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Autism in dogs? Anti-vaccine movement may impact pets

In Pennsylvania, there is no debate. Vaccination is the law.

Veterinarians in Brooklyn have reported a growing resistance to vaccinating pets.
Veterinarians in Brooklyn have reported a growing resistance to vaccinating pets.Read moreAP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Veterinarians in Brooklyn, N.Y., are reporting a growing resistance to vaccinating pets, which may be rooted in the anti-vaccine movement that claims the life-saving inoculations may cause autism in children.

The Brooklyn Paper reported that pet owners in some of the boroughs feel injecting chemicals into their precious pet is going to cause problems, with some suggesting that the shots could give their pups autism.

"We've never diagnosed autism in a dog. I don't think you could," Dr. Stephanie Liff of Clinton Hill's Pure Paws Veterinary Care told the paper.

Even if dogs were susceptible to the condition, owners probably wouldn't notice given their general behavior, Liff added.

The online publication Vaccine Reaction reported that "mainstream veterinarians" have not confirmed any cases of autism in dogs and that solid research was lacking in the field of canine autism, but studies are underway.

However, the publication referenced a study that was presented at the 2015 American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and reported an autism-like condition in canines. The presentation noted that "the vast majority of affected dogs were males, and many had other strange behaviors or physical conditions that accompanied the tail chasing, such as explosive aggression, partial seizures, phobias, skin conditions, gastrointestinal issues, object fixation, and a tendency to shy away from people and other dogs."

Vaccines are a normal part of a health check for domestic pets and include distemper, hepatitis, and rabies.

In Pennsylvania, there is no pet vaccination debate. It's the law.

Current rabies vaccines are required for any dog or cat over the age of three months.

Robert Lawrie, veterinarian at VCA Old Marple Animal Hospital in Delaware County, said that although people have expressed concerns about vaccines, staff at the hospital are not seeing any reluctance to administer the shots to pets.

"I do not know of any published research that would suggest that there is a link between autism and animals," Lawrie said.

In New Jersey, all dogs must be licensed through the municipality. To get a license, a current rabies vaccine is needed.

Vaccines are equally important for our feline friends as there have been more cases of rabies in cats than dogs in recent years.