SHOULD YOUR CAT BE VACCINATED?
The answer is a definite yes. When and how frequently with which vaccine is the issue at hand. Dr. James Richards, DVM, states that a decade ago things were very clear. In the mid-1990’s the vaccination treatment plan was simply based on giving every cat inoculations with every available vaccine every year. Today that has changed. The number of available vaccines has at least doubled and they are generally effective in dealing with a variety of feline diseases.
Dr. Richards claims that it has now become clear that vaccines sometimes can cause clinical disease and (though only remotely possible) can even damage developing fetuses or stimulate allergic reactions. An improperly placed injection can even cause nerve injury. Also, vaccines and equipment, if poorly maintained or stored can become contaminated and cause infections. Last, but not least, is the basis of recent research on the development of highly malignant tumors that develop at the injection site of certain vaccines.
There is some new research on the recommended annual vaccination schedule for cats. Results strongly indicate that some vaccinations may not need to be administered on an annual basis; findings from this new research show that cats are protected for longer than one year, it can last for three to five years.
Forget about giving every single cat the exact same grouping of vaccines. Just because a vaccine is commercially available doesn’t necessarily mean that all cats need it. Instead, each cat’s vaccination schedule should be tailored to meet that cat’s immunization requirements based upon such factors as the cat’s age, general health and life style. For example, a cat kept indoors exclusively with little or no contact with other cats would have a much lower risk level of becoming infected with a deadly disease (such as feline distemper) as opposed to a cat who is allowed to roam freely outdoors.
You need to discuss your cat’s immunization schedule with your veterinarian and tailor it to meet your cat’s needs. Ultimately it is your decision, as the cat’s owner, whether it makes sense to vaccinate against certain diseases less often. Keep in mind we are not suggesting you eliminate any vaccinations, just vaccinate less often.
Vaccinations are vital to your cat’s health and well-being. Don’t ever be misled by anyone who, claims that vaccinations are unnecessary or even harmful to your cat. It is true that occasional side effects and problems have been associated with routine vaccinations in the past, new data and new vaccination protocols are now making vaccinating your cat safer than ever before. The possibility of side effects is greatly outweighed by the benefits of regular appropriate vaccinations. -The Humane Society of the United States
Have your veterinarian conduct a blood test to check the levels of antibiotics present against a particular disease to determine if a booster vaccination is really needed yet. This is called “titer testing”. It is a good alternative to automatic vaccination. Why vaccinate if the cat is still immune to a particular disease? By skipping a booster shot, if blood testing shows a high enough immunity level, you could spare your cat the potential health risks and spare yourself the needless expense of the immunization shot.
Vaccines can have an adverse effect on cats. The largest concern is vaccine-related sarcomas (cancerous tumors at the vaccination site). These highly malignant tumors are most often associated with the feline leukemia vaccines and certain rabies vaccines. Up to 22,000 cats each year in the United States alone are affected by these feline fibrosarcomas, which end up being fatal in most cases. This is a very significant problem. The numbers could even be higher since not all of these tumors get reported in. This is what prompted this most recent research on vaccination schedules.
NOTE: The findings of this research are still being debated in veterinary circles. More research and data is felt to be warranted by some veterinarians. So your solution is to simply have your veterinarian run the titer testing of your cat’s blood to determine the level of immunity your cat has for a particular disease, then proceed accordingly.
Current recommendations from the veterinary community to reduce the risk of losing your cat to one of these highly vaccine-related tumors is simply to avoid unnecessary vaccinations and to take other precautions such as making sure your cat does not receive repetitive vaccinations at the same spot on her body. It’s your responsibility to keep track of your cat’s vaccination sites and to ask your veterinarian to use a different site each time your cat is due for vaccinations.
The AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) now recommends that re-vaccinations occur every three years for rabies (in areas where the vaccine is available and acceptable by law) and vaccinations for feline distemper, feline herpesvirus (FVR), and upper respiratory viruses (FVC – feline calcivirus) be done every three years as opposed to annually. (Other research supports this every three years program of immunization.) This report came out November 1, 2006. You need to check with your county for their legal requirements of what shots to give cats and how often. Some require rabies shots annually, or every three or five years, while some no longer require them at all.
It does need to be noted that no vaccine is 100% effective in all cats. For herpesvirus and calicivirus, immunization is relative rather than absolute–meaning that even vaccinated cats that are exposed can develop disease, but in a less severe form than if the cats had not been vaccinated.
It is interesting to know that the original concept of “annual” vaccinations arose arbitrarily and was not based on any scientific evidence as to the duration of the immunity.
The American association of Feline Practitioners and the Academy of Feline Medicine Advisory Panel of Feline Vaccinations now recommends that the use of polyvalent (combined) vaccines (that is, several vaccines combined in a single injection) be discontinued. While combination shots are more convenient, and usually cheaper, the Task Force determined that these shots were forcing additional vaccines on cats who didn’t need them and also were producing an unacceptably high number of side effects.
They also recommended that the use of adjuvants be minimized or even eliminated. Adjuvants are added to vaccines to increase their effectiveness in the body. Research seems to show that these adjuvants cause more adverse reactions than vaccines without them. They have also been associated with vaccine-associated sarcomas.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Talk to your veterinarian as to what is the best vaccination schedule for your cat and her specific needs.
DRUGS AND MEDICATIONS
Cats are unusually sensitive to drugs and medications. Their livers metabolize drugs less efficiently than in most other animals.
Drugs are dosed by the body weight of the cat. The margin of safety is quite small in a cat. Weight must never be estimated. Your cat could die if you guess the weight more than it actually is.
NEVER DOSE YOUR CAT UNLESS IT IS UNDER A VET’S GUIDANCE.
Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, etc. are all DEADLY to a cat–even a tiny amount.
Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a common pain reliever for humans. Although it has a place in home veterinary use for dogs, it can kill your cat. Aspirin is broken down more slowly in cats than in people, so the drug stays in the cat’s system longer, for days rather than hours. Giving your five pound cat one adult aspirin tablet is roughly equivalent to a person taking 30 pills.
Make sure you have a good veterinary surgeon nearby. A good vet for your cat is as essential as a good doctor is for you and your family. At some stage in your cat’s life you are sure to need his services, even if only for routine checks-ups and shots.
VACCINATIONS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR EVERY KITTEN/CAT
All kittens need to initially be vaccinated at approximately six weeks of age and receive booster vaccines every three to four weeks thereafter, until they are over 72 weeks old (roughly 17 months–almost a year and a half). This is called the “kitten series” FPV (feline distemper), FHV (feline herpesvirus), and FCV (feline calicivirus) vaccines are in this series.
Another vaccination should be administered one year later and additional booster shots no later than every three years thereafter.
For rabies, an initial vaccination to be given at about twelve weeks of age with a booster shot one year later, and then additional boosters every three years if vaccine is available or annually if required by law.
Rabies. Rabies is a fearsome disease. Once symptoms appear, rabies is always fatal. Rabies vaccinations are required by law in most areas, though that is changing.
Frequency–after the first vaccination, a booster should be given yearly or every three years, depending on local laws and products favored by your veterinarian.
Purpose–to prevent rabies which is fatal to cats.
Feline Distemper (feline panleukopenia, or FPV). Feline distemper is a totally different disease from canine distemper. It is a serious intestinal virus that causes lethargy, fever, dehydration, vomiting, weakness, appetite loss, tremors, and severe diarrhea. It is especially dangerous to kittens, and often fatal. They can die rapidly—within one week. This vaccine is often combined with 2 other vaccines (FHV-1 and FCV). When this is done it is called FVRCP or FDCVR.
Frequency–after the first vaccination, a booster should be given one year later, then no more frequently than every three years.
Purpose–prevents a highly contagious disease that has been fatal to cats. It has been considered the most serious infectious disease among cats. The disease is hardy and can survive temperature extremes and humidity for months and it is resistant to most available disinfectants.
FELINE HERPESVIRUS-1 AND FELINE CALICVIRUS (FHV-1 and FCV).
Frequency— after the first vaccination, a booster should be given one year later, then once every three years.
NOTE: annual vaccination may be recommended in selected high-risk situations.
Purpose–to prevent viruses that are responsible for eighty to ninety percent of infectious feline upper-respiratory tract diseases. Most cats are exposed to either or both viruses at some point. Once infected, many cats never completely get rid of the virus and they continue to infect other cats as they continually or intermittently shed the organisms for a long time–perhaps for life.
VACCINATIONS RECOMMENDED FOR CERTAINCATS
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Frequency–for cats at risk of exposure–especially kittens younger than four months old and free-roaming cats (those allowed loose outdoors) and cats living where new cats are frequently introduced. Yearly vaccinations are not recommended for cats with little or no risk of exposure; that’s especially true of low-risk cats over four months old.
Purpose–it prevents what has been called the leading viral killer of cats. The virus spreads from cat to cat through casual contact or bite wounds; it also spreads from an infected mother cat to her kittens.
NOT RECOMMENDED AS A ROUTINE VACCINATION:
Feline Infectious Peritonitus (FIP) and chlyamydia. FIP is a fatal disease caused by coronavirus. A cat can catch it by inhaling or ingesting the virus while actually exposed to an infected cat, or by coming in contact with an infected cat’s bedding or food bowls, or other items an infected cat has touched (such as an owner’s clothing). Only a few cats who become infected with the virus actually develop the disease, but they remain carriers. There is insufficient evidence that this vaccine actually gives any protection from the disease.
Ringworm (Microsporum canis). There is inadequate evidence that it prevents infection.
Bordetella Bronchiseptica. There is insufficient evidence that it works.
Giardia. This is vaccine for an intestinal parasite (giardia lamblia)
While not recommended for routine use (mostly because of inadequate evidence that it works), vaccinations may be considered if the cat faces a significant risk of becoming infected.
NOTE: Although most cats do little more than flinch when vaccinated, there’s a small possibility of anaphylactic shock following vaccinations. This severe reaction to some component of the vaccine usually occurs within the first half hour after vaccination. Symptoms include salivation, vomiting, difficulty breathing, lack of coordination, and collapse. Return your cat immediately to your veterinarian’s office.
After receiving their vaccinations, some cats display temporary symptoms such as a diminished appetite, lethargy, crankiness, or a minor fever. Some will also develop a small amount of tenderness or swelling at the injection sites. These symptoms should be minor and subside quickly, usually within a day or so. Keep your cat, and your household, quiet and peaceful for the first few days after vaccinations. Let your cat rest as much as she wants. If she is still lethargic or depressed a few days later, call your veterinarian.
In the weeks and months following your cat’s annual check-up and vaccinations, be alert for any unusual lumps, bumps, or swellings anywhere on your cat’s body, but especially near any of the vaccination sites. If you find any, report them immediately to your veterinarian. One reason for giving vaccines at different sites on your cat’s body is to more easily identify which vaccines may be causing problems. Many cats get a small amount of swelling at their vaccination sites in the weeks following their vaccinations, but the cat doesn’t seem to notice or care, and the swelling usually subsides quickly. Of special concern are lumps that are pea-sized or larger and still getting bigger a month after the vaccination, and lumps that persist for three months or more after the vaccination. Have your veterinarian check them out and if it appears necessary, tissue samples of such lumps would be sent to a laboratory for testing. If a sarcoma is found, treatments, including surgery and radiation treatments are available.