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Vets concerned with rising number of anti-vax pet owners

A growing trend among Calgary pet-owners to not vaccinate their dogs is emerging, worrying veterinarians. The canine parvovirus — an illness easily prevented with a vaccination — is being diagnosed more frequently and some vets are saying the reasons why are not unlike those of people who choose not to vaccinate their children.

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Typically, your dog receives the parvovirus vaccination as part of its yearly checkup. According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the virus (parvo) is both serious and widespread in dogs, and can be life threatening. Signs, which include severe vomiting and diarrhea with blood, result from the virus damaging the gastrointestinal tract.

The disease is spread via infected feces and is easily carried around on people’s shoes and other objects, leading to virus transfer. For this reason, even indoor high-rise apartment dogs that never go out require protection. Vaccination is the most effective protective strategy for all dogs, young and old.

But Calgary-based veterinarian Dr. Katie Van Sluys told the CBC a trend is emerging among pet owners to not vaccinate their dogs, similar to the anti-vaccine movement with respect to human vaccines.

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“We do see more people thinking that vaccinations are not important, or that they come with risks and ‘I am not doing that to my dog.’ But unfortunately, the risk of this disease is out there and threatening the adult population if you are not vaccinated.”

Though there is no evidence that the same people are choosing not to vaccinate both kids and pets, in a poll earlier this year investigating the rising numbers in the anti-vaxxers movement in children’s vaccinations in Canada, it was found that “the major reason, by far, parents are choosing not to vaccinate their kids is health concerns. Education and income really aren’t a factor when you take a close look at the make-up of anti-vaxxers.”

Van Sluys says anti-vaxxers are relying on what’s called herd immunity, that is, as long as a certain percentage of the dog population is vaccinated, the disease has a harder time spreading.

Do you think it’s important to vaccinate your pets? Tell us in the comments section below.

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