Vaccinations for cats
Vaccination for cats is an important part of any preventive health care plan for pets and people alike. They are generally safe and have few risks associated with them. Vaccines provide your cat with protection against many serious diseases; some that can be fatal and one that can be transmitted to humans. Our basis for each vaccination protocol comes from the recommendations of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
These organizations have groups of highly respected specialists in veterinary immunology and internal medicine who have agreed on basic protocols that provide excellent protection while minimizing exposure to vaccines.
We tailor a unique vaccination program specific to the needs of your cat depending on lifestyle, age, and previous response to vaccines.
The following outlines the vaccines we administer, the diseases they prevent, and in some cases the prevalence of the associated disease here in the GVRD.
Feline Rhinotracheitis (Herpesvirus)
Rhinotracheitis is most severe in young kittens and older cats and is one of the most serious upper respiratory diseases seen in the feline species. We see many cats, especially kittens with this disease every year. The virus is airborne and very contagious. Cats with this infection are lethargic, sneezing, and coughing. There is usually a discharge from the nostrils and the eyes and a fever. Some cats develop pneumonia and ulcerations in the eyes. Infected cats do not want to eat or drink because the nostrils are plugged and the throat is painful. Dehydration and weight loss occur in almost all cases. The disease is debilitating and chronic. Many cats require hospitalization, intravenous fluids, and intensive care to help them get over the infection. Antibiotics may be given to treat secondary bacterial infections. Some cats suffer permanent damage to the eyes and the respiratory system. Fortunately, the vaccine is an effective preventive agent. It is important to note that once infected with a Herpesvirus, the infection is for life. (And a final comment; no, you cannot get this Herpesvirus from your cat.)
Several strains of Calicivirus exist. They can cause a range of diseases, from a mild infection to life-threatening pneumonia. The disease is transmitted by direct contact with an infected cat or object (bowl, cage, brush, blanket, etc.) that harbours the virus. We typically see this virus in outdoor cats, but it is so easily spread that indoor cats should be protected too. Most cats develop lesions in the mouth, nasal passages, and the conjunctiva (mucus membranes) of the eyes. The early signs of Calicivirus infection are loss of appetite, elevated temperature, and lethargy. Later, sneezing, oral ulcers, and discharge from the eyes occur. The course of the disease in uncomplicated cases is short, and recovery may be expected in seven to ten days. Some more virulent strains can cause severe symptoms and may cause rapid death in cats of all ages.
Feline Panleukopenia (Distemper)
At our practice, we have a few special cats that were affected as kittens and while some do fine, many do not and all need special attention. This virus suppresses the production of the entire white blood cell line in the bone marrow, hence the term panleukopenia (literally, “all-white-shortage”). Without the white blood cells, the kitten/cat is completely vulnerable to the virus and other infections. The virus causes diarrhea, life-threatening dehydration, and bacterial infection as the barrier between the body and intestinal bacteria is lost. Cats die from either dehydration or secondary bacterial infections. The death rate from this disease is a stunning 90% in kittens. A special syndrome occurs if infection occurs during pregnancy resulting in permanent brain disorder.
Feline Leukemia Vaccine
We recommend this vaccine for cats that go outdoors and those in multi-cat households. As an adult, cats are vaccinated annually. Viral leukemia is a prevalent, highly transmissible, and often fatal disease, of which there is no cure. Each year, we see cats that die from this disease in our own practice. It’s heartbreaking, as it most likely could have been prevented. This virus may express itself in one or a combination of different forms involving various internal systems. Blood cell cancers, bone marrow suppression, and production of tumours involving intestines, kidneys, lymph nodes, or other organs are common consequences of the virus. Closely “associated” disease processes include frequent respiratory infections, central nervous system diseases, and reproductive problems. Some cats can live with the virus for years and show no symptoms. These “carriers” can still pass the infection to other cats by direct contact.
We administer the vaccine every 3 years in adult cats. Rabies is a highly fatal virus that causes neurological disease in affected animals. Dogs, cats, bats, skunks, raccoons, and many other animals can get this disease. Humans can become infected and die from this disease as well. Once a person/animal shows signs of this disease, it is fatal and there is no treatment. In British Columbia, the primary carriers of the disease are bats and we definitely have bats in Vancouver. In 2007 around Maple Ridge, an indoor unvaccinated cat died from Rabies after playing with a rabid bat that flew into the house.