Maryland Dog Magazine: Dog Flu Shots

Ask the Vet by Dr. Cheryl Burke

“I recently heard about several dogs dying in Montgomery County of dog flu. Should I get a flu shot for my dog?”

Submitted by: Worried in Canton DEAR WORRIED, I think that this is an important and timely question. There is not a black and white answer but here are some things to think about. The age, health status and lifestyle of your dog are important considerations in this decision. The last thing anyone wants to do is over vaccinate a pet—second only to the desire to not have our pet get an active influenza pneumonia. Your veterinarian is key in helping you make this decision and you should definitely have this conversation with them. Canine Influenza Medical Basics: Canine Influenza is an H3N3 flu virus; causing upper respiratory signs like nasal discharge, eye drainage, fever, coughing, pneumonia and even death. The risk of death is 5% or less. It is highly contagious and spreads through droplets and contact items. Dogs can shed virus for 2 days before they ever cough making quarantine nearly useless in preventing spread in a household or kennel. A sick dog can battle a cough for a month making working and competitive dogs ineligible to work. The aged, dogs with underlying health and breathing problems and dogs who work are at greatest risk for infection with canine influenza. Similarly dogs who have been in a shelter or live in households that foster dogs are at substantial risk for illness. Vaccination Facts: Like human flu shots, protection is not 100%. Some patients can still contract the virus and can experience clinical illness but to a much lesser degree than their unvaccinated counterparts. Dogs immunized with the current influenza vaccines can briefly shed the infectious virus if they are exposed to influenza; although one vaccine company has reduced that shed time to less than 1/2 day. The initial series is 2 injections 2 weeks apart. Dogs have some protection 10-14 days after the second injection. Lastly, this is a personal decision. My own dogs are vaccinated because they are active hunting dogs and the disease is more problematic than the inconvenience of a vet visit and 2 injections. Best of luck to you and your companion!

Dr. Cheryl Burke, DVM, CCRP is the proud owner of Paradise Animal Hospital for the past 22 years, practicing companion animal medicine and canine rehabilitation in her hometown community. To reach Dr. Burke or Paradise Animal Hospital call 410-744-4224, or visit – See more at: