Anti-Vaxxers Believe Dogs Get Autism from Vaccines

Anti-Vaxxers Believe Dogs Get Autism from Vaccines March 1, 2019

A growing number of dog owners have stopped vaccinating because they believe their animals will develop autism from the immunizations. As a result, veterinarian associations in the UK and the United States have issued statements about vaccine safety for dogs.

In Spring 2017, the Brooklyn Paper published an article about a community of pet owners that refused vaccinations for their pets. Veterinarians interviewed by the paper said that many of their clients declined vaccines because they feared their pet would develop autism.

While not vaccinating a pet seems like a fringe idea, the American Veterinarian Association says that the reluctance to vaccinate stems from the anti-vaccine movement.

“We do see a higher number of clients who don’t want to vaccinate their animals,” said Dr. Amy Ford of the Veterinarian Wellness Center of Boerum Hill. “This may be stemming from the anti-vaccine movement, which people are applying to their pets.”

Another vet told the paper,

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” said Stephanie Liff, DVM, owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care, with locations in both Brooklyn and Hell’s Kitchen, New York. “[But] we’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don’t think you could.”

Not only is vaccine refusal common in some communities, online groups also share the same belief. Online Facebook groups consistently spout their fears about pets developing autism. In the group Stop Mandatory Vaccinations, I searched “pet autism” and found dozens of threads on the topic.

An article written in April 2017 on the website Vaccine Impact about pet autism has been shared as recently as this morning. The report incorrectly suggests that behavioral issues in dogs are connected to vaccines. The “behavioral dysfunctions” occur after the rabies vaccines and include aggressive towards humans, lack of affection, and repetitive behavior.

Because the article is frequently shared, many pet owners within the group wrongly believe that vaccines cause pet-related autism.

Also, members within the group share their belief that their pets have autism.

With more anti-vaxxers becoming skeptical of vaccinating their pet, veterinarian organizations have written articles and statements to debunk the misinformation.

American Veterinary Medical Association told the New York Times there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism in pets. Additionally, most vets agree there is no way to diagnose autism in pets, and the disorder does not exist in animals.

Even though there is no link between vaccines and autism in humans or pets, many people continue to believe their pets are autistic. In April 2018, Good Morning Britain tweeted that they were looking interview pet owners that thought vaccines caused autism in their pets.

The tweet prompted a response from the British Veterinary Association which said,

“There’s currently no reliable scientific evidence to indicate autism in dogs (or its link to vaccines). Potential side effects of vaccines are rare & outweighed by the benefits in protecting against disease. BVA would be happy to provide evidence-based information on the issue.”

The reluctance to vaccinate pets has the potential to lead to severe and deadly consequences for both pets and humans. Before the development of the rabies vaccine in the 1940s, the United States reported around 40 deaths from rabies each year. As more states mandated the vaccine in pets, there was a steady decline of human reported deaths.

While death from rabies is not common in the United States, the World Health Organization estimates that 59,000 people die from the disease around the world each year.

Rabies spreads through the saliva of animals, and most humans develop the disease from a bite or scratch. With most domesticated animals receiving the rabies vaccine, fewer people are contracting the virus.

Humans that come in contact with infected animals can receive a series of rabies vaccines to prevent the virus from spreading in the body. If an individual remains unvaccinated, rabies is almost always fatal.

Even with the risks, many pet owners are continuing to opt out of vaccinating their furry friends. Instead of relying on data from the veterinarians, these people believe inaccurate articles posted online.

Vaccinations for pets help to prevent deadly diseases from spreading and improve the pet’s life expectancy. Without vaccines, animals can spread deadly diseases like rabies, distemper, hepatitis, and bordetella.

Autism is not a known disorder in pets. There is no scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism in humans or pets. The only way pet owners can ensure their pets remain safe and disease free is by following the recommended vaccination schedule provided by their veterinarian.

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

She co-hosts the YouTube show, “The Smoking Nun,” with Kyle Curtis. The show airs weekly and tackles pseudoscience, current events, and crime stories.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • epeeist

    This deserves a (supposed) Einstein quotation:

    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe!

  • ianeymeaney

    Munchausen by pet?

  • WTF??? I think I have heard it all and then realize I haven’t yet….

  • karmacat

    I have a maltipoo and she paces around when she decides the food I gave her is not good enough. She also paces around when she is about to poop. I suspect the women’s maltese is wondering why her owner is so stupid for not getting her clear signals of pacing, being affectionate and then not wanting to be affectionate. Someone needs to tell this woman her dog is trying to get her attention.
    This all highlights how people try to impose human traits onto pets. My favorite Far Side cartoon is when a person is talking to a pet and all the pet hears is “blah blah blah Ginger blah blah.”

  • Raging Bee

    It’s starting to look like most of the moderate-to-mediocre people who supported the anti-vax movement have bailed, leaving the movement to be dominated by the hardest core of idiots, loonies and con-artists, who are now doubling down on all fronts because they no longer have either the ability or the incentive to control themselves.

  • Raging Bee

    Yeah, how the AF does anyone get “autism” from any dog behavior?

  • Raging Bee

    Wait, this person’s dog ALREADY had rabies? And she doesn’t suspect that may be part of the problem?

    These people give stupidity a bad name.

  • I saw the headline and thought, “Did Laughing in Disbelief put out two articles today?”

    Ah, interesting times.

  • right?! if only this was fiction

  • Anat

    OK, how stupid can people get? Humans found a way to prevent the spread of rabies and they go and mess it up.

  • What. The. Fork.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I had a goldfish once that was totes Psychotic. That evil critter was planning a mass murder spree. Lucky for everybody that the cat ate it one afternoon and saved all those innocent lives.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    It really is down right scary that it is getting easier to believe the LiD headlines and to dismiss the more ‘serious’ ones.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    Um. actually I believe in that long before I would believe in an Autistic Cat.

  • TBF, if you observe a cat’s behavior, it is remarkably like that of an Autistic who is allowed to simply be themselves, quirks and all.

    The “stereotypical” Autistic behaviors tend to be the result of trying to force the Autistic into neurotypical functioning.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    Noooo! Your cat didn’t fix the problem. It only ingested goldfish murder cooties. Now it has to be put on a watch list. Could be worse though, as long as you didn’t make the mistake of vaccinating for rabies. I mean, the only fate worse than piscine psychopathy is feline autism amirite?

  • all three of my cats are pretty much autistic. No one in our home is neurotypical

  • ShamrockGecko

    This is how the zombie apocalypse really starts right here. Jokers refuse to get their pets vaccinated, crazy strain of rabies hits, jokers get rabies from their pets and start biting other people. We’re all going to die. I blame the internet (I ironically posted on the internet.)

  • Lisa Cybergirl
  • al kimeea

    People take their pets to chiroquacks & quackupuncturists, so not a stretch that some would prefer their pets get the best immunity from a real disease

  • Ally
  • Brianna LaPoint

    Animals dont get autism. but they get rabies and i hope some of them bite people because it seems some of them deserve to be bitten.

  • phatkhat

    “took him for a neuter…gave him every vaccine…hasn’t been right since”

    Eh, one of the effects of spay/neuter is usually a change in behavior – for the better. Well, I had my Siamese cat, who was hell on wheels, spayed a couple of weeks ago. She isn’t “right”, now. Instead of picking fights with the other cats and waiting on top of the bookshelf to ambush someone, she lies on the back of the couch preening and sleeping. OMG, she got kitty autism from the vaccines!! /s

    One risk from vaccines, at least in cats, is injection-site sarcoma. It is real, and it is fatal. I lost a dear one to it. Be vigilant for lumps that develop around the vaccination site later. Intervention can buy bonus time, though not a cure, unless you have very deep pockets. We reached the decision to “let him be a cat” in the vet’s words. We would have had to travel 600 miles to a hospital with radiation capabilities, and it would have stressed him out too much.

  • Delta

    Is it just me, or does this idea come from dehumanizing autistic people?

    Neurotypical humans do not behave the same as dogs or cats do. So why would “my cat acts like a person I know, so their behaviors must be for the same reason” make sense??

    I suspect (though can’t say for sure — I thankfully have never met someone who believes in “pets with autism”) it’s because they view autistic behaviors or experiences as less human, and therefore a cat or dog exhibiting those behaviors is no different from an autistic person.

  • Raging Bee

    Sounds like another Stephen King blockbuster! Working title: “Cujovaxxed.”