Veterinarians have long been adamant about vaccinating social dogs against the general term we call “kennel cough,” associated more specifically with canine infectious hepatitis and respiratory disease/adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus (not to be confused with dog flu, which is canine influenza virus), and Bordetella bronchiseptica.
In fact, veterinarians have been vaccinating social dogs to protect them against these viruses, and to therefore protect other dogs in the community for many years.
For dogs who ever spend time in a kennel, daycare, or grooming environment, or are social with dogs in any way, the right vaccines to protect against kennel cough and upper respiratory infections have long been considered routine within the veterinary profession. Also, some boarding facilities/daycares even mandate this protection.
For the most part, adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica can make dogs uncomfortable if they are sickened. A small number require hospitalization, although that is rare, and a tiny percentage succumb. All of these infections are contagious, so other “innocent dogs” in the community—if unvaccinated—may be sickened as well.
Now compare that with dog flu (canine influenza virus or CIV), particularly the more virulent of the two strains, known as H3N2. For starters, because the H3N2 strain of CIV is novel (unless a dog has already recently suffered dog flu), all dogs exposed get sick—not just many dogs, but all dogs. And, overall, more dogs require hospitalization compared to the various upper respiratory infections (generalized as kennel cough) noted above. Also, far more dogs die, up to three to five percent.
While three to five percent may not seem like a lot of dogs—it isn’t a high mortality rate compared to canine parvovirus or the canine distemper virus—do consider that it’s likely thousands of dogs have been sickened across America in 2017 with CIV.
So, let’s do some math. Consider a conservative estimate of a thousand dogs have been sickened with CIV in 2017 (again, likely that number is far higher). That means 30 to 50 dogs have died. What if one of those dogs was yours dying of a preventable illness?
Still, many veterinarians don’t vaccinate for dog flu (for no real reason), while they routinely vaccinate for other, less infectious, less likely to hospitalize, and less likely fatal, upper respiratory viruses.
And, if boarding/daycare facilities and groomers vaccinated, as well as dogs traveling to dog shows and participating in canine sporting events, the incidents of dog flu would be reduced significantly.
What makes CIV or dog flu even more insidious is that around 20 percent of dogs that get the bug don’t show signs of illness. Certainly, that’s a good thing for those lucky dogs, because they feel fine, but they still spread the virus and infect other dogs. And, their owners have no way to know their dog (who seems well) is spreading the illness to others. The CIV vaccine limits this shedding of the virus, which also protects the community at large.
If we vaccinate—as we routinely do—for other upper respiratory infections, which are statistically less likely to cause as much illness or even death, why aren’t we more proactive about vaccinating for dog flu?