UK’s leading veterinary body debunks link between canine autism and vaccination

24 April 2018

Vets stressed that no reliable scientific evidence currently existed to indicate autism in dogs or a link between vaccinations and canine autism

The British
Veterinary Association today issued a statement stressing the importance of having
pets vaccinated and debunking the link between vaccinations and autism in dogs,
after a controversial social media post by a popular breakfast television show called
on pet owners who had noticed such a link to get in touch for a future segment
on the topic.

The tweet, published
by ITV's Good Morning Britain, asked pet owners to contact the channel if they
believed their dogs had developed autism as a result of vaccines or if they didn't
vaccinate their pets for fear of other side effects.

Gudrun
Ravetz, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“There
is currently no reliable scientific evidence to indicate autism in dogs or a
link between vaccination and autism.

“Vaccinations
save lives and are an important tool in keeping our pets healthy. 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.

“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.”

The vaccine-autism
link in humans was first suggested in a now-debunked
research paper by physician Andrew Wakefield 20 years ago, which fuelled the
anti-vaccination movement within human medicine. BVA is viewing the suggestion
that this trend could now be seen amongst pets as a worrying development,
Gudrun said, adding:

“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.”

Under the
Animal Welfare Acts of 2006, pet owners have a duty to protect their animals
from pain, injury, suffering and disease. BVA encourages owners and vets to work together to undertake a thorough risk
assessment on an individual basis and discuss this when deciding the right
preventive health care regime for their pet.

Gudrun said: "It
is important to tailor a vaccine programme to each pet. Pet owners should
always feel comfortable talking to their own vet, who knows the individual
animal and understands the local disease situation, for advice or to raise any
concerns they may have about a disease or vaccine.”

Related BVA policy

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