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Vaccines in cats

Video Brief: Feline Vaccines

This is a quick description of the cancer risk from vaccinating cats. We feel that it is important for everyone to be aware of the risks before deciding on the vaccines to be given to their cats.


Video: Feline Vaccines

This is an older video that goes into a little more detail.


Vaccines Currently Available for Kittens and Cats

Vaccines that we recommend:

FVRCP (3-in1) (Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Panleukopenia)

  • Rhinotracheitis and calicivirus cause most upper respiratory infections (“colds”) in cats.  Both diseases are very contagious and can cause signs for the life of infected cats.  These diseases can be very serious.  The vaccines don’t usually prevent these diseases but they do lessen the severity.
  • Panleukopenia is also called "feline distemper".  It is very contagious and potentially fatal.  Signs include severe vomiting and diarrhea.  It is most common in kittens.  

FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)

  • Feline leukemia virus is a common, fatal disease.  It is fairly easily transmitted through direct contact.  It can also be transmitted via shared food or water bowls.  We recommend that cats that have potential contact with infected cats should be vaccinated against FeLV.  We recommend that cats that do not have potential exposure to infected cats should not be vaccinated.

Rabies

  • Rabies is a fatal disease transmitted through bite wounds.  Around here, it is carried primarily by bats.   It is very rare but because a cat with rabies could transmit the disease to people, we recommend that all cats be vaccinated against it.

Vaccines that we don’t recommend:

FVRCP-P (FVRCP-C) (4-in-1) FVRCP – Pneumonitis (i.e., Clamydia)

  • This is the same vaccine as the FVRCP but with an extra disease, Chlamydia, thrown in.  This disease is relatively mild and easily treated.  The vaccine itself causes significant reactions so it doesn’t make sense to us to give this vaccine to most cats.

FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus)

  • FIV is a fatal disease of cats.  The vaccine is of questionable value in preventing the disease and may interfere with testing.  We do not recommend this vaccine. 

FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis)

  • FIP is a usually fatal disease of cats that can cause a number of signs.  Some studies indicate that the vaccine helps protect against FIP.  Some studies indicate that it doesn’t.  Some studies indicate that the vaccine causes the disease to be worse.  We do not recommend this vaccine.

Ringworm

  • Ringworm is a fairly common fungal disease of hair.  The vaccine hasn’t been shown to prevent infection although it may help prevent signs if given to cats that already have the infection.  The vaccine can cause a number of side effects.

Bordetella

  • It is uncertain whether bordetella actually causes disease in cats.  If it does, then it is a mild upper respiratory infection that is easily treated.  We estimate that less than 1% of our patients get bordetella.  The vaccine causes side effects in at least 2% of cats vaccinated.  In other words, if we used the vaccine, we would prevent disease in 1 out of every 100 cats and cause disease in 2 out of every 100.

Giardia

  • Giardia is a parasite of the intestines.  The vaccine probably doesn’t prevent disease but it might decrease clinical signs.  The vaccine might be worthwhile in shelters or catteries that have giardia in the environment.  If giardia becomes a common problem in our patients, we might start recommending the vaccine.


Vaccine Recommendations For Kittens:

Vaccine Associated Cancer: 

Both rabies virus and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccines have been associated with causing cancer at the injection site in cats.  However, the risk is low and because kittens are especially vulnerable to infection with FeLV and because a lot of "indoor" kittens manage to escape once or twice, we still recommend vaccinating all kittens for FeLV and rabies.  (We recommend using Purevax™ rabies vaccine and Purevax™ FeLV vaccine because research indicates that they are safer than other rabies and FeLV vaccines.)  If we have not discussed vaccine sarcomas with you, please ask about it the next time you come in.

Our Current Vaccine Recommendations for Most Kittens: 

  • FVRCP (3-in-1) twice - starting at 9 weeks and repeated every three to four weeks until 16 weeks old.
  • Purevax™ FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) twice - starting at 9 weeks or older and repeated three to four weeks later.
  • Purevax™ Rabies vaccine at 16 weeks
  • No other vaccines.

Vaccines For Adult Cats:

Vaccine Associated Cancer:

Both rabies virus and feline leukemia virus (FeLV) vaccines have been associated with causing cancer at the injection site in cats.  The risk is low but we still recommend against the FeLV vaccine in cats that have no possible contact with other cats with the disease.  We recommend using Purevax™ rabies vaccine and Purevax™ FeLV vaccine because research indicates that they are safer than other rabies and FeLV vaccines.  If we have not discussed vaccine sarcomas with you, please ask about it the next time you come in.

Our Current Vaccine Recommendations:*  (These recommendations are for cats who we have previously vaccinated.  If your cat’s most recent vaccines were given elsewhere, the intervals may not apply.)

For Most Adult Cats With No Possible Exposure to FeLV-positive Cats (indoor cats)

  • FVRCP (3-in-1) one year after the initial series of vaccines and then every three years.
  • Purevax™ Rabies vaccine yearly.
  • No other vaccines.

For Most Adult Cats With Possible Exposure to FeLV-positive Cats (outdoor cats)

  • FVRCP (3-in-1) one year after the initial series of vaccines and then every three years.
  • Purevax™ Rabies vaccine yearly.
  • Purevax™ FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus) vaccine yearly.
  • No other vaccines.

*These vaccine recommendations are based in large part on the 
guidelines of the American Association of Feline Practitioners.

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