Does Your Dog Need the Canine Flu Vaccine?

Have you heard of the dog flu “epidemic?” Doubtless, you’ve seen warnings on social media or have been encouraged by your vet to vaccinate against this scary disease.

Should you be worried about your dog contracting this disease?

If you’ve read our other articles on vaccines, Are Annual Booster Vaccinations Necessary? And Understanding Canine Allergies Part Three: Do Vaccines Cause Allergies? you know we encourage minimal vaccine use. So where does the flu vaccine fit into to this? Is it necessary or one of those vaccines you should avoid?


How Dangerous Is It? 

In short, there isn’t much risk. Think about getting a head cold or the flu yourself. Rarely life-threatening. The dog flu lasts 2 or 3 weeks with symptoms similar to the common cold.

The most common symptoms are sneezing, dry coughing, lethargy, loss of appetite, fever and restlessness, watery eyes and a runny nose.


Is It an Epidemic? 

Reported cases of the canine flu are only a few each month across the United States.

First of all, the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University estimates that the strain H3N8 has a level of less than 5% in the US population.

“In fact, most dogs never come in contact with the virus.”


In her article “Canine Flu Vaccine: Does it Work? Does Your Dog Need It?” Emily Vey said that the number of cases of dogs that tested positive for the flu was 2434 out of the 90 million dogs in the United States.

Hence, your dog’s chance of getting the flu, even in high-risk areas such as training classes or agility competitions, is just 0.0027044%.

The risk is low, and there are no life-threatening symptoms with the canine flu. Pet owners need to compare the risk of the flu to the flu vaccine.


The Flu Vaccine Safety and Efficacy Hasn’t Been Studied

The flu vaccine was approved for use less than ten years ago, and unfortunately, no long-term studies have been done to prove that it’s safe or even effective against the disease it’s supposed to prevent.

Julia Henriques of Dogs Naturally Magazine states:

At the end of 2015 two companies, Merck and Zoetis, rushed H3N2 vaccines to market. But these new vaccines only have conditional licenses from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

What that means is that studies of the vaccines are still in process, so we don’t have any data about the efficacy and safety of these shots. Merck’s website states about its H3N2 vaccine: “This vaccine has a reasonable expectation of efficacy and safety.”

Consequently, your dog is a guinea pig for this unproven vaccine.

The canine flu vaccine cannot prevent your dog from getting the flu. Yet, its job is to stimulate your dog’s body to create antibodies and memory cells so that the dog will know how to fight the flu if it gets the flu later. This may reduce the length and symptoms of the flu.

Further, the vaccine given to your dog must contain the current strain of the flu to provide any protection against exposure.

There are two known strains of canine influenza, known as H3N8 (the first strain), and H3N2 (the second strain). The first strain H3N8 appears to have started in horses and transferred to dogs at a greyhound track. While the second strain was initially a bird virus from Asia, it is thought to have come to the US with Asian rescue dogs.

The current vaccine is made from the first strain of the flu, H3N8, and it is not known if it provides any protection against the newer strain.


Short Science Lesson – Why Your Dog Might Not Need the Flu Vaccine

Vaccinosis is a term that includes any and all symptoms of disease seen linked to vaccination.

DVM Michael Dym and Dr. Martin Goldstein both say these symptoms may appear quickly in acute allergic reactions to the vaccine, but also weeks, months and even years afterward.

The more vaccines your dog is given, the more likely he is to shown signs of vaccinosis.

Acute Vaccinosis symptoms range from injection site swelling and fever to seizures and anaphylaxisfatal allergic shock. Because acute vaccinosis symptoms show up soon after the vaccine, veterinarians and pet owners are more likely to make the connection between the vaccine and the reaction.

Chronic Vaccinosis symptoms may include arthritis, allergies, seizures, metabolic diseases like Cushings’ and several types of cancer. These symptoms appear after a longer period of time following vaccination. Therefore, these symptoms are less likely to be related to their cause.

– End of Short Science Lesson –


Does your dog need the flu vaccine? It seems not. Rather, the risk of over-vaccination may cause more harm than your dog getting the flu in the first place.

That said, we won’t leave you to pray your dog doesn’t get sick. Here are some natural ways to help your dog avoid getting influenza and to help your dog heal if he does get it.


Natural Prevention and Home Remedies for the Canine Flu

Giving your dog what he needs to keep his immune defenses strong every day is the best preventive measure you can take.

  • For optimal immune defense feed a fresh meat-based diet low in carbohydrates,
  • give minimal chemicals, drugs, and vaccines,
  • provide clean filtered water,
  • also limit exposure to pesticides as much as you realistically can.

Though these options are best, I realize not everyone can do everything on that list. Just do the best you can.

Are you looking for dog food recipes? Check out our Resources for Homemade Dog Food


Healthy Additions

Use Healthy Additions to boost his immune system! Turmeric, garlic, and mushrooms are all great immune boosters.

Turmeric’s active compound, curcumin, gives turmeric it’s antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties. This Healthy Addition is being studied and used to fight tumors and cancer!

Garlic is a natural antibiotic and super immune booster.

Especially helpful in this case, mushrooms have the unique ability to help regulate the immune system, boosting it when it’s low and slowing it when it’s over-active (like with allergies). The medicinal mushrooms known as Shiitake and Chaga are good to have on hand to combat viruses like influenza.


Phosphorus Homeopathic Remedy – 30c

This remedy is a much better alternative to the flu vaccine. Therefore, use this remedy when you suspect your dog has the flu, or if you live in a high-risk area.

How To Give

For prevention: give your dog (regardless of size or age) 1 pill each night by opening their mouth and dropping in the medicine. The tablet only has to dissolve on the gums to be effective. No pill swallowing necessary!

For treatment: crush three pills in 4 oz.  water and give 1cc by mouth three times in a 12 hour period.

Watch your dog over the next few days. If you don’t notice an improvement or change, follow up with a single 1cc dose. To learn more about using Phosphorous as a treatment for canine influenza check out


If Your Dog Gets the Flu

In all, unless your dog develops severe symptoms, he will only need rest and supportive care. Keep him quiet and let him rest as much as possible to help reduce coughing.

Make sure he stays hydrated by encouraging him to drink or spooning a tablespoon of water into his mouth every hour. Use the homeopathic remedy Phosphorous as described above.

An easy-on-the-stomach meal for a sick dog is canned salmon with some bone or mushroom broth (find a mushroom broth recipe here!). The salmon contains inflammation-reducing omega 3’s and is high in protein, while the mushroom broth will give your dog a great immune boost and help combat the virus. Start by just offering the broth till your dog seems to handle it well, before adding a little salmon.


In conclusion, we genuinely hope your dog never has to deal with the flu. We hope this article has given you the knowledge to make an informed decision regarding canine flu vaccination, prevention, and treatment.


– Ivy Alexis and Cassy Kay





AVMA. “Canine Influenza FAQ” American Veterinary Medical Association. Web. Accessed Mar. 31, 2018.

Dodds, Dr. Jean. “Canine Influenza H3N2 Virus Updates” Dr. Jean Dodd’ Pet Health Resource Blog. May 22, 2016. Web. Accessed Mar. 31, 2018.

Goldstein, Martin D.V.M. The Nature of Animal Healing. Toronto, Canada: Random House, Inc. 1999. Print. Chapter 4 pg. 71.

Henriques, Julia. “Canine Flu: What Should You Be Afraid Of?” Web. Accessed Mar. 31, 2018.

Keenan, Joanne. “Kick the Canine Flu, Naturally!” Web. Accessed Mar. 31, 2018.

O’Driscoll, Cathrine. “Non Core Vaccines for Dogs” Web. Accessed Mar. 31, 2018.

O’Driscoll, Catherine. “Vets on Vaccines” Web. Accessed Feb. 6, 2018.

Vey, Emily. “Canine Flu Vaccine: Does It Work? Does Your Dog Need It?” Web. Accessed Mar. 31, 2018.


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