To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate?

To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate

To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate?

Vaccines for cats can be very important to help maintain your cats overall health. It is also extremely important to get as much knowledge on choosing the right vaccination for you’re beloved pet. It is best to seek help from a professional such as a veterinarian who can help you make the right decision in protecting your cat against certain diseases.
To vaccinate or not to vaccinate? With which vaccines and how often? These questions are best answered after a talk with your veterinarian. Because of the need to tailor vaccines to your cat’s lifestyle and to consider the risk factors and the presence of underlying diseases, it is necessary for you and your vet to decide what is best for your cat.

In the past, veterinarians used to vaccinate all cats on an annual basis. This practice was called into question in the 1990’s when veterinarians began to notice some cats getting cancers where vaccines had been previously administered. These locally aggressive cancers would occur even several years after vaccination. Since then, veterinary organizations such as AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) and AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) have taken a long, hard look at vaccines in determining what is appropriate for dogs and cats.

Based on extensive research, the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) has developed feline vaccine protocols, and most veterinarians are now following these guidelines.

Vaccine administration sites have also changed. While all vaccines used to be given under the skin in between the shoulder blades, the current recommendation is to give vaccines at separate sites. Some vaccines are given to your feline on their  hind legs as low as possible. The right hind leg is also used for the rabies vaccine, whilst the left hind leg is used for the feline leukemia vaccine.

The right side of the chest for the FVRCP (3 in one) vaccine. If there is a local reaction, the vaccine can be more reliably identified and if a cancer does occur, the cat’s life can more easily be saved.

Also, while it is generally recommended that kittens receive a series of vaccines, not all vaccines are given annually to adult cats. The FVRCP (3 in one) vaccine is given every 3-4 weeks for a total of 3 times to kittens, then every 1-3 years afterwards to adults. The FeLV (feline leukemia) vaccine is given every 2-3 weeks for a total of 2 times to kittens, then every 1-3 years afterwards to adults. The rabies vaccine, given once to cats older than 16 weeks, is valid for a year and when repeated, is valid for 3 years. But any combination of these vaccines may or may not be given, depending on your cat’s lifestyle, risk factor, age and health problems. There is no one vaccine protocol that is suitable for all cats.

The wide-spread use of vaccines undeniably has had some benefits, among which have been to decrease the incidence of certain diseases such as feline distemper (panleukopenia) and feline leukemia (FeLV). They have also decreased the virulence of certain infections such as rhinotracheitis and chlamydia that result in upper respiratory diseases, a common problem in cats.

Most vaccines are safe, and negative reactions to vaccines are rare. To minimize negative reactions, most veterinarians advise against giving more than two vaccines at a time. If a cat has had a negative reaction in the past, it is recommended that only one vaccine should be given at a time and the cat is premedicated with benadryl to minimize reaction.. Occasionally, a cat will be a bit lethargic for about 24-48 hours, not longer, after receiving a vaccine. Rarely, a cat can have a sudden negative reaction to a vaccine, usually immediately or within 60 minutes post vaccination. The signs can be vomiting and/or diarrhea, and this requires immediate medical attention.

In some cats, vaccines can do more harm than good. While there are still ongoing studies to determine the cause-effect relationship between vaccines and induced injury, there have been some trends noted. Some cats have an increased risk to cancer formation to some elements in some vaccines. There also seems to be a genetic predisposition to cancer formation. Just like cancer tends to run at a higher occurrence rate in some human families, cats can be similar. When one cat has had a cancer secondary to a vaccine, other related members similarly are at higher risk.

Vaccines should not be used in cats shown to have immune-mediated diseases (when the body destroys its own red blood cells or platelets). Vaccines should not be administered to any cats that are ill from feline leukemia (FeLV) or feline AIDS (FIV). There is no harm or benefit in giving the FeLV vaccine to a healthy feline leukemia positive cat. The decision to vaccinate and with which vaccines is based on your cat’s lifestyle and risk factor, as well cat’s age and any concurrent health issues.

A cat that is indoors 100% of the time has a different risk factor from cats who are indoor/out. Indoor/outdoors cats have varying degrees of risk, depending on whether they stay close to home when outdoors or tend to roam. The frequency of interaction with other cats and wildlife, whether this be nose-to-nose contact, fights resulting in bite wounds or abscesses, scuffles with raccoons or other wildlife or hunting prey (rodents, birds, snakes) is also an important variable. Additionally, if there are other cats in the same household and if those other individuals are indoor/outdoor, there is increased risk for spread of disease

Many cats that “just got sick” and are brought to the veterinarian for care have actually been ill for months. Cats generally tend to hide their diseases so that they show signs only when the disease has reached a certain stage, and the cat can no longer cope with it.

Thus, it is very important to screen for diseases on a regular basis once a cat reaches middle-age (i.e. 6-7 years old). For many older cats, the annual vaccines should be replaced by an annual blood and urine test and radiographs to check for diseases, just like our doctors do for ourselves as we age. Lab tests are especially helpful to check for the presence of hyperthyroidism, kidney failure and diabetes since 80% of older cats come down with one or more of these.


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