Anti-Vaccination Movement: A Risk for You & Your Pets


As the debate over childhood vaccinations wages on, the trend has spread to pet owners who are not vaccinating their pets with possible dangerous consequences.  This dangerous trend is catching the attention of veterinary medicine leadership and they are responding in like, stressing the importance of vaccinations to pet health.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) weighed in, releasing a statement about the potential risks to pet health the anti-vaccination movement. The statement warns that “the anti-vaccination movement not only threatens human health—as shown in the recent U.S. measles outbreak—but it could also have devastating effects for our pets if that ideology gains a foothold in veterinary medicine.”

New York Magazine recently covered the movement from humans to pets in a recent article, titled “Is the Anti-Vaccination Movement Spreading to Pet Owners?” and the answer is a very concerning, Yes. Brennen McKenzie, a veterinarian blogger and past president of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine Association tells New York Magazine that “Issues in veterinary medicine spill over from human medicine,” and adding that “mostly unfounded concerns about vaccine safety” in humans is definitely inciting anti-vaccination sentiments in dog owners.

Christopher Brockett, president of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, says he has “definitely” seen pet owners deciding to skip vaccines more frequently. “The fewer animals that are getting the vaccine, the greater the likelihood that you’re going to have a firestorm if something that is that highly communicable comes along,” Brockett says. Illnesses such as distemper, a highly contagious viral illness which causes potentially fatal respiratory and gastrointestinal distress in dogs, and which saw an outbreak among dogs in Texas made news, with veterinarians there noting that what was once a rare illness has surged in numbers this year.

Some people don’t believe in vaccinating their pets and that’s a dangerous trend, according to veterinarian Douglas Aspros of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Aspros told WSAU Radio in Wausau that pets can get a virus similar to measles which we’re seeing in more children around the country. Canine distemper virus is very common and because animals like raccoons carry it, it’s a risk for dogs, he said.

Doug Aspros has been very vocal on behalf of the AVMA and says they have also seen cases where people don’t want to vaccinate their animals.  “They have questions vaccinating their pets as well, and I’m here to tell them that’s not a good idea.  Certainly, the science behind it and the medicine behind it tells us if you want to take really good care of your pets, the best care, then vaccines are part of the complete package.”

Aspros points out that for people, the common diseases with effective vaccinations are measles, mumps, and rubella; he adds that there are similar viruses that are dangerous and even fatal for your pets.  “Measles, which is a virus that is very, very closely connected to a disease called canine distemper virus, is a common disease.  Probably, the two viruses way in the past were the same virus that just morphed and evolved to choose their species, but canine distemper virus is a very common virus.  It’s a risk for dogs because there are other animals other than dogs in our environment, like racoons, that carry it.”

One of the most serious diseases is one that can kill people and pets. “Rabies is certainly the poster child for a disease that we have good vaccines for, that’s deadly for dogs, deadly for cats, deadly for people, and vaccinating our pets is really the first line of defense to keep you and your family safe.”

Aspros says there are some diseases that are not viral, and there is no effective vaccine to prevent them.  “Blasto (Blastomycosis) and some of the other diseases like that, fungal diseases, we don’t have good vaccines for.  They’re not amenable to vaccines that are effective.”

Blastomycosis is common in certain parts of central Wisconsin, since the fungus is common in some river valleys.

Aspros says vaccinations are important to other animals, not just dogs and cats. “There are a number of diseases for which horses are a risk, and we have good vaccines to prevent.  Ferrets now have good and effective vaccines for canine distemper, another disease that ferrets are prone to, as well as rabies.”

Many of the people opposed to vaccinations believe some, like the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine for humans can cause autism.  Medical doctors and veterinarians alike say that theory has been proven false, and the best way to prevent illnesses is to get people and pets immunized.


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