Anti-vaccine movement includes pets

People who embrace the anti-vaccination movement and forego immunization for themselves or their children against certain human diseases are in some cases extending their attitude to pets.

A number of veterinary clinics on the Prairies report they have clients who refuse vaccination for their dogs.

People against vaccination, dubbed anti-vaxxers, believe the injections can cause other ailments in people, such as autism. The belief has not held up to scientific scrutiny.

But with many pets considered members of the family, the anti-vaccine attitude has extended to Fido and Fluffy.

“In some cases people don’t want to vaccinate their dogs because they’re scared that the vaccine will harm the animal,” said Dr. John Ayres, a veterinarian at Norsask Veterinarian Group, which has clinics in Rosthern and Warman, Sask.

Dr. Andy Mencarelli, a veterinarian at Didsbury Veterinary Services in Didsbury, Alta., has also encountered anti-vaxxers in his practice.

“I think (anti-vaxxers) think that the vaccine is impure and they think that it does more harm than good,” Mencarelli said. “They’re much more into the natural remedies and unscientifically proven medicine, I would say.”

He and Ayres say most of those clients come from urban backgrounds and it is less of an issue with rural dog owners.

Vaccinations protect dogs against rabies, canine distemper and canine parvovirus, which all can be deadly.

Karen Sheehan, a clinical associate in the wellness department at the Veterinary Medical Centre at the University of Saskatchewan said canine vaccines provide excellent protection when given at the proper frequency.

“The reality is making sure clients understand that without vaccination, an animal can be unprotected and succumb to one of those diseases,” said Sheehan.

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