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UK’s leading veterinary body debunks link between canine autism and vaccination

BVA debunks the link between vaccinations and autism in dogs on the heels of a controversial social media post by a popular breakfast television show.

The British Veterinary Association today issued a statement stressing the importance of having pets vaccinated and debunking the link between vaccinations and autism in dogs, after a controversial social media post by a popular breakfast television show called on pet owners who had noticed such a link to get in touch for a future segment on the topic.

The tweet, published by ITV’s Good Morning Britain, asked pet owners to contact the channel if they believed their dogs had developed autism as a result of vaccines or if they didn’t vaccinate their pets for fear of other side effects.

Gudrun Ravetz, Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association, said:

“There is currently no reliable scientific evidence to indicate autism in dogs or a link between vaccination and autism.

Vaccinations save lives and are an important tool in keeping our pets healthy. All medicines have potential side effects but in the case of vaccines, these are rare and the benefits of vaccination in protecting against disease far outweigh the potential for an adverse reaction.

“While we welcome a platform for pet owners to discuss vaccinations, we’d be concerned about the adverse impact on pet health resulting from alarm such a show is likely to cause amongst pet owners if it does not offer a veterinary or scientific voice for a balanced perspective on the issue.”

"The vaccine-autism link in humans was first suggested in a now-debunked research paper by physician Andrew Wakefield 20 years ago, which fuelled the anti-vaccination movement within human medicine. BVA is viewing the suggestion that this trend could now be seen amongst pets as a worrying development", Ms Ravetz said, adding:

“We know from the example of the MMR vaccine and its now disproven link to autism in children that scaremongering can lead to a loss of public confidence in vaccination and knee-jerk reactions that can lead to outbreaks of disease. Distemper and parvovirus are still killers in pets – and the reason we no longer see these on a wider scale is because most owners sensibly choose to vaccinate.”

Under the Animal Welfare Acts of 2006, pet owners have a duty to protect their animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease. BVA encourages owners and vets to work together to undertake a thorough risk assessment on an individual basis and discuss this when deciding the right preventive health care regime for their pet.

Ms Ravetz said: "It is important to tailor a vaccine programme to each pet. Pet owners should always feel comfortable talking to their own vet, who knows the individual animal and understands the local disease situation, for advice or to raise any concerns they may have about a disease or vaccine.”           

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