Anti-vaxxer attitudes may be risking pets' health, vet warns
Published Friday, June 7, 2019 9:22AM EDT
The anti-vaxxer movement may be encompassing the pet world and putting cats and dogs at risk, according to one veterinarian.
“It’s really paralleling what we see in humans,” Rebecca Greenstein, a vet in Kleinburg, Ont., said Friday on CTV’s Your Morning, referring to the “anti-vaccination” ideology that vaccines are harmful or unnecessary.
As measles outbreaks surge around the world – more than 100,000 cases have been reported in 2019, marking a 300 per cent increase from last year – Greenstein isn’t surprised by numbers in the pet world. According to a recent report, some 25 per cent of dog owners and 35 per cent of cat owners in the U.K. said their pets were not given a “primary course of vaccinations” when they were young.
“If you’re the sort of parent who doesn’t want to give your child the MMR series, it wouldn’t necessarily surprise me that you wouldn’t want to give a Lepto vaccine to your dog,” she said. Leptospirosis (lepto) is a deadly infectious disease spread through water, soil or food contaminated by urine from infected animals, and some experts say it has been on the rise in parts of Canada, including Ontario.
According to the report from People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), among the chief reasons for not vaccinating the dogs and cats were cost and the belief that the vaccines were “not necessary.” A more troubling anti-vaccination motive came to light in 2018, when the PDSA said vaccination numbers were even worse: the fear of “canine autism.” In April that year, the U.K.’s leading veterinary body released a statement debunking the belief that dogs could develop autism from vaccines, which is also an unfounded concern among people opposed to vaccines for humans.
“There is currently no reliable scientific evidence to indicate autism in dogs or a link between vaccination and autism,” wrote Gudrun Ravetz, senior vice president of the British Veterinary Association. “Vaccinations save lives and are an important tool in keeping our pets healthy. All medicines have potential side effects but in the case of vaccines, these are rare and the benefits of vaccination in protecting against disease far outweigh the potential for an adverse reaction.”
The statement was in response to a tweet by ITV talk show Good Morning Britain, which put a call-out to pet owners who believe a vaccine gave the animal autism.
Greenstein believes that the diseases vaccinated against can seem “abstract” to pet owners. “The same way that mumps are very abstract if you’ve never seen them before,” she said. “The reason that we don’t see a lot of these diseases is because we were so effective at eradicating them. Now that we’re doing it less, there’s a resurgence and it’s becoming more real.”