‘Anti-vax’ sentiment creeping into pet care, warn vets

Vets are concerned that scepticism about vaccination is creeping over from human health into pet care as new statistics show that 98% of vets have been questioned by their clients on the need for vaccination.

Well-meaning owners may be putting their animals at risk by relying on vaccination information gleaned from websites and social media groups, according to new statistics from the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Of the vets who had been questioned, 95% said that their clients’ questions are influenced by their own internet research. And 90% of those felt that clients were finding their information about vaccinations mainly from non-veterinary sources.

Daniella Dos Santos, the BVA’s junior vice president, said: “Vets always welcome questions from their clients – we need to work together if we want to ensure the best health outcomes for animals. However, it’s concerning that almost every companion animal vet has been questioned on the need for vaccination and that vets feel this is so strongly influenced by what their clients read on non-veterinary websites.

“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. We would hate to see a similar trend against vaccination of pets, based on no scientific evidence, take root in animal healthcare.”

She added: “Vaccination is vital. Pets in the UK have been amazingly well-protected from many terrible diseases such as parvovirus, hepatitis, distemper and leptospirosis, all of which used to be endemic here, through the power of vaccination and ‘herd immunity’. As a vet, it is hugely concerning to consider the future for pets in this country if owners begin to move away from regularly vaccinating.”

Social media sites are starting to address these issues in human health, with Instagram announcing last month that it will block ‘anti-vax’ hashtags in an attempt to stem the sharing of medical misinformation on its platform.

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