Hesitancy over animal vaccination could be a deadly mistake

Mistaken beliefs about the need for pet vaccines and a growing hesitancy towards vaccination reported amongst pet owners in Europe could give rise to deadly diseases that not only affect cats and dogs, but also people.

With UK vets signalling a 7% drop in vaccination rates for both dogs and cats between 2011 and 2017, vaccine coverage is falling dangerously low for achieving the 70% coverage recommended to ensure ‘herd immunity’, which means pets could once again be at risk from painful and deadly illnesses that are not yet under control in neighbouring countries. 

When we know that in other parts of the world around 60,000 people die each year from rabies, mostly coming from dogs, this attitude to pet vaccination in Europe is a grave concern. Vaccines are hugely successful tools in the prevention of diseases for both animals and people, but a lack of true understanding on how they work could see our population threatened with deadly diseases once again”, said Roxane Feller, AnimalhealthEurope Secretary General. 

Speaking for the companion animal veterinary federation in Europe, FECAVA President Dr. Wolfgang Dohne stated, “The majority of pet owners are conscious of the importance of vaccinations and follow the advice of veterinarians. But misinformation, worries about costs, non-expert influence and the rise of so called “homeopathic treatments” are all contributing factors to lower vaccination rates in many European countries over the past years. We must not be fooled by diseases deemed no longer a threat: we are only free of them thanks to vaccinations. It is important that both veterinarians and pet owners remember the severity of diseases like parvovirosis, which we can now control if vaccination rates remain high enough to continue to offer protection for our dog and cat populations.” 

FVE President, Rafael Laguens, speaking on behalf of the federation of veterinarians in Europe shared a direct message for all pet owners: “Pets are part of our family. Owning them is a huge responsibility and giving proper health care is vital. Vaccination is one of the most powerful tools to prevent life-threatening diseases. Never neglect your annual visit to the veterinarian and always follow advice given to keep disease out of your home. Your veterinarian will make sure that your animal is up-to-date with all their vaccinations.” 

In Europe the success of vaccination in controlling disease in our pets has led to a perceived diminished risk – but just as you wouldn’t dismantle flood defences simply because it isn’t raining, we cannot stop vaccinating because we think disease has gone.