The controversial anti-vaccine movement has apparently now reached some pet owners in Brooklyn, too.
According to a report published in Brooklyn Paper, dog owners in the hip and trendy areas of the New York City borough are skipping out on giving their pets recommended vaccinations that are not only critical to the health and safety of animals, but also to humans. Core vaccines for dogs in New York City include the highly contagious parvovirus, bordetella, distemper, hepatitis, and rabies.
Dr. Amy Ford of the Veterinarian Wellness Center of Boerum Hill told the publication she has seen a higher number of clients who don’t want to vaccinate their pets. This increased skepticism likely stems from the anti-vaccine movement that claims inoculations may cause autism in children, she explained. (Experts have found no evidence to support a link between autism and vaccines.)
This skepticism is more common among "hipster-y" pet parents, Ford stated, adding, "I really don’t know what the reasoning is, they just feel that injecting chemicals into their pet is going to cause problems." Dr. Stephanie Liff of Pure Paws Veterinary Care of Clinton Hills told Brooklyn Paper that trends in human medicine often trickle down to animal health care.
The eyebrow-raising article has sparked plenty of conversations among pet owners and veterinary professionals alike.
Dr. Sara Neuman of Vinegar Hill Veterinary Group in Brooklyn told petMD that this "movement" is actually nothing new. "There are people avidly against vaccines and there are people who say, 'I want to make sure my dog is as safe as possible.' Most are in between," she said.
Neuman said she does not try to "push" vaccines on her patients who are against the practice, but will send out alerts to clients when there is an outbreak of a disease, such as influenza or leptospirosis. She also tries to educate pet owners as much as possible and offers vaccine titers, which "can see if a dog's immune system is sufficient and therefore do not need the vaccine," Neuman explained.
In addition to the possible health problems that could arise from not getting dogs vaccinated, most groomers and pet daycares require dogs to be up-to-date with their immunizations, Neuman pointed out.
While Neuman said she hasn't heard of concerns regarding autism in dogs, the pet parents who are against vaccinations, "don't want to unnecessarily give something that could endanger their [pet's] immune system or cause cancer."
Although some dogs have reactions to vaccinations, such as fever, pain, urticaria, vomiting, or diarrhea, these symptoms can easily be treated with Benadryl, Ford said. On rare occasions, "There has been some thought that certain dogs can have an autoimmune reaction to vaccines called ITP (immune-mediated thrombocytopenia)."
Overall, Neuman said that education is key for pet parents, who should always ask their veterinarian about what kind of vaccinations they use and how they work, which is something she sees more often than not in Brooklyn. "This borough is made of very smart, well-educated clients who love and take wonderful care of their pets."
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Read more: To Vaccinate or Not: A Vet's Perspective