Why ALL Dogs Should Get the Dog Flu Vaccination

August 1, 2019

There’s a saying I’ve heard over the years: “You are not obligated to complete the work of perfecting the world, but you are not free to desist from trying to do so,” or an other way to express the same sentiment, “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it.” 

And now you’re thinking, “What in G-d’s name does this have to do with pet care?” Here’s the answer.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been in a pretty heated argument with the leaders and the veterinarians at San Francisco’s main animal shelter and adoption facilities over vaccinating dogs against Canine Influenza Vaccine (CIV). For those of you who know my family, this means our dinner table conversations have been more heated than normal.

I have been promoting the idea that when dogs arrive at a shelter, they should be vaccinated against CIV, just like how they are vaccinated against other diseases.

In case you’re not familiar with CIV:  CIV is highly contagious, and while the vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing CIV–just like the human flu vaccine is not 100% effective against the human flu–and requires two doses, it is clear that vaccinated dogs: (1) are less likely to catch CIV than non-vaccinated dogs; (2) if they do get sick that they do not get as sick as non-vaccinated dogs; and (3) they are less likely to transmit CIV to another dog than a non-vaccinated dog.

The shelters have responded with two arguments.

First, they argue that the efficacy of the CIV vaccine does not warrant giving the vaccine. Their argument is that since the vaccine is not fully effective, why give it at all? Sorry folks, this simply can’t be the right answer. The human flu vaccine is not 100% effective but we are told every year to get it. Moreover, it is clear that the more dogs that are vaccinated against CIV, the greater the “herd immunity” created and the less likely that there will be a widespread outbreak of CIV.  True enough, the CIV vaccine does not create perfection nor does it complete the task of preventing CIV in the community, but it is clearly better than not administering the vaccine and thus, I contend, these entities have the obligation to administer the vaccine. 

The second argument from these groups is that because they strive to only have dogs stay with them for a limited duration they cannot ensure that the second dose will be administered by the new pet parent.  Because the CIV vaccine does not become “fully” effective until sometime after the second dose is administered and they cannot ensure that the second dose will be given – why bother with the first.   One such organization went as far as stating that they didn’t want to impose their vaccination views on the new pet parent.  Seriously? This same entity banned pet parents from bringing in dogs with certain types of collars to their veterinary clinic!  These groups are adopting dogs out to the community. One hopes that they are vetting these new pet parents and educating these new pet parents on CIV such that the risk of a pet parent not getting the second dose would be minimized.

Now you might be thinking, “Come on, naive Nancy, you’ve missed a third and perhaps most important reason: money.” Normally I would agree with you. We know that there is only so much money available and these groups sometimes need to make very hard decisions about where to spend their limited resources.  But not in this case, as Pet Camp offered to pay for the CIV vaccines!  But guess what – they said still no. Yup, we offered to pay for a vaccine to protect the health of dogs and we were told no. 

We understand that the CIV vaccine is not 100% effective and we understand that it’s impossible to guarantee that a new pet parent will get the second dose. We know this situation is not perfect. But just because we can’t create perfection doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do everything we can to protect San Francisco’s dogs from CIV. 

Thanks for reading.


Pet Camp is San Francisco’s largest pet care facility that requires the CIV vaccine.  We understand that providing your dog with a happy and safe environment is an essential part of providing award winning pet care.  If you’re a pet parent in need of overnight care, doggie day care, bathing, training or pet transportation give us a call.

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