Does your dog really need a flu shot?

Every day, it seems there are more and more reports of this season’s hard-hitting flu outbreak on the news. And you know how every single story ends: “It’s not too late to get your flu shot!”

Of course, they’ve got a reason up their sleeve for everyone — moms, dads, tots, and seniors — to roll up their sleeves for one!

Well, there’s another family member Big Pharma has in its crosshairs for a flu jab as well: your dog.

And Merck, which makes the primary doggy influenza shot, is doing everything in its power to scare veterinarians and pet parents silly about how important it is — whipping up a frenzy very similar to what you see going on with the campaign to vaccinate people.

But is this shot something you even need to think about for your own pup?

Canine guinea pigs

It’s right there on Merck’s dog flu website: “Don’t wait, vaccinate.”

Hmm, where have we heard that one before?!

Whether it’s for people or pups, Big Pharma really excels at pushing flu shots — even though it has yet to come up with a vaccine to match its hype.

Where dogs are concerned, it’s even an easier sell. After all, we don’t want our best buddies to be sick — especially when they can’t tell us what’s wrong.

I know how worried I get if Maci, my Shetland sheepdog, or Chance, my dachshund mix, look like they’re not feeling well.

But when it comes to getting the real story about canine influenza from your vet — well, that could be a problem.

That’s because Merck has muddied the waters by telling veterinarians that should there be an outbreak… and they haven’t put enough pressure clients to get their pups vaccinated… it could have a “major impact” on their practice.

The drugmaker has gone so far as to warn them that their offices could be shut down, and their “reputations can be tarnished.”

Wow, that’s turning the screws all right.

But it turns out that the canine influenza virus isn’t the only thing they should be worried about — because the shot itself could be an even bigger problem.

Back three years ago, Merck rushed this vaccine through the approval process faster than a greyhound chasing a rabbit.

And still, to this day, its shot for the most common virus (H3N2) is listed as being “conditionally licensed” with “reasonable expectation” that it will work and is safe!

Translation: Cross your paws that it will actually prevent the flu and not make Buddy really sick with an adverse reaction in the process.

But as far as finding out what exactly this vaccine contains, a pack of bloodhounds wouldn’t turn up anything. Even your vet can’t tell you!

It appears that the ingredients in animal vaccines are a deep, dark mystery — one that only the drugmakers know for sure. Take Merck’s dog shot Nobivac, for example. All you’ll find on the drug’s label is that it contains a secret “adjuvant” (a typically very risky chemical that is added for the purpose of revving up an immune response) and two preservatives. That’s it.

But while we don’t know anything about the canine influenza shot, we know a lot about the dog flu itself.

For example:

  • At this time, it’s not an epidemic by any means. Only a handful of states, including Florida, California, and Colorado, have reported it in a limited number of dogs.
  • While a dog who catches the flu certainly won’t be a party animal until it runs its course, it’s “not particularly deadly,” according to Amy Glaser, who heads up the molecular diagnostic lab at Cornell University. Experts put the percentage of pups who actually die from the dog flu at as low as 1 percent.
  • Like people, dogs with strong immune systems have a much better chance of not getting sick in the first place. And if they do, they should be back on their paws in a short time.

Most encouraging of all, around half of the canines who catch the virus won’t show any symptoms at all! And for those who do, they’ll likely just have a mild reaction that will resolve all on its own.

The best ways to keep your furry friend flu-free this winter are very similar to many of the things you do for yourself — exercise, a high-quality diet, and a daily probiotic (there are some brands made specifically for dogs).

One difference, however, is that keeping Fido healthy also includes making sure the lid is secure on that trashcan!

“Dog flu is real by there’s no reason to panic” Alessandra Potenza, January 30, 2018, The Verge,