Why vaccinate your pets?

25 April 2019

Posted by: Mia Rozenbaum

Category: Animal welfare & alternatives

Why is it important to vaccinate your pets? 

Just like children, dogs and cats need vaccinations against dangerous viral and bacterial diseases. Vaccination remains the single most effective method for protecting against infectious disease in healthy animals. Without proper vaccination, your pet is left unprotected.

Vaccines are preventative rather than curative. Vaccinations protect your pet from several highly contagious diseases such as canine distemper, parvovirus infection and respiratory tract infections. It also protects against transmissible diseases such as rabies that also pose a risk to humans.

Vaccinations have been developed and are produced under very strict safety rules. The injections contain weak or partial versions of a pathogen. This triggers your pet’s body to produce antibodies that identify and destroy disease-causing organisms that enter the body. If animals, or humans by the same matter, catch the same disease in the future, their body will recognise it and fight it off much more effectively. The protection provided by a vaccine gradually declines after an animal is vaccinated, periodic revaccination is necessary to remind the immune system to produce enough protective antibodies. Antibody titers are blood tests that measure the amount of antibodies in the blood. While antibody titers do not replace vaccination programs, they may help your determine if your pet has a reasonable expectation of protection against disease.

The weight of scientific evidence points to the fact that vaccinations are safe and effective at preventing many potentially deadly diseases. Experts agree that widespread use of vaccinations within the last century has prevented death and disease in millions of animals. There are lots of illnesses that used to be common but now are rarely seen by vets, thanks to vaccinations.

Despite this strong evidence in favour of vaccination, research shows that the anti vax movements in humans have spread to their animals, and more and more pets are going unvaccinated. The problem is acute in the United Kingdom. In its most recent annual report, Britain’s People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) surveyed more than than 4,600 pet owners and found that in 2018, about 25% of dogs—2.2 million of them—had not had their necessary vaccinations when they were young. Vaccination levels among puppies in the UK have fallen from more than 80 per cent in 2011 to 75 per cent while among kittens, they fell from 70 per cent to just 65 per cent, according to a recent survey

The most common reason people gave for not vaccinating their dog—accounting for 20% of responses—was that “it’s not necessary.” Some anti-vaxxers are also making the same unfounded claims about pets and vaccines they’ve been repeating about children and vaccines for the past 20 years: that vaccines are unnecessary, dangerous and that they can cause a form of (canine) autism, along with other diseases, despite the fact there are no recorded cases of animals with autism. In April 2018, Gudrun Ravetz, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), issued a statementdebunking the link between pet vaccinations and autism after a British morning show stoked fears of this link on social media.

This year the World Health Organisation included “vaccine hesitancy” among its 10 biggest threats to global health, pointing to a 30% increase in thenumber of cases of measles worldwide and a “resurgence” of the disease in countries that were close to eliminating it. And the canine and feline populations could be next to suffer. 

The danger is that we could see a lot of these rare diseases making a return and harming more pets. Bacteria and viruses can remain in the environments, sometimes for years, and resurging when vaccination rates drop. If owners stop vaccinating their pets, we’ll see a lot of these rare conditions coming back. This is especially worrying for veterinarians, and the Federation of European Companion Animal Veterinary Associations (FECAVA) who aim to control disease by immunising at least 70 per cent of the population to develop “herd immunity”, whereby viruses are unlikely to spread and threaten unvaccinated animals. FECAVA now believes that the anti-vax movement, fuelled by social media, is pushing pet vaccination rates below the threshold at which small outbreaks of deadly conditions such as Parvovirus and canine typhoid fever can be naturally contained.

Paradoxically, in many ways, vaccination has become a victim of its own success. One of the reasons some people fail to recognise the importance of immunising both children and pets is because of the perceived diminished risk of disease, which is precisely thanks to historic vaccination efforts in the first place. Many people have no experience with how terrible those diseases can be.

But whatever the justification, every owner who does not vaccinate a dog contributes to endangering a great many other dogs but also humans. Low pet vaccination rates also pose a risk to humans in the form of zoonotic diseases - those that can be passed from animal to human - such as leptospirosis and rabies. Compromising on animal health not only puts the welfare of dogs and cats at risk, it can also leave them vulnerable to infections that can also be passed on to people. 

Dogs 

  • Leptospirosis 
  • Canine viral hepatitis 
  • Canine parvovirus 
  • Canine parainfluenza 
  • Kennel cough 
  • Rabies

Cats 

  • Feline enteritis 
  • Feline parvovirus 
  • Feline leukaemia 
  • Cat flu syndrome 
  • Chlymidid 
  • Rabies

References

https://www.health24.com/Lifestyle/Pet-Health/About-pet-health/Why-should-I-vaccinate-my-pet-20130410

https://www.pdsa.org.uk/taking-care-of-your-pet/looking-after-your-pet/all-pets/why-vaccinating-your-pet-is-important

https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/vaccinations.aspx

http://time.com/5538926/dogs-vaccines-antivaxxers/

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/06/sentencing-their-dog-to-death-how-the-anti-vax-movement-spread-to-pets

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/8498261/anti-vaxxers-refusing-pets-vaccinated-autistic/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/12/anti-vax-spreads-animals-pet-immunisations-fall-dangerously/

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/12/age-vaccine-hesitancy-complacency-animal-immunisation-deadly/