1781211_10102963910875727_1156737861_oThere are a number of vaccines that are recommended for our pets—rabies, distemper, leptospirosis, bordatella, Lyme, feline leukemia, and most recently, flu. Some of these our pets absolutely need—the rabies vaccine protects against a deadly, nearly worldwide disease that infects the brain and spinal cord. The distemper vaccine protects against a virus that affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and central nervous system, and is highly contagious—it can be spread by two pups simply sharing a water bowl.

These vaccinations are sometimes regulated by state law. For example, the rabies vaccination is required to obtain a city dog license. Sometime, they’re regulated by our dog’s favorite spots—the kennel, groomer, and pet sitter will likely request that your dog receive the core vaccines, which are considered vital due to the risk of exposure, disease severity, and transmissibility to humans. The core vaccines are for canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies. Talk to your veterinarian to determine which vaccines are appropriate for your pets.

It’s often left to the owner to decide if pets receive non-core vaccines. When considering these, take into account your pup’s exposure risk—for example, if your pup is in a low-tick area and never leaves the sidewalk, is the vaccine for Lymes disease really necessary?

And there are other, less common vaccines available for our pets to consider as well. Recently, the canine flu hit the Midwest. The canine flu is a respiratory disease in dogs that presents as a cough, runny nose, lethargy, low appetite, and fever in man’s best friends. Some dogs can show more severe symptoms—though the canine flu has an extremely low mortality rate (about 80% of infected dogs only show mild symptoms), always visit your vet when your dog is under the weather. The canine flu is popping up on major news outlets due to how easily it can be spread—it only takes one sick, sneezing dog at the pet store to infect a handful more. People can transmit this strain (H3N8) of canine flu, but cannot get sick from it, nor can other pets. This strain of the flu is species specific to dogs. If your pup is showing any symptoms, keep them home. There is a canine flu vaccine available—but how do you know if it’s right for your pup?

Many veterinarians are recommending the flu vaccine if your pup is often around other dogs—like at a boarding kennel, dog daycare, or dog parks. The infection can be serious for some dogs; out of over 1,000 dogs with the flu in the Chicago area, there have been five reported deaths from the canine flu since March.

The vaccination can decrease the incidence and severity of the flu in 90 percent of dogs. If your dog is unlikely to come in contact with other dogs, she likely won’t need the vaccine—but talk to your veterinarian to be sure. If you think your dog is a good candidate for the vaccine, consider:
Is my dog young and healthy, and likely to overcome the flu with no serious complications? Canine flu virus symptoms are generally treatable, and otherwise healthy dogs usually recover without additional worries.
Can my dog safely be vaccinated? Has she ever shown any adverse reactions to other vaccines?
Has my dog already had the canine flu? If she has recently, it was likely the same strain going around now, and the vaccine is unlikely to help out her immune system if she comes in contact with the same flu strain again.

The canine flu vaccine is a two-part shot. The second dose should be administered two to four weeks after the first dose. After both parts are administered, your pup should be protected from this canine flu virus for about one year.

As with any health advice, your veterinarian will be able to provide advice specific to your pup’s situation.

By Rachel Leisemann Immel