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Your Dog Can - and Should - Do Without a Flu Vaccine

February 20, 2013 | 29,367 views
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By Dr. Becker

One of my colleagues here at Mercola.com forwarded an article to me recently from an online news site. The title is “Dogs Also Need to Get Flu Vaccine.” The article is full of misinformation, which is truly disturbing given the serious subject matter.

First the writer claims sick dogs and cats look similar to sick people. This is just silliness. Does your pet look like you when she’s well? Of course not, so how is it she’ll look like you when she’s sick?

The writer goes on to say that if your pet is sluggish, not eating, or is behaving abnormally, he could be sick (true), and to prevent that from happening, he needs a flu shot (not true and a terribly misguided piece of advice).

No, Your Pet Does NOT Need a Flu Vaccine

The writer next states, “There is a flu vaccine for dogs, among all the other vaccines you should get for your pets. It will not only keep your dog healthy, but other dogs he or she comes in contact with as well.”

She seems to be advocating not only for the canine influenza virus (CIV) vaccine, but also for every other dog vaccine available. This is in my opinion irresponsible and potentially dangerous advice. As for the CIV vaccine, it does NOT prevent infection. It reduces viral shedding once infection is present, and it may lessen the severity of symptoms and their duration. But it does not keep your dog from acquiring the influenza virus.

Interestingly, the writer uses as her expert a supervisor at a local animal shelter. Shelters – especially overcrowded ones – along with boarding and racing dog kennels, are the types of facilities where most outbreaks of CIV occur.

However, it's unlikely your family dog will be in a situation to contract CIV. Even if she does, chances are she'll recover uneventfully and without medical intervention thanks to her healthy immune system. It’s also important to know that canine influenza can’t be spread from dogs to people.

There is an implied threat in the article that if your indoor pet gets outdoors somehow and winds up at a shelter, she’s sure to acquire the flu. This is a huge stretch in every direction.

The article ends by pointing out that the area (around Lubbock, TX) hasn’t seen an outbreak of canine influenza virus in years!

Why I Never Recommend the Canine Flu Vaccine

The CIV vaccine is a non-core vaccine (canine core vaccines are for protection against distemper, parvo, adenovirus and rabies), and as regular readers here at Mercola Healthy Pets know, I recommend a very conservative approach with the cores, and I almost never recommend the non-cores for any pet. You can find my vaccine recommendations here toward the end of the article, along with Dr. Ronald Shultz’s.

Too many vaccines, in particular non-core vaccines like the one for CIV, can seriously compromise your pet's immune system, affecting its ability to protect your dog naturally from pathogens like the influenza virus.

In addition, non-core vaccines have proved to be less safe in terms of adverse reactions than core vaccines.

How to Help Your Dog Remain Flu-Free

As I mentioned earlier, it’s uncommon for a family dog to acquire CIV simply because he typically will not find himself in overcrowded conditions with lots of other dogs.

But if your pet should be exposed to the virus, as long as his immune system is healthy, he’ll either be asymptomatic (show no symptoms), or he’ll recover quickly without medical care.

To keep your pet’s immune system in flu-fighting condition:

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