Think About the Dog Flu Vaccine BEFORE Boarding or Kenneling Your Dog


The New York Times just did a piece on dog flu making a resurgence. True enough, in a sense, but the truth is that it never really went away.

Various outbreaks are popping up around the country. Dog flu isn’t seasonal in the sense that the human influenza virus is seasonal. However, it’s so incredibly easily transmissible to unprotected dogs particularly in congregate situations, such as daycare or boarding. And this is the time of year when folks board their dogs most.

Unprotected dogs who are not up to date on the dog flu vaccine are at risk. Like our own flu, dog flu can cause little illness to serious respiratory illness necessitating hospitalization, and a small percent die. Unlike our flu where it’s likely geriatrics and immunosuppressed individuals who are most likely to suffer serious illness or worse, with dog flu it’s a bit more unpredictable. Even young and healthy dogs can be stricken and become very ill.

Our human influenza viruses have many strains; there are only two strains of the dog flu in the U.S., (H3N2 and H3N8) but at least one vaccine protects against both strains.

Last year, the virus took hold in Los Angeles, resulting in more than 1,300 cases from July 2021 to January 2022.  This year the flu has popped up in lots of places. In October Texas animal shelter just north of Dallas called Operation Kindness, had seen its share of sick dogs. By mid-November, 86 percent of the shelter’s roughly 150 dogs were ill. The dog flu hit Nashville, TN in September.

Many veterinarians are rethinking the previous philosophy of routinely vaccinating for Bordetella or kennel cough and waiting until there’s a problem in a community to vaccinate for dog flu.

Bordetella can be annoying and uncomfortable for dogs – and definitely dogs should be vaccinated, but dogs pretty much never die of Bordetella. Dog flu can be deadly and more likely cause hospitalization. Pairing up for protection means vaccinating against both Bordetella (which today veterinarians understand is a complex of respiratory diseases, known as CIRDC (canine infectious respiratory disease complex) as well as for the dog flu, particularly if you plan to board your dog this holiday season.