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Does Your Dog Need a Flu Shot?
The facts about canine influenza

As the weather gets cooler, it's just about flu shot time—for the humans anyway. I never get the canine influenza shot for my furry crew, but an outbreak at a local shelter had me rethinking my decision. Adoptions have been suspended at the Bergen County Animal Shelter in New Jersey while they battle a flu outbreak.

Generally the virus isn't serious, if caught early, but it can cause complications like pneumonia, which increases the risk. Since flu symptoms resemble other respiratory diseases, canine influenza is often mistaken for kennel cough.

The first canine influenza vaccine was approved two years ago and initial tests showed no side effects. Because it contains inactivated virus, the vaccine won't cause illness. It's important to note that the vaccine doesn't prevent the flu, but it significantly reduces the severity and duration.

The vaccine is intended for dogs at risk of exposure to the virus, such as those who participate in activities with other dogs or those who go to doggy daycare. The risk groups are the same for dogs who are recommended to receive the kennel cough vaccine.

My dogs are at a moderate risk since they regularly go to a training club and attend dog shows. However, I decided to pass on the vaccine for my crew since I don't board them or bring them to doggy day care. If you're considering the vaccine for your pups, consult your vet.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Petteri Sulonen/flickr.

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