Orchard Vet's Blog

Can dogs get autism?


Last week Good Morning Britain tweeted the following:

'We're looking to speak to pet owners who haven't given their pets vaccinations because they're concerned about side effects - as well as people who have done so and now believe their pet has canine autism as a result.'

There is no scientific evidence that dogs can 'get' autism.

Claims of a link between the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine and children made in the late-90s were based on a small-scale study by a research team with an interest in proving a link. The results have subsequently been discredited but so-called 'anti-vaxxers' continue to promote the claim and, as a result, 2017 saw the largest outbreak of measles for thirty years and at least 35 children died. Now these fears appear to be jumping species.

The Good Morning Britain tweet prompted the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to respond:

'We are aware of an increase in anti-vaccination pet owners in the U.S. who have voiced concerns that vaccinations may lead to their dogs developing autism-like behavior. But there is currently no reliable scientific evidence to suggest autism in dogs or a link between vaccinations and autism.

All medicines have potential side effects but in the case of vaccines these are rare and the benefits of vaccination in protecting against disease far outweigh the potential for an adverse reaction.'

There are suggestions that pet vaccination rates in the UK are falling: a report by PDSA last year showed that 25% of dogs, 35% of cats and 50% of rabbits had not had a primary vaccination course. The BVA have suggested that failing to vaccinate a pet could constitute a breach of the Animal Welfare Act since 'pet owners have a duty to protect their animals from pain, injury, suffering and disease'.

If you have concerns, we would urge you to discuss them with your vet rather than abandoning a programme of vaccinations for your pet. §