Concern grows around vaccine hesitancy among pet owners

Veterinarians are reporting a disturbing trend: vaccine hesitancy appears to be spreading to the pet world.

Canadian vets are raising the alarm about pet owners not getting their animals shots, saying this could pose risks to not just our furry friends but humans too.

While vaccine hesitancy in the pet world was around well before COVID-19, it may be an issue that’s growing, as a new study out of the U.S. finds more than half of dog owners surveyed expressed concern for their four-legged friends in the wake of the pandemic.

“When it’s becoming more popular in the human world, it then starts to become more popular in the pet-owner world,” said Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, a relief veterinarian in Newfoundland who represents the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

She says while the study was conducted in the U.S., Canada may be seeing a similar trend. She tells CityNews the worry is this increase in hesitancy will lead to the spread of preventable diseases which have largely been under control thanks to vaccinations.

“As vaccination hesitancy reduces the proportion of individuals that are vaccinated, we start to see more of the disease,” she explained, adding that’s particularly worrisome for something like rabies, which can be passed on to humans.

“It is a very fatal disease. It is almost universally fatal,” Brown-Bury said. “If you get rabies, you will die.”

She notes the only real treatment if you’re exposed is the vaccine.

“There’s at least one story where someone refused that post-exposure treatment because it was a vaccine, and that individual did not survive,” she said.

Meanwhile, if rabies or any other preventable disease only affects your pet, you could be hit with a lot of emotional and financial pain to deal with the fallout.

Brown-Bury says there’s a lot of misinformation out there, noting claims such as vaccines cause autism have been debunked. She adds it’s okay to have concerns and ask questions but stresses the importance of checking in with your vet instead of believing everything you see online.

“It is okay to ask questions,” she said.

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