There is lots you can do to keep your cat fit and healthy! A proper diet, a stress-free environment and lots of affection benefits them as much as regular visits to the vet. Your cat’s annual vet check-up often includes vaccinations against common infectious diseases. But more vaccinations aren’t always better. So, which vaccinations are useful and which are not?
The benefits and risks of vaccinations
Most cat diseases are highly contagious and harmful to your cat’s health. A key way to prevent against viral and bacterial transmitted infections is regular vaccinations, which is why many diseases, such as rabies, have been nearly wiped out. Annual vaccinations are very important for your cat’s health, unfortunately they do carry risks which are not always explained to cat owners.
In rare situations, a combination of trauma to the skin tissue mixed with additives in the vaccine can result in vaccine - associated sarcomas (VAS) or feline injection-site sarcomas (FISS). Vaccine sarcomas are small, malignant tumors in the connective tissue that usually form around the injection site. Many veterinarians try to avoid the formation of sarcomas by administering the vaccine in different injection sites as well as using a vaccination schedule.
When it comes to vaccinations more doesn’t always mean better. Cat owners and veterinarians should examine a cat’s situation before considering getting them vaccinated. For example, a house cat that doesn’t go outside is very unlikely to need a rabies vaccination. On the other hand, vaccinations for Cat Flu or Feline Parvovirus (FPV) might be necessary because both are transmittable by humans.
Vaccinations - against what?
Cat flu: Cat flu is one of the most well-known diseases for cats and can be more serious that its name suggests. The disease, which affects the respiratory systems of cats, is triggered by various viral and bacterial strains. Depending on the pathogen, the disease has various symptoms ranging from conjunctivitis to a severe cold, often combined with a variety of other symptoms. Kittens and older cats are the most susceptible, due to their weaker immune systems.Since the pathogen can be transmitted by human, all cats should be vaccinated against cat flu. Most veterinarians use a combined vaccine for cat flu and feline parvovirus.
Feline Parvovirus (FPV): The parvovirus is probably the greatest disease threat to cats and the infection carries a very high mortality rate. Symptoms of the disease include fatigue, gastroenteritis, fever, bloody diarrhea and conjunctivitis. FPV is highly contagious, so if you suspect your cat is infected consult your vet immediately. Fortunately, there is a vaccination against FPV which is often administered alongside the Cat Flu vaccination. Even if your cat is not infected it should be vaccinated against FPV.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV): Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) is one of the most common infectious diseases in cats. During the early stages of infection, a cat may not exhibit any signs of the disease. However, over time (weeks, months or possibly years later!) a cat infected with FeLV will show signs of deterioration. Often the immune system will be suppressed, which will make infected cats more susceptible to other diseases. Many cats with FeLV will die from disease-related symptoms such as anemia. Other symptoms such as gingivitis, intestinal inflammation and jaundice can occur. Infected animals should be isolated from healthy cats as FeLV is highly contagious. It is easily spread as cats are contagious even before symptoms of the disease appear. A vaccine is available and are particularly useful for young cats. Rabies: Rabies is not a disease specific to cats and can be transmitted by and to other animals, even humans. Even if rabies is eradicated in England it is an extremely dangerous disease, so to be on the safe side, all cats should be vaccinated against it.
Vaccinations - how often?
A common controversy: how often should cats be vaccinated? Are there standard immunisations? Is an annual refresher necessary, or can a vaccine be administered every two years?
Studies have shown that an initial vaccination will protect against an infection for a cat’s lifetime. However, many veterinarians rely on repeat vaccinations - not necessarily every year, but every two to three years. The Federal Association of practicing veterinarians updates its vaccination recommendations regularly. Even if there are no compulsory vaccination for cats in England, most veterinarians are guided by this vaccination scheme. In order for your pet to travel it may require additional vaccinations. All the best to you and your cat from zooplus!