Dog Owners Becoming Hesitant To Vaccinate Their Doggies

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Approximately 45% of American households are home to dogs, and American dog owners are becoming increasingly skeptical about vaccines for their pets according to research from Boston University published in the journal Vaccine. The researchers explain that people who harbor mistrust in the safety and efficacy of human vaccines are more likely to express similar concerns regarding their pets.

Vaccines have always been a hot topic of debate whether they be for humans or animals, but confidence in human vaccines has dramatically declined since the pandemic which is driven by concerns over the safety and efficiency of the injections given to the public in recent years. This research indicates that the increased tendency to mistrust vaccines for humans is extending into American veterinarian offices. 

The findings from their analysis of a nationally representative sample of 2,200 dog-loving American adults revealed that over half of dog owners expressed at least some levels of canine vaccine hesitancy, almost 40% said they believed canine vaccines are unsafe, 20% said they believe canine vaccines are ineffective, and 30% said that they believe that canine vaccines are medically unnecessary. Additionally, 37% of the dog owners now worry that vaccinating their beloved pets could lead to canine autism. 

The researchers note that this is the first project to formally quantify the prevalence, origins, and health policy consequences of concerns regarding dog vaccinations. Overall, the findings indicate a spillover effect in America from concerns regarding the new injections used in the recent pandemic. Those with concerns about human injections are more likely to have concerns when it comes to their pets, maybe even stronger as the pets can’t speak for themselves and it is their responsibility to take care of them. 

Rabies still poses a major health threat to pets, and it carries a nearly 100% fatality rate. Globally, over 59,000 people die from canine-mediated rabies. According to the researchers, there is always a risk of adverse effects with any drug, treatment, or vaccine, but the rabies vaccine is overwhelmingly safe and effective. The researchers concluded that canine vaccine hesitancy is not widespread enough to pose a threat to public health, but that could one day change if mistrust continues to increase. 

“The vaccine spillover effects that we document in our research underscore the importance of restoring trust in human vaccine safety and efficacy,” says study lead and corresponding author Dr. Matt Motta, assistant professor of health law, policy & management at BUSPH, who studies how anti-science beliefs and attitudes affect health and health policies. “If non-vaccination were to become more common, our pets, vets, and even our friends and family risk coming into contact with vaccine-preventable diseases.”

“…but the risk with the rabies vaccine is quite low—especially when compared to the risk of rabies infection, which is almost 100-percent lethal,” Dr. Gabriella Motta, a veterinarian at Glenolden Veterinary Hospital in Glenolden, Pa.  

The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that dogs should receive a core set of preventive healthcare vaccines for rabies, distemper, adenovirus, parvovirus, and parainfluenza, barring those with specific medical conditions/reasons. Additionally, many dogs receive other “non-core” inoculations for Lyme disease, Bordetella, and other diseases which can depend on location. 

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