Q: My veterinarian is requiring a flu vaccine for my dog prior to boarding him. I didn’t know dogs could get the flu. What exactly is it? A: Influenza virus in dogs is caused by two variants of the virus: H3N8 and H3N2. In canine patients, influenza causes respiratory disease. Clinical signs can vary between very mild to life threatening. Cough is one of the most common clinical signs. The virus is transmitted between dogs by direct contact, aerosol, and through fomites (objects that come in contact with and infected dog and then come into contact with your dog). Dogs are most likely to encounter infection in areas with multiple other dogs such as boarding/grooming facilities and dog parks. It is important to note that the disease can be contagious to other dogs before clinical signs are apparent.
Q: If I have the flu, can I give it to my dog? Can I catch the flu from other dogs?
A: Canine influenza is not transmissible to humans and human influenza is not transmissible to dogs.
Q: What is involved to get my pet vaccinated for flu?
A: An initial vaccination for both influenza strains is given and then boostered in approximately 3 weeks. The best protection is achieved approximately one week after the second vaccination. After the second vaccination, influenza boosters are given once yearly. If the initial series of vaccination is interrupted or delayed or if the yearly booster is not given at the appropriate intervals, then the entire initial vaccine protocol has to be started over. It is important to understand that influenza vaccination does not completely prevent the disease; rather it significantly diminishes severity of clinical signs. If your pet is around other dogs or travels extensively with you, it is strongly recommended to incorporate influenza vaccination for your pet.