Fears that falling vaccination levels caused by the credit crunch may be putting Britain’s 11 million unvaccinated animals at risk are being highlighted as part of National Vaccination Month.
Currently, an estimated three million dogs, six million cats, 1.8 million rabbits and 500,000 horses are unvaccinated.
The concerns – first highlighted in a poll of 100 vet practices in October 2008 – showed that a quarter of those polled had seen a reduction in vaccination levels due to the credit crunch. These findings have been backed up by a YouGov poll commissioned by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health in May as part of its second National Vaccination Month Campaign, which runs throughout June.
The YouGov survey of pet owners found that nearly half were failing to vaccinate their animals, with 53 per cent of those polled not vaccinating their pets due to cost.
Almost one in five (19 per cent) pet owners nationwide admit they have cut back on veterinary expenses such as vaccinations, health checks and treatments.
Key elements of the YouGov survey include:
- 53 per cent of owners of unvaccinated pets cited cost as the reason for not vaccinating in the past 12 months compared to 34 per cent for the last survey .
- 84 per cent said they would participate in a campaign to get their pet vaccinated for less compared to 66 per cent last time
- 50 per cent have reduced the money spent on their pet due to the recession. This includes vet checks (7 per cent), vaccination (7 per cent) treatment (5 per cent) and pet insurance (8 per cent)
More worryingly for the future, the YouGov survey points to a lack of awareness among younger pet owners over pet health. Of the 18-24 year olds polled who had not taken their pet to be vaccinated, 44 per cent said it was because they were unaware of any disease risk to their animals.
Awareness of disease risk was much higher in older age groups with just 13 per cent of those aged 55 and over not realising that their pets were at risk from disease. Just under a quarter of those 18-24 year olds surveyed (22 per cent) were not aware that they could catch things such as fleas and worms and diseases such as ringworm and Toxocara from their pet.
Paula Boyden – a vet and Business Development and Corporate Marketing Project Manager at Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health – who has steered the campaign for the company said: “There are clearly some strong messages coming out to vets here, not least where and how the credit crunch is hitting pet owners. The underlying message that National Vaccination Month offers a way of supporting pet owners during these difficult economic times is obviously important. While the data shows that pet owners will still make considerable sacrifices to care for their pets, it also highlights that vaccination is falling by the wayside.
“Clearly, practices will need to work harder than ever against the background of the credit crunch to bring home the message to pet owners that their pets are at risk of serious and often fatal disease and that cutting vaccination is a false economy. The YouGov poll also highlights the urgent need to educate the younger section of pet owners about the disease threat faced by their animals.”
TV wildlife and science presenter Kate Humble, who with Matt and Clare Brash is spearheading the National Vaccination Month Campaign, said: “The really sad aspect is that people who are reducing veterinary care due to the recession may be making a false economy by putting their pets at risk of serious disease, which may lead to treatment at far greater cost than the price of the annual jab.”
The YouGov survey suggests that where people have had to pay for unexpected vet bills they are paying for them on credit cards. One had to put the family pet down and many revealed that they had made personal sacrifices in order to keep looking after their animals including stopping smoking, cutting out luxuries, clothes and socialising.
The YouGov survey also highlights how, despite lavishing affection and presents on their pets, people are not taking adequate steps to protect them from preventable killer diseases. The survey reveals that 65 per cent of pet owners consider their animal to be an extremely important member of the family with over half (54 per cent) buying them Christmas presents. However, only 56 per cent of pets were vaccinated with just under a quarter (22 per cent) of owners unaware of any disease risk.
In answer to this disease threat and to help owners during the recession, around 2,000 veterinary clinics across the UK have so far signed up to part in the National Vaccination Month campaign, offering pets a full vaccination course against a range of fatal diseases for the cost of a booster.
Dont miss out on the opportunity to participate in National Vaccination Month (www.vaccinationmonth.co.uk) – the biggest national consumer campaign of its kind. For more information on how to become a participating practice, please contact your Intervet/ Schering-Plough Animal Health account manager or call Intervet/ Schering-Ploughs Veterinary Support Group on 01908 685685, option 4.
Those polled citing cost as the reason for not vaccinating their animals broke down regionally as: East of England (71 per cent), South East (64 per cent), South West (61 per cent), Yorkshire and Humber (54 per cent), North West (54 per cent), East Midlands (51 per cent), London (50 per cent), North East (46 per cent), Scotland (44 per cent), West Midlands (38 per cent), Wales (27 per cent).