Protecting Your Cat from Disease

Our hospital only uses non-adjuvanted vaccines.  An adjuvant is added to a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to react to the vaccine and thus increase the effectiveness of the vaccine (i.e. to make antibodies to protect your cat in the future).  Unfortunately, many of the adjuvanted vaccines have come under scrutiny and may be causing a certain type of cancer (fibrosarcoma) in cats. Even though this vaccine-related fibrosarcoma is rare (about 1 in 10,000 cats), it is an aggressive tumor that is difficult to treat.  Why take the risk?  Our hospital does not use any adjuvanted vaccines for this reason. We strictly follow the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Vaccine Guidelines.  The AAFP recommends core vaccines (rabies vaccine, FVRCP vaccine) to all cats.  The AAFP recommends the non-core feline leukemia vaccine only to at risk cats (i.e. cats that spend any time outside, cats that interact with indoor/outdoor cats).

 The Merial PUREVAX® feline FVRCP vaccine protects cats against three viruses:  feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and feline panleukopenia. The initial kitten series includes vaccine administration every 3-4 weeks with the last vaccine administered after 16 weeks of age.  This booster vaccine is administered at 1 year of age and then every 3 years.  This vaccine is required for all cats.

Vaccine Reactions

We use the safest vaccines currently available to the veterinary profession.  We have chosen the above vaccines and follow the current AAFP Vaccine Guidelines to (1) minimize the number of vaccines we are administering to our patients and (2) to minimize the number of side effects to our patients.  Even with our best intentions, a very few number of animals may still have a vaccine reaction.  Below is a summary of these reactions and what you should monitor.  If your pet has had a vaccine reaction, we will need to tailor a specific vaccine protocol for your individual cat to help avoid such reactions in the future.

  • Mild vaccine reactions, if they occur, may last for a couple of days after the vaccine is administered and may include:
  • Mild decrease in activity
  • Mild pain or soreness at the injection site
  • Mild decrease in appetite
  • A small lump at the injection site
  • Mild upper respiratory infection

Severe vaccine reactions that occur within a few minutes to a few hours after vaccine administration.  If you notice any of these severe vaccine reactions, veterinary attention is required IMMEDIATELY:

  • Vomiting / Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face
  • Profound lethargy

We will tailor your care to fit your needs and the needs of your pet.

Guide to the Diseases

The following ‘guide to diseases’ corresponds to the image above:

1.  Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FVRCP), is also referred to as Feline Herpesvirus (FHV-1). This virus can be very contagious and easily passed from one cat to another cat.  It is transmitted by direct cat-to-cat contact, through sneezing over short distances or from environmental contamination. These are the viruses that causes the upper respiratory-tract infection.

2.  Feline Calicivirus or FCV is another virus that cause upper respiratory-tract infection in cats. Treatment of this disease can be difficult. Even if recovery does take place, a recovered cat can continue to infect other animals, as well as experience chronic sneezing and runny eyes. Widespread and highly contagious, its symptoms of fever, ulcers and blisters on the tongue and pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs) can range from mild to severe, depending on the strain of virus present. Vaccination is therefore very important.

3.  Feline Panleukopenia also known as feline distemper. This parvovirus attacks rapidly dividing cells in the body (intestine, bone marrow, brain) and can potentially cause very severe disease including death. Clinical signs may include severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, fever, lethargy and anorexia. This virus can be very contagious and is typically transmitted by the fecal-oral route but may be transmitted through any body secretions (i.e. urine, saliva, mucus, vomit). This virus is very resistant in the environment and may survive for over a year. Vaccination is the only answer.

4.  Rabies virus is a fatal infection typically transmitted through bite wounds, open cuts in the skin or onto mucous membranes (i.e. saliva).  There are two forms of rabies:  (1) a “furious” or “mad” form and (2) a “paralytic” or “dumb” form.  Most people are familiar with the first form and clinical signs may include aggressive behavior, sudden change in behavior, attacking, biting, excitation, sensitivity to light, irritability or seizures.  The second form may present with signs such as weakness, paralysis, depression, lethargy or anorexia.  There is no treatment available once your cat is affected with the rabies virus and clinical signs are apparent. Some cat owners are under the impression that indoor only cats do not need to be vaccinated against rabies.  ALL cats, including indoor only cats, are required to be vaccinated against rabies.  Some points of interest include: (1) There is a small, real potential for rabies to enter your household.  Wildlife such as bats or rodents may bring the virus into your household and expose your cat to the rabies virus.  (2)  There is a legal liability should an unvaccinated animal bite or scratch a person.  (3)  Rabies is a fatal disease for both humans and pets.

5.  Feline Leukemia or FeLV, is one of the major causes of illness and death in cats.  The feline leukemia virus is typically transmitted through saliva or nose secretions associated with mutual grooming, sharing food or water dishes, or biting.  This virus has been known to remain latent in the bone marrow making diagnosis difficult.  Most cats infected with FeLV will not survive to the age of 2-3.  Clinical signs associated with a viral infection are not specific and may include immune-mediated diseases, tumors, bone marrow disorders and secondary infections.

6.  Feline Chlamydiosis is a bacterial disease and is responsible feline respiratory diseases. Chlamydiosis can be transmitted to humans by direct contact. It is extremely contagious, especially in young kittens and the infection rate is very high. It causes a local infection of the mucous membranes of the eyes but may also involve the lungs. Vaccination is the preferred method for prevention.