Anti-vaxxers say that vaccinations can cause pet autism

Anti-vaxxers (people opposed to vaccinations) are suspicious about inoculations. They feel that they may cause autism in pets. This is an extension of the long-running debate about the possibility of vaccinations causing autism in children.

Scientifically speaking that argument has been debunked but ordinary citizens with children and pets to look after remain suspicious.

Also, there has been a general shift in opinion about vaccinating pets. Historically, there has been over-vaccination by veterinarians. This has also created a backlash against vaccinations amongst a segment of pet owners.

Apparently, veterinarians in Brooklyn, New York (I’m not sure whether veterinarians in other parts of New York state or indeed America have had the same experiences) are reporting that pet owners are withholding vaccinations against serious pet diseases because they have suspicions that they can damage their pets and cause autism.

A central problem with this argument is that I don’t know of any veterinarians writing on the Internet about autism in cats and dogs. I think that you will find that there is no evidence that it exists in cats and dogs. How do you diagnose it? That does not mean it does not exist. It is probable that it could exist but there is currently no evidence of it. There are stories of cats and dogs behaving bizarrely and pet owners claiming that this bizarre behaviour is due to mental illness including autism. These are just stories without any scientific evidence to support them.

Often bizarre behaviour in cats is due to environmental conditions and poor ownership. Also, the word “bizarre” is misused. It often means behaviour which the owner does not understand, which is in fact quite normal considering the conditions under which the cat lives.

Dr Amy Ford of the Veterinarian Wellness Centre of Boerum Hill said:

“We do see a high number of clients who don’t want to vaccinate their animals… This may be stemming from the anti-vaccine movement, which people are applying to their pets.”

As mentioned, this scepticism towards inoculating cats and dogs appears to have resulted from the MMR vaccine of kids which was said by Dr Wakefield to cause autism in children. As I recall, Dr Wakefield was struck off the British medical register because of allegations that his science was fraudulent. He forged a fresh career in America. Many people still believe him particularly in America. This sentiment has spread to include concerned cat and dog owners who were already concerned about the over-vaccination of pets and who are sensitive to the possibility that vaccinations could affect mental health and therefore cause autism. We know that, rarely, vaccines can harm pets.

Vets are miles away from understand mental health issues in cats and dogs except for depression but that issue raises big question marks. We should be cautious about giving cats and dogs human mental health problems.

For the sake of clarity, autism is a disorder which affects a person’s social interaction, communication interests and behaviour.

As an aside, I think that the diagnosis of autism is often abused by doctors. I sometimes feel that it is a manufactured illness and that autism is simply normal behaviour in children but disruptive behaviour and perhaps extreme behaviour which medical professionals have decided needed to be pigeonholed and labelled and so they invented “autism”.

Perhaps this mini trend by anti-vaxxers in refusing to vaccinate their pets is a result of a lack of trust in veterinarians; veterinarians who have lost trust of their clients through prioritising financial profit over animal welfare. That is not to say by any means that all veterinarians do this. There are very many excellent veterinarians. I do not want to be accused of unjustly maligning and criticising veterinarians. They do a great job by a large but I am one of those people who think that they sometimes let themselves down. One very clear example of this is the declawing of cats. There is a gradual movement against that as well which is growing.

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5 thoughts on “Anti-vaxxers say that vaccinations can cause pet autism”

  1. Michael, I am sorry but ” I sometimes feel that it is a manufactured illness and that autism is simply normal behaviour in children but disruptive behaviour and perhaps extreme behaviour which medical professionals have decided needed to be pigeonholed so they invented “autism”.” is ignorant.

    Asperger (high functioning autism) may be overdiagnosed (along with ADHD) in the search for a label for a child that is “different” or awkward, but autism is a crippling disorder. I have first hand experience of autistic children and adults. They are neurologically different. I was part of a fight to get proper diagnosis and schooling for a friend’s son who is severely autistic. It cannot be cured. Unlike disruptive behaviour it isn’t turned on and off at will by the individual. The effect on them is crippling because they don’t perceive the world in the same way as a neurotypical person. The best analogy is that it’s like being born on the wrong planet. Perhaps one day you will be exposed to individuals with autism and see that it is a very far cry from normal children that are disruptive (many of who are simply bored!). Really I expected better of you.

    Having said that, I don’t believe autism is found in animals because it seems to be a disorder affecting cognitive functions not found in animals (or that develop quite differently in animals).

    My cats haven’t had the flu/enteritis jabs because they show signs of having been exposed to those diseases before I got them. This was something my vet discussed with me when I started taking on older cats or cats from iffy backgrounds. In all likelihood they’ve already gained immunity.

    As neuters my three don’t interact with other cats (e.g. fighting) and they will not need to go into a cattery as I don’t spend time away from home. Two of them came from feral colony backgrounds as kittens and have been exposed to disease already. There are few strays (generally the strays have ended up with me!) and no ferals in my locality. In this instance I have weighed up the risks, along with my vet, and found the risks low enough that my cats aren’t vaccinated.

    If I lived in a high cat population area with many cat-to-cat interactions, or with populations of ferals, and if my cats hadn’t already been exposed to the major diseases then vaccination would become a priority.

    1. Autism doesn’t even figure in for animals.
      I read an interesting blog about some dog breeders who have now convinced themselves that neutering their dogs is unhealthy for them. At least half of them had posts up on their wall about puppies and kittens that were going to be euthanized at their local shelters.
      Animal owners can get caught in a complete nonsense.
      We don’t line children up for yearly re inoculation in fact the recommendations for taking a booster are decades apart unless there is exposure.
      There are people like me who want the nonsense of over vaccination to stop but I have nothing to do with the NUTS who don’t want to vaccinate at all.
      About 10 years ago someone dear to me had their SO bring home some kittens. A few days later they were diagnosed with rabies. This was in a town not the countryside. Only the fact that they could prove their own pets were vaccinated were they allowed to keep them alive and in an in home quarantine.

  2. BTW I tend to believe Dr. Robb about titers. If a three year vaccine switched off at that time limit they would not allow it. Three years is within the safety threshold which is probably much longer.

  3. This is of course foolish and detrimental to your pets.
    There are no safe vaccines but the disease they prevent are serious and life threatening. Failure to vaccinate with the core vaccines helps spread disease in animal populations. Especially in this day and age when no one can leave their home without the family dog in tow.
    The 3 year rabies vaccine is the exact same vaccine as the one labeled for 1 year. No pet needs to be vaccinated for rabies more than every 3 years except they triple the cost of the vaccine for the 3 year.
    For a cat that might mean the difference of having 3-5 vaccines in their lives vs. 15-16.
    Anti vaxxers in the US are helping to spread disease like measles and mumps and chicken pox. It’s important not to confuse concerns about over vaccinating pets with quackery.

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