The anti-vaccination movement not only threatens human health—as shown in the recent U.S. measles outbreak—but, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), it could also have devastating effects for our pets if that ideology gains a foothold in veterinary medicine.
Vaccination is the primary reason the United States has eliminated the domestic dog variant of rabies, and why deadly diseases like distemper, parvovirus, and panleukopenia have become much less common in U.S. pets. This trend could easily be reversed, however, by the same circumstances that are allowing measles to spread in the United States.
“Unvaccinated pets are not only at risk themselves, but pose a threat to other animals, including young pets that have not yet received their full series of vaccines and thus are not fully protected, or those individuals that can’t be vaccinated due to preexisting health issues,” said Dr. Ted Cohn, AVMA president. “Vaccinating your pets helps to keep them safe from serious preventable diseases, while also protecting the health and well-being of these vulnerable populations.”
Today, there are a variety of vaccines available for use by veterinarians. They work by stimulating protective immune responses in pets and preparing them to fight future infections from disease-causing agents. They can lessen the severity of future diseases, and certain vaccines can prevent infection altogether. In some cases, such as with rabies, vaccinating pets can also protect humans from disease.
Like any medication or medical procedure, vaccinations do carry some risk. Such adverse responses can vary from mild to severe, but most of these vaccine responses—such as fever, sluggishness and reduced appetite–are rare, mild and resolve quickly. For the vast majority of pets, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.
Pet owners can work with their veterinarians to tailor a vaccination program that fits the needs of each specific pet. While there are certain core vaccines recommended for all dogs and cats, and some that may be required by law, there are other vaccines that may or may not be necessary due to the pet’s age, health, and lifestyle.