Even though flu season is almost over for us humans (hooray!), canine influenza, or dog flu, season lasts all year. The flu in dogs is a relatively new disease and the most recent strain (the H3N2 strain) has proven to be quite nasty and resilient. Typically, we refer to outbreaks of disease as an epidemic. With an epidemic, we see the incidence flare up and then fade away. This is how the previous strain of dog flu behaved (the H3N8 strain). What is alarming about the new H3N2 canine influenza strain is how it has behaved more as an endemic outbreak. Endemic means it flares up and continues flaring up and appearing in different areas around the country.
All dogs are at risk for H3N2 dog flu once they come into contact with it. Thus, social dogs are at a much higher risk than those that never leave home. Additionally, humans could potentially carry it home to our dogs. The risk should not be taken lightly as H3N2 has proven to be fairly deadly in a small percentage of dogs. If your dog boards at a facility, goes in for grooming, participates in doggie day care, or spends time at dog parks, then you should consider protecting them from canine influenza by vaccination.
Like the human flu vaccine, this vaccine may change from year to year and there could be times that a vaccine is not recommended. One example of this would be if a new strain appears and we don’t have a vaccine specifically for it. Currently, since the H3N2 strain is by far the most prevalent strain showing up across the US, this is the only strain we are recommending that you protect your dog against.
Surprisingly, this strain of ‘canine influenza’ can even spread to cats, but there is no vaccination for felines yet.
You can depend on us for current and sensible recommendations regarding vaccinations for dog flu and all vaccines -taking into account the lifestyle, current health, and risk factors for each individual pet.
Be careful with your pets and vaccinate your dogs if you feel they may come into contact with this nasty bug!