV H3N2 and H3N8).

canine-vaccination

How Often Should Dogs be Vaccinated?

  • Puppies (from 7 weeks of age) receive 2 doses of Nobivac Canine Flu Bivalent®, separated by 2-4 weeks
  • Booster shots (single dose) should be performed on a yearly basis thereafter

What Next?

As already mentioned, prevention is the best course of action. If your dog isn’t protected against canine influenza, it is best to consult with your vet as soon as possible to discuss option. Social pets, like those that visit doggie day cares, boarding facilities, and dog parks are at most risk of infectious disease.

How Activ4Pets Can Help

Keeping track of pet vaccinations can be a headache, especially trying to remember when they’re due. You don’t want to lose track or miss a shot, so Activ4Pets provides members with a comprehensive veterinary record including all vaccinations and the date they were given. Our Medical Team also collect and populate this information on our platform (included in the price), giving you instant access via phone or computer. Our tool also allows you to set up reminders so you’ll never miss a health appointment again!

Since many boarding, grooming and daycare facilities require evidence your dog’s Nobivac vaccination is up-to-date, Activ4Pets also relieves the hassle of paperwork. All the information is stored digitally – a couple of taps of the A4P app is all it takes to get PDF records when dropping your fur baby off.

Membership starts at just $24 per year which covers up to 4 pets and you can get started by visiting our signup page.


Meet the Author

Clayton-Jones-DVM

Dr. Clayton Jones

Dr. Jones has 25 years of veterinary medical experience as a staff veterinarian and medical director of his own practice. As well as being the Chief Veterinary Medical Officer for Activ4Pets, Dr. Jones is also a member of the American Veterinary Medical Society and President of the US-Cuba Veterinary Cooperation Society.

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