Vets warn of MMR moment for animal health as increasing number of

The UK’s leading veterinary body has warned that animal health is facing an “MMR” moment due to increasing numbers of owners refusing to vaccinate their pets.The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says “anti-vax” conspiracies put about online are persuading owners that inoculations against devastating diseases are unsafe.The warning refers to the crisis in public confidence in the Measles Mumps and Rubella jab that took place after Dr Andrew Wakefield published research linking the jab to autism.The discredited 1998 Lancet paper was subsequently withdrawn and Wakefield struck off, however public health experts believe the scare contributed towards a resurgence in vaccine scepticism which continues to this day.The BVA’s intervention comes alongside the results of a new survey of the profession which found 98 per cent of vets have been challenged by owners about the need for vaccination.Dog ownership forum websites and groups on Facebook are the primary source of anti-vax sentiment, according to the body’s leadership. Of the vets who had been questioned, 95 per cent said that their client’s challenges were influenced by internet research. “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 and knee-jerk reactions that can lead to outbreaks of disease, she said.“We would hate to see a similar trend against vaccination of pets, based on no scientific evidence, take root in animal healthcare.”But she added: “We are worried that this may be a continuing trend and pet owners lose confidence in vaccinations when they are ways to prevent horrible devastating disease.”Cases of diseases such as parvovirus and leptospirosis are increasing in Britain having been all but eradicated for years, leading international experts to predict that dog and cat populations will soon lose their “herd immunity”.Figures from the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, indicate that 25 per cent of dogs – roughly 2.2 million – no longer receive a primary course of vaccinations, a rise from 20 per cent in 2011.The rate for cats is worse: approximately 35 per cent are now unvaccinated, compared to 70 per cent eight years ago. Daniella Dos Santos, BVA Junior Vice President, said not only does veterinary medicine risk a crisis similar in scale to bogus MMR scare, but increasing numbers of dog owners believe in a link between animal vaccines and canine autism, a condition which has never been proved to exist. Ms Dos Santos, who practises as a companion animal vet in South East London, said: “I am seeing numerous cases of parvovirus, which can be terribly painful for dogs.“I am also seeing an increase in cases of leptospirosis, the danger with that being it can be transferred to humans.”“The worry is that this is due to a general movement against vaccines that is creeping into the UK.”She also pointed to a spillover in the influence of the “wellness” industry in human healthcare, a philosophy rooted in the alternative medicine movement that emphasises wellbeing rather than an absence of illness.“Owners are taking more interest in their own health and how they live their own lives and the perceived benefits or detriments of the food they eat and the medication they take,” she said.“They are looking to their pets and thinking “am i doing the right thing by my pet”.“We welcome this, but it has to be evidence-based.”Last year The Sunday Telegraph revealed Amazon was hosting adverts for “homeopathic nosodes”, made from the flesh of dead animals, which claimed to provide immunity from fatal conditions and were explicitly aimed at the anti-vax market. The website subsequently removed the products. A population needs around 70 per cent vaccination take-up for herd immunity to take effect, whereby viruses are unlikely to spread and threaten unvaccinated animals. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more