Q: A neighbor’s dog brought influenza home from an out-of-state dog show. Should I have my dog vaccinated for influenza?
A: Veterinary experts say dogs that travel to shows are at greatest risk of influenza and pet dogs with little exposure to other dogs are at lowest risk. Discuss your dog’s lifestyle with your veterinarian, who can advise you about whether to vaccinate.
Some veterinarians recommend vaccinating dogs at low risk to increase herd immunity. The concept is that if most dogs are protected, the chance of an unvaccinated dog contracting and spreading the disease is low.
Keep in mind that the US has two strains of influenza – H3N8 and H3N2 – and three vaccine options: an H3N8 vaccine, an H3N2 vaccine, and a new bivalent vaccine that incorporates both strains. Since neither single-strain vaccine confers immunity against the other strain, many veterinarians prefer the bivalent vaccine.
These vaccines reduce the severity of the disease, though they don’t prevent infection or viral transmission from dog to dog. The virus is transmitted through contact with an infected dog’s nasal secretions and saliva, both before clinical signs begin and during illness.
Clinical signs range from coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge to lethargy, fever and pneumonia. A small number of dogs have died of influenza.
Your best source of advice about your own dog is your veterinarian.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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