A new study found that dog owners in the U.S. are growing more skeptical of vaccinating their four-legged friends — including to help prevent rabies.
The study, published Saturday in the medical journal Vaccine, found that 53 percent of dog owners had some concern about the safety, efficacy or necessity of canine vaccines.
Additionally, 37 percent were concerned that vaccines could cause “cognitive issues” in dogs and may lead them to develop autism, a theory not backed up by scientific evidence.
The study found that more owners are experiencing Canine Vaccine Hesitancy (CVH), defined in the journal as “dog owners’ skepticism about the safety and efficacy of administering routine vaccinations to their dogs.”
“CVH is problematic not only because it may inspire vaccine refusal —q which may in turn facilitate infectious disease spread in both canine and human populations — but because it may contribute to veterinary care provider mental/physical health risks,” the study reads.
The study warned that CVH is also associated with owners not vaccinating their dogs for rabies, “as well as opposition to evidence-based vaccine policies.”
The survey was conducted on a nationally representative group of 2,200 U.S. adults.
The study stated it has been shown that a sustained vaccination of at least 70 percent of dogs could nearly eliminate human rabies cases in high-risk regions. However, the authors warned vaccination rates could eventually drop below 70 percent if CVH continues to rise.
The study also warned that the “phenomenon could have deleterious health consequences for both human and animal populations,” as dogs, on a global scale, are responsible for 99 percent of rabies transmission to humans.
Rabies is fatal once clinical signs appear and is estimated to cause 59,000 human deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization.
The study comes amid an uptick in concern over human vaccines in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What this demonstrates is that Covid fundamentally changed how Americans look at vaccines,” co-author Matt Motta, a political scientist at Boston University’s School of Public Health who studies hesitancy, told Bloomberg.
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