The debunked idea that vaccines cause autism is one that, judging by my inbox alone, continues to endure. But veterinarians in the UK and elsewhere are now being forced to contend with antivaxxers going to the dogs.
Earlier this week, UK talk show “Good Morning Britain” sent out a tweet asking to hear from pet owners reluctant to vaccinate their precious pups over side effects, as well as from owners who believe their dogs developed autism as a result of the shots. A day later, the British Veterinary Association (BVA), in no uncertain terms, called bullshit.
“There’s currently no reliable scientific evidence to indicate autism in dogs (or its link to vaccines),” the organization said in a tweet responding to the talk show’s request. “Potential side effects of vaccines are rare and outweighed by the benefits in protecting against disease.”
The trend, the BVA acknowledged in a later statement, seems to come from pet owners in the US. Last year, local alt-weekly the Brooklyn Paper reported that several vets in New York City were starting to see owners hesitant to vaccinate their dogs over fears of causing symptoms akin to autism, like social awkwardness and overly aggressive behavior toward strangers (aka, being a dog).
As Snopes pointed out in its assessment of the Brooklyn Paper article, it’s difficult to know whether doggie antivaxxers are all that common in the first place, but there definitely seems to be some diehard activists and cranks in the anti-vax movement glomming onto the idea.
British vets might have a particular sore spot about seeing the trend pop up in their neck of the woods, though, given that the supposed link between vaccines and autism was initially fueled by UK doctor Andrew Wakefield’s since-retracted, fraudulent research published in the Lancet in 1998. Wakefield was later unceremoniously barred from practicing medicine in his native country and now spends his days hawking Infowars-level documentaries.
In any case, it really should go without saying that our good boys and girls need vaccines every bit as much as we do. There are any number of horrible, even fatal diseases that simple shots can prevent, including distemper, rabies, and parvo.