Anti-vaxxers now claim shots give pets autism
THE anti-vaxxer movement has taken a bizarre new turn with some pet owners refusing to get their dogs vaccinated for a potentially fatal disease because they falsely believe it could give their pooch autism.
Prominent Sydney vet Dr Sam Kovac said a worrying trend that took off in the UK has now reached Australia, with increasing numbers of owners rejecting injections for their pets and choosing herbal remedies instead.
"It is increasingly worrying how many people are analysing and making decisions based on what they can get off YouTube and Google, rather than from peer-reviewed research or legitimate scientific journals," Dr Kovac said.
"Pet anti-vaxxers are adamant that vaccinations can cause deleterious effects as severe as autism - despite the fact there are no recorded cases of animals with the condition," he said.
Owners are denying their dogs protection from the parvovirus, which Dr Kovac said had a 100 per cent kill rate if left untreated and 40 per cent death rate even with treatment.
"I don't think they deserve the privilege of having animals as pets - absolutely not," said Dr Kovac, who runs the Southern Cross Clinic in Bellevue Hill, NSW.
In Sydney, there are now three clinics that offer "holistic" medicines in conjunction with traditional treatments for man's best friend, despite recent research indicating 20,000 dogs a year are hit by parvovirus.
Instead of getting their dog a parvovirus jab that costs $98, some anti-vaxxer owners are spending thousands of dollars on unproven herbal remedies, Dr Kovac said.
Hysteria over autism in dogs has grown in the UK to the point that a parvovirus outbreak in one Lincolnshire town prompted the British Veterinary Association to issue a statement debunking the autism claims about vaccination.
Parvovirus causes the destruction of the intestinal lining resulting in severe gastroenteritis, haemorrhagic diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration.
The Australian Veterinarians Association recommends dogs receive core vaccinations against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and canine cough.
Dr Kovac said he had dealt with a number of cases of parvovirus recently. He warned of dire consequences should dogs not be vaccinated because of the "scandalous" rise of the anti-vaxxers.
"The rise in pet anti-vaxxers has come at the same time as an increase in holistic vets," he said.
"There is no holistic alternative to the vaccine … they're not only exposing their pet to a horrible demise but through their own negligence they are a risk to others in the community."
Other vets have joined the criticism of anti-vaxxers.
For Bondi vet Julia Crawford, the thought of poor pups suffering because owners are scared of dog autism is "ridiculous".
"It is a smell you never forget and it is a horrible way to die," Dr Crawford said.
"It is ridiculous, to go down that road is outrageous. Yes, there is a movement (of anti-vaxxers) but people have to be aware that you need to vaccinate."
Kelly Taylor, a vet at the Potts Point Veterinary Hospital, said parvovirus was not as prevalent in inner-city areas, but a move to reject vaccines completely was not in an animal's best interests.
"It is preventive measure but we do not need to vaccinate as much as we used to," she said.
"(There is no merit) in the theories I have seen online.
"We encourage people to stay up to date."