Categories: vaccinations

Anti-vaccination pet owners are putting their pets at risk. Discuss.

In the UK, veterinarians believe that millions of dogs, cats and rabbits are being put at risk to potentially fatal diseases because their guardians/caretakers are increasingly reluctant to have them vaccinated.

Cat vaccination. Photo in public domain.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) suggested that the reluntance to vaccinate amongst some pet owners may be due to the scepticism circulating on the internet concerning the human MMR vaccination.

A survey by the PDSA showed that the proportion of pets having primary vaccinations when young has fallen from 84% in 2016 to 66% in 2019.

In 2019, in the UK, 61% of cat owners had their cat vaccinated. For dogs the figure is 72%. Rabbit owners vaccinate their pets only 49% of the time. About a third of pets who are vaccinated do not receive regular booster vaccinations. The survey covered 5,000 owners.

Pet owners who did not vaccinate indicated that the cost (17% of pet owners) and not coming into contact with other animals (also 17% of owners) were reasons why they didn’t vaccinate their companion animals. Another reason is that the animals found the experience stressful.

Daniella Dos Santos, junior vice-president of the British Veterinary Association said:

“Vets are deeply concerned about the creep of anti-vax sentiments into animal care. We always welcome questions from clients but we are worried that these conversations are being heavily influenced by what pet owners are seeing online from unreliable sources.

We know from the example of the MMR vaccine and its now disproven linked to autism in children that scaremongering can lead to a loss of public confidence in vaccination and knee-jerk reactions that can lead to outbreaks of disease. We would hate to see a similar trend against vaccination of pets, based on no scientific evidence, take root in animal healthcare.”

Comment: (1) many people still believe there is a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in humans and (2) she has not mentioned another factor which I think has put people off. For many years, decades in fact, veterinarians in Western countries have tended to over vaccinate for financial gain. There has been a backlash from this state of affairs and perhaps an overreaction to the point where companion animals are now under vaccinated.

Perhaps the PDSA is trying to get clients into the clinic and they are worried that their bread-and-butter treatments are falling out of favour. I’m being cynical or realistic depending on your point of view. There is scepticism about veterinary costs in general. I sense that a lot of cat owners, for instance, don’t really trust vets. Also cat owners tend to be less connected to their companion animals compared to dogs. This leads to less concern for welfare and therefore vaccinations.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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