Pet Anti-Vaccination Is a Thing Now, Because Anti-Vaxxers Are Worried About Dog Autism

Portrait of Dog looking into the wind.

More pet owners may be skipping shots as vaccine denialism creeps into veterinary medicine.


Anti-vaccination attitudes have now taken hold among some pet owners who are refusing to vaccinate their dogs out of a misguided fear the shots might cause allergic reactions or other illnesses. Veterinarians say canine vaccinations help ward off not only diseases that afflict dogs, but those that can spread from pets to humans. As recent history has shown among anti-vaxxing human adherents, the drop-off in vaccinations could lead to the re-emergence of deadly illnesses that had been nearly eradicated, like rabies.

New York City’s Brooklyn Paper spoke to local veterinarians who said they have seen a recent increase in the number of dog owners who are turning down inoculations for their dogs. Despite numerous study findings proving there’s no link between autism and vaccinations among people, the spillover of misinformation seems to be having consequences for pets.

“We do see a higher number of clients who don’t want to vaccinate their animals,” Dr. Amy Ford, of the Veterinarian Wellness Center of Boerum Hill, told the outlet. “This may be stemming from the anti-vaccine movement, which people are applying to their pets.”

She noted that pet anti-vaccination attitudes appear “much more common in the hipster-y areas” of town, which sounds about right, and suggests that someone should take a poll of veterinarians in Portland and Austin. “I really don’t know what the reasoning is,” Ford added, “they just feel that injecting chemicals into their pet is going to cause problems.”

New York Magazine spoke to a New Jersey-based homeopathic veterinarian who suggested dog owners can avoid vaccinating pets if they instead purposely expose them to doggy illnesses, in an effort to build up natural immunity. This is the same idea behind “pox parties,” events where parents purposely expose their kids to viruses as a sort of immunity-building exercise.

“It is impossible for a puppy to go to the dog park and pick up distemper in such a manner that would only induce natural immunity but not put that same pup at extreme risk of disease,” California veterinarian Tami Pierce told New York Magazine. She points out that if an unvaccinated dog were to contract distemper, the dog would become a potential disease threat to any other unvaccinated dogs it came into contact with. That’s how this stuff spreads.

Not only has science proven that vaccinations do not cause autism, the logic at work among dog anti-vaxxers is particularly specious. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, points out the flaw in thinking among some of the pet owners she sees.

“I had a client concerned about an autistic child who didn’t want to vaccinate the dog for the same reason,” Liff told the Brooklyn Paper.

“We’ve never diagnosed autism in a dog,” she continued. “I don’t think you could.”

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