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.”
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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