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Dog Flu Shot: Thoughts from a Vet about H3N8

Posted Dec 18 2009 8:52am 1 Comment
Want to learn more about the dog flu shot? Read this article by my friend, Dr. Paula Terafaj, of Founder’s Vet in Brea.  I think it’s an excellent compainjectionnion to my Truth4Dogs dog flu shot article.  Before you vaccinate, investigate! Also, if you live in the So. Cal. area, check out our Safer Pet Vaccination Seminar at It’s a once in a lifetime educ ational seminar for pet lovers and vets featuring renowned experts Drs. Jean Dodds and Ron Schultz. All proceeds benefit the study of the rabies vaccine.

“Up to 8% of clinically ill dogs may diefrom complications of canine influenza, H3N8. — quote from a brochure promoting the shot.”

What’s the implication of that jaw dropping statement — or this quote by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): “The AVMA believes there is urgent need for an effective canine influenza virus (CIV) vaccine to improve the health and welfare of animals and reduce the financial impacts of canine influenza.” Good grief! Will our dogs drop like flies? What’s up Doc? 

Since I am especially distrustful of medical advice based on studies funded by drug companies pushing their newest wonder drug, backed by financial partners within the medical establishment — listen up! It’s time to read between the lines…

Warnings like this use unfounded fears as motivation:

Up to 8% of clinically ill dogs may die from complications of canine influenza, H3N8.

Notice “up to” and “may die” — that’s a lot of wiggle room for a hyped-up claim. And yes, this statement was the shocking headline on the hand-delivered eight page glossy brochure secretly left on my desk — spotted with impressive graphs, charts, and other interesting data. Strangely, no prediction of a fatal dog epidemic has been made by any ‘expert’ not on Schering-Plough’s payroll.

In bold italics is another twister to the statement:

“The AVMA believes there is urgent need for an effective canine influenza virus vaccine to improve the health and welfare of animals and reduce the financial impacts of canine influenza.”

First of all, improving the health and welfare of animals says nothing about reducing the risk of death or serious complications by the virus. You could also improve the health and welfare of your dog by feeding a better diet! The second implication in this statement, reduce the financial impacts, warns that flu outbreaks could result in loss of business revenues by pet related businesses forced to close their doors temporally to prevent further exposure. Ahhhh — too bad. But this Doc doesn’t follow the money.

Now read the fine print disclosure: Schering-Plough’s newest vaccine darling has been licensed as conditional by the USDA — meaning the data submitted supports a reasonable expectation of efficacy. Since the AVMA has decided to call this conditional vaccine effective, it would be wise to check their stock portfolio. The Canine Influenza Virus-H3N8 (CIV) vaccine will be up for regular licensing in one year unless evidence (provided by an emerging population of dogs soon to fall victim to vaccine junkie vets) shows that it is ineffective and/or results in a higher than acceptable number of adverse reactions. Will your dog be the guinea pig to test its effectiveness and risks?

What you need to know: CIV H3N8 belongs to a syndrome of canine respiratory illnesses and cannot be easily distinguished from garden variety kennel cough!  So, will your vet know if your dog gets the new doggy flu or good old fashioned Bordetella bronchiseptica? Well, since Bordetella (the vaccine given to prevent kennel cough) is just one of 20 different infectious pathogens responsible for kennel cough — probably not. So, out come the common prescription of cough suppressants, antibiotics (if indicated), and rest.

CIV and kennel cough pathogens cause similar symptoms:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge
  • Eye discharge

Now for some fact finding:

Canine Influenza Virus (CIV) was first reported in March 2003 in Florida — when racing greyhounds became mysteriously ill. This virus appears to have mutated from an equine virus to infect canines. Here’s the likely scenario: racing greyhounds on race tracks in contact with horses (add in the stress of being raced for profits!) provided a ripe opportunity for the equine virus to jump species. Similar to the bird flu and swine flu — a phenomenon well documented. Reality check: Flu viruses are most likely to make you sick and deaths from complications are rare. Those most susceptible to viruses are the young (immature immune systems) or those that cannot mount an effective immune response — poor health due to illness and other stresses on the immune system.

Does that make you or your dog a sitting duck for flu viruses? NO! You can take active measures to improve immune function and fight off viral attacks. Start with the best diet you can afford — good health starts with good food! For all my diet recommendations, browse articles posted under Nutrition: Facts and Fiction.

Next, add proven immune boosters like medicinal mushrooms.* Powerful mushroom combo’s containing Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and The Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) have earned a respectable place in my preventive medicine cabinet.

Here are two of my favorites:

Host Defense by New Chapter

RM-10 by Garden of Life (also contains antioxidants known to boost immune response)

*strongly recommended as part of a natural arsenal against cancer

And for my book club fans — here’s a fantastic book about how mushrooms can heal our world: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets. Anyone interested in natural solutions for global pollution, deforestation and environmental health challenges will find this book an invaluable resource.

You can also increase protective efforts by adding antioxidant combos with supplements that contain the “ACES”: beta carotene (provitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin E and Selenium. Remember that plants are natural sources of immune boosting antioxidants. Colorful veggies (orange carrots, yellow squash and green broccoli) and fruits — most notably the berries (blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, and blackberry) offer many natural health benefits. Food as medicine is Nature’s best bargain for health!

Take home point: Closed environments are required to spread canine influenza virus and other contagious respiratory pathogens — making shelters, boarding kennels, breeding facilities, and pet shops the most likely targets. The dog that sleeps on your bed, plays in dog parks and romps around the neighborhood is not considered to be at risk.

Word to the wise: Become an informed health care consumer — not easy money from those who stand to profit the most, Big Pharma and the doctors they seduce. Digging for the truth about the new flu vaccine, pet health advocate Jan Rasmussen interviewed several vaccine experts and reported: respiratory vaccines have dubious effectiveness and known propensity to adverse reactions. More info on Jan’s blog: Truth 4 Dogs. You can always count on Jan to blow a lot of whistles!

In conclusion, my dogs won’t be getting the new doggy flu shot, nor will I be standing in any swine flu shot line. We are popping mushroom capsules and eating wholesome foods with an extra helping of fruits and veggies. I am also washing my hands a lot more and avoiding people as much as possible .

Here’s an additional comment made by Dr. Terfaj in response to a question:

f a dog has been ill for less than 4 days, nasal and pharyngeal swab submission for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing can be performed. If the PCR indicates a positive result, the dog is most likely infected. Negative PCR results may be falsely negative if the swabs are not collected during the time of peak virus shedding – the first 4 days of illness. Other diagnostic options applicable to dogs that have died from pneumonia are viral culture and PCR analysis using fresh lung and tracheal tissues. Without diagnostic testing there is no way to determine if the cause of respiratory illness you report was due to CIV.

In general, the vaccine is intended for the protection of dogs at risk for exposure to the CI virus, which include those that either participate in activities with many other dogs or are housed in communal facilities, particularly where the virus is prevalent.

If you foster dogs or raise puppies that could have been exposed in a shelter or other type of kennel environment – it is best to isolate those dogs for 7 – 10 days before introducing them to other dogs.

The majority of infected dogs exhibit the mild form of CI. In the mild form, the most common clinical sign is a cough that persists for 10 to 21 days despite treatment with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Most dogs have a soft, moist cough, whereas others have a dry cough that is similar to that induced by Bordetellbronchiseptica/parainfluenza virus infection. Dogs may have a purulent nasal discharge and a low-grade fever. The nasal discharge is usually caused by secondary bacterial infections for which antibiotics should be prescribed. Deaths occur mainly in dogs with the severe form of disease; the mortality rate is thought to be low at 1-5%.

Since I write for the average dog owner the point I wanted to stress is that the canine influenza vaccine is a “lifestyle” vaccine, and is not recommended for household pets with no to minimal risk of exposure.

As always, I encourage all dog owners to make informed decisions before vaccinating.

Related articles f(by Jan Rasmusen):

Dog Flu Vaccine: Do You Really Need a Shot for the H3N8 Canine Virus?
Protecting Dogs From Vaccine Reactions
Vaccinating Small Dogs: Risks Vets Aren’t Revealing

Combination Shots for Dogs: Weapons of Over-Vaccination
Is Your Dog’s Vet a Vaccination Expert?
Vaccinating Unhealthy Pets: Beware Reactions & Vaccine Failure

Vaccinating Dogs: 10 Steps to Eliminating Unnecessary Shots

Titer Test: Don’t Vaccinate Your Dog Unnecessarily
Treating Adverse Vaccine Reactions by Jean Dodds, DVM

Comments (1)
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we offer Nasopharyngeal specimen collection flocked swabs.

Stephen Au


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