Q: I read a lot last year about the dog flu that hit our area in the spring. Since many dogs have been vaccinated with the flu vaccine and it has been almost a year since the outbreak, do I need to worry about having my dog vaccinated this year?
A: You are correct in that it was almost a year ago that the Bloomington-Normal area had the first documented cases of canine influenza. There were at minimum several hundred cases throughout the area, although the exact number is impossible to know as it is not tracked through any type of health organization.
The other factor in not knowing exact numbers is that the H2N2 virus mimics other upper respiratory infections such as bordetella and parainfluenza. Only with specific testing can you tell which organism is responsible for the respiratory disease in dogs and many owners choose not to do so because of the added expense.
Even though we have not seen any types of large outbreaks like we did last spring, we have to assume that the virus is still present in the dog population, probably just at much lower numbers. Much of this is due to owners quickly getting their dogs vaccinated last year when the outbreak was at its worst. A good place to look for guidance would be the Chicago area, which was the first area in the U.S. to have the H2N2 virus about two years ago. They are still seeing cases on an ongoing basis.
So to sum up, the virus is still out there, meaning that you should get your dog vaccinated. It only takes two shots to build up your dog’s immunity and the vaccine has proved to be very effective at prevention of canine influenza.