A decline in pet vaccination levels has raised concerns the “herd immunity effect” protecting UK small animals is under threat.

PDSA has published its seventh Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report.

Headline figures in the seventh PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report show only 75% of dogs (7 million) and 65% of cats (6.7 million) received a primary vaccination course when young. These are the lowest levels recorded by the report and compares with 82% of dogs and 72% of cats in 2011, when the survey began.

Rabbit needs remain the most neglected, with only 50% receiving a primary vaccination when young – a decrease from 63% in 2016.

Data also suggests, overall, only 66% of owners (5.6 million cats, 7.3 million dogs, 500,000 rabbits) surveyed in 2017 have protected their pet with annual booster vaccinations.

‘Too expensive’

Of those surveyed, owners expressed “cost” as one of the top reasons for failing to vaccinate their pet – 20% of both dog and cat owners and 10% of rabbit owners who hadn’t vaccinated their pets gave “too expensive” as their reason for not vaccinating.

PDSA spokesman and vet Rebecca Ashman said: “The worry is, if there’s this fall in owners vaccinating their pets, there may be a drop in the herd immunity. We’re really worried there’s going to be pockets and outbreaks of diseases, which is heartbreaking for us [vets] when we normally know we can prevent them.

“One of the most significant reasons owners are giving for not vaccinating is the cost. That really highlights an area where it’s important, as a profession, we’re going out there and making sure owners are fully aware of the cost of pet ownership.”

Financial awareness

PDSA head of pet health and welfare Nicola Martin added: “While the latest PAW Report confirms many of us get pets for the companionship and love they bring to our lives, it also highlights many owners continue to misjudge the costs involved in owning a pet.

“This shows the veterinary profession and animal welfare organisations need to do more to raise awareness of the financial reality of pet ownership – including preventive care and veterinary treatment – before owners take on a pet.”

  • Read the full story in the 5 June issue of Veterinary Times.
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