“Pet Anti-Vaxxers” Are Real… and They’re Endangering All of Us
A recent article in a Brooklyn newspaper detailed the trend among some New York pet owners to refuse vaccinations for their dogs, worried that the vaccinations may cause autism (or other health issues due to reaction) in their pets. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this rumor – we got this newsletter in our inbox claiming that autism symptoms in pets were on the rise due to vaccinations.
SPOILER: No scientific evidence whatsoever backs any theory that dogs can get autism up. And yes, everyone at PetGuide.com slapped their foreheads on hearing this information. Cue Facepalm Captain Picard.
Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s what Merriam-Webster dictionary defines autism as:
A variable developmental disorder that appears by age three and is characterized by impairment of the ability to form normal social relationships, by impairment of the ability to communicate with others, and by repetitive behavior patterns.
Dr. Stephanie Liff is the medical Director at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Clinton Hill, NY, was quoted that more more of her clients are reluctant to vaccinate their pets because they fear their pets will suffer adverse reactions, including getting autism. Dr. Liff says that she’s never diagnosed autism in any dog, and doesn’t believe it is a thing. And that’s because IT’S NOT!
Related: Do You Know the Right Vaccination Schedule for Your New Pet?
But many people do, claiming the amounts of mercury or other chemicals in the vaccines cause specific harm to their pets, and listening to the voices of those who have claimed their dogs have had adverse reactions from vaccinations. (Spoiler alert: No, they don’t. Here’s what the CDC says about it – and I’ll take the CDC’s research over a privileged hipster rant any day.)
Instead, more are preferring blood tests that titer their immunity and antibody levels, believing that boosters are unnecessary and that the risks of the vaccines are far greater than the risk of their pet contracting any disease for which they are being vaccinated against.
Dr. Liff says that while there is much out there being shared word of mouth regarding dangers with vaccinations of pets, the facts are that there is no scientific evidence that suggests autism can come from vaccinations, particularly because ‘autism’ doesn’t even exist as a pet diagnosis.
More, experts worry that this anti-vaccination trend in pets is not just a problem for pets, but their humans too. Many conditions pets are vaccinated against are also issues that can affect humans.
Rabies is the number one vaccine that most every state mandates, and does so because rabies affects humans as well. More, conditions like leptospirosis are also potentially harmful to humans, as it is carried by rats to dogs and then to humans. It is fatal in dogs, and in humans, can cause liver failure, respiratory problems, meningitis and sometimes even death. If dogs are unvaccinated against these diseases and others, they can break down the concept of herd immunity for the good of all, and increase the risk of the contraction of some of these diseases in both dog and human alike.
And let me tell you, if my dog gets turned into Cujo because you’re scared your dog will fall somewhere on the spectrum… let’s just say the (human) fur is going to fly.
Related: Leptospirosis in Dogs: What Every Dog Owner Needs to Know
Dr. Amy Ford, with the Veterinarian Wellness Center, says that she tends to see this anti-vaccination trend in ‘hipsters’ or millennials who are into more ‘holistic’ lifestyles. Other than not wanting ‘to inject chemicals’ in their dogs’ bodies, she doesn’t see them having any authentic scientific research or reasoning behind their beliefs.
This is not a reflection on millennials as a whole – there are many who fall into this generation who are responsible, rational pet owners, and they can see through the anti-vaxxer pet movement. So don’t start pointing your finger at them. Remember, ignorance knows no age limit, and anti-vaxxers run the gamut in different demographics.
Dr. Liff says that often, trends in the human medical community trickle down to trends in the veterinary community as well, so it’s not surprising to her that this anti-vaccination movement is building. She recognizes that there are similarities in the treatment of diseases in humans and animals, but believes the anti-vaccination trend may be taking things too far, and putting pets at risk.
It’s important to remember that pets contract diseases differently than humans… like eating dirt and poop. They need us to help prevent as much sickness in them as we can.
And before you decide to forgo your dog’s vaccinations because of something you read on Facebook or the Internet, please talk to your veterinarian for an educated opinion.
More by Lori Ennis