Dogs cannot get ‘autism’, the British Veterinary Association has warned, after the ‘anti-vaccine’ movement spread to pets.
‘Anti-vaxxers’ believe that immunisations have harmful side effects and may be the cause of autism in children – beliefs widely debunked by the medical community.
This theory is increasingly being applied to pets, particularly in the US, and there are fears it is spreading to the UK and could cause already low vaccination rates to fall.
The BVA said: “We are aware of an increase in anti-vaccination pet owners in the US who have voiced concerns that vaccinations may lead to their dogs developing autism-like behaviour.
“But there is currently no scientific evidence to suggest autism in dogs or a link between vaccination and autism.”
“All medicines have potential side effects but in the case of vaccines these are rare and the benefits of vaccination in protecting against disease far outweigh the potential for an adverse reaction.”
Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz added: “Vaccinations save lives and are an important tool in keeping our pets healthy.
“We know from the example of the MMR vaccine and its now disproven link 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.
“Distemper and parvovirus are still killers in pets – and the reason we no longer see these on a wider scale is because most owners sensibly choose to vaccinate.”
Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, founder of the International School for Canine Psychology and Behaviour, said: “We don’t have scientific evidence to back claims of canine autism, however, we have seen anecdotal evidence of dogs having a marked change in their behaviour (‘canine dysfunctional behaviour’). Symptoms are things like increased aggression or dogs becoming more fearful.
“This could be down to any number of causes: the loss of a carer or the arrival of another dog. Some people link the changes to thyroid issues, but it is all down to individual circumstances.”
Despite accepting these dog behavioral issues were a real problem, Ms Tenzin-Dolma said she “would not advise people against vaccinations due to fear of canine autism as there was a lack of scientific eviden
The comments came after ITV breakfast show Good Morning Britain tweeted: “We’re looking to speak to pet owners who haven’t given their pets vaccinations because they’re concerned about side effects – as well as people who have done so and now believe their pet has canine autism as a result.”
The message was criticised by some users of the social media site, with one posting: “Please, please do not give airtime to this unscientific and dangerous mentality.
“If a single person sees the segment and decides not to vaccinate their pet/child, that’s on you. This is not a case where ‘both sides should be heard’ – it’s factually wrong and harmful.”
The BVA said: “While we welcome a platform for pet owners to discuss vaccinations, we’d be concerned about the adverse impact on pet health resulting from alarm such a show is likely to cause amongst pet owners if it does not offer a veterinary or scientific voice for a balanced perspective on the issue.”
Scaremongering can lead to a loss of public confidence in vaccination and knee-jerk reactions that can lead to outbreaks of disease.BVA Senior Vice President Gudrun Ravetz
Pet vaccination rates in the UK are already falling. The PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report in 2017 showed that 25 per cent of dogs, 35 per cent of cats and 50 per cent of rabbits had not had a primary vaccination course when young, up on previous years.
Usual vaccinations for puppies include protection against canine distemper; canine parvovirus; kennel cough; Leptospirosis; and parainfluenza.
The BVA suggested that owners who fail to vaccinate their pets could be breaking the law, commenting that: “It is important to remember that under the Animal Welfare Act, pet owners have a duty to protect their animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease.
“We know of no better, and scientifically proven, way to protect against disease than vaccination.”
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