New guidelines for pet vaccinations in Singapore help clear up ambiguities

Veterinarians say that the launch will help better inform the public about vaccinations.
Veterinarians say that the launch will help better inform the public about vaccinations.PHOTO: NATIONAL PARKS BOARD

SINGAPORE - Pet owners in Singapore will benefit from a new set of vaccination guidelines to help keep their cats and dogs healthy.

The Singapore Vaccination Guidelines for Dogs and Cats 2020 were announced by Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Nov 18).

Mr Tan said there was a need to vaccinate pets and added: "(The new guidelines) are backed by robust scientific evidence, and show the importance of vaccination for our companion animals to help them acquire the immunity to fight off or defend against vaccine-preventable diseases."

Jointly produced by the National Parks Board's (NParks) Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) and the Singapore Veterinary Association, the guidelines aim to level up the healthcare standards for pet cats and dogs, in the face of increasing pet ownership numbers and increased pet movement across borders.

According to statistics published in the guidelines, the population of owned pets in Singapore has surged over the years, with the number of licensed dogs up by almost 20 per cent, from 59,000 in 2011 to about 70,000 in 2019. About 2,000 pets were imported in 2018.

The guidelines come at a time when concerns over animal-to-human disease transmission are high due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which originated in animal vectors before jumping to humans.

"It is important also to recognise that animal health is closely linked to public health, and that the prevention of zoonotic disease in animals will greatly reduce the risk of disease spread to humans," said Dr Yap Him Hoo, the director general of NParks AVS, on Wednesday.

Veterinarians say that the launch will help better inform the public about vaccinations, which is crucial given that increasing numbers of pet owners are opposed to vaccines. Such people are known as anti-vaxxers.

"In the past three to four years, I have increasingly had to deal with clients who are anti-vaxxers. Instead of referring to them to sources they are unfamiliar with, I can now cite an authority that the public respects," said Dr Arman Chen, a 36-year-old veterinary surgeon and practice manager at Gaia Veterinary Centre.

Veterinarians also say that the new rules will have a concrete impact on the well-being of pets in shelters, where many animals are in close contact and disease can easily spread.

Dr Chow Haoting, 31, locum veterinarian at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: "Over the past few years, we've had a few disease outbreak clusters in various shelters that a proper vaccine schedule could have prevented."

While welcoming the new guidelines, Dr Chen recommended that measures be introduced for pet euthanasia as well.

He said that clear guidelines will help minimise disputes with the public of the kind that happened with the controversial euthanisation of Loki, a pet dog whose death on April 20 sparked public outrage and a four-month-long investigation by the AVS.

"Guidelines for this controversial area will show the layperson how we make our decisions," said Dr Chen.