What do we vaccinate cats against?
At Veterinary Happiness, we recommend and use a standard F3 vaccination. This gives your cat protection against:
- Feline Rhinotracheitis – a highly contagious airborne virus that causes sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge. Infected cats often become ‘chronic snufflers’ and need management throughout their lives. Mortality can occur in kittens and geriatric cats.
- Feline Calicivirus – this respiratory virus also causes sneezing and nasal discharge and is also likely to cause eye discharges and tongue ulcers leading to inappetance and lethargy. Both respiratory viruses can still infect other cats after the sick cat recovers.
- Feline Panleucopaenia Virus – a highly contagious virus that can spread on infected droppings, food bowls, clothing, shoes and bedding and causes depression, loss of appetite, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea (often with blood) and severe abdominal pain. Mortality rate in kittens is high. Unborn kittens can develop brain damage.
Other vaccinations which may be important for your cat (depending on their environment and lifestyle) include:
- Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) or Cat Aids – a potentially fatal viral disease that interferes with the immune system of the cat and is spread through cat bite wounds and potentially grooming as it is present in saliva. Infected cats may remain healthy for variable amounts of time but continue to infect other cats. When symptoms start to show they can include fever, inappetance, diarrhoea, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, mouth sores, eye lesions, poor coat and chronic infections leading to death. In Queensland, it is estimated that 28% of cats are carrying this virus. The most at risk cats are those who spend time outdoors and either start or are victims to cat attacks. Adult cats need to be tested before vaccination. At Veterinary Happiness, we recommend vaccination of kittens who will spend time outdoors as adults and adult cats that have been tested negative and also spend time outdoors, especially those who may be victims to cat fights.
- Feline Chlamydia – mainly occurs in cats less than 12 months of age and is more likely in multi-cat environments such as breeding catteries. Causes conjunctivitis in one or both eyes which can be treated with a course of antibiotics – occasionally sneezing and coughing occurs. Not a routine vaccination at Veterinary Happiness as it is a relatively mild and treatable disease in the general population.
- Feline Leukaemia Virus – the virus is in saliva, tears, nasal secretions and urine and spreads through mutual grooming and shared food bowls, toys and litter trays. Spread is most likely in multi-cat households and catteries. Signs can include inappetance, lethargy, weight loss, pale or yellow mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhoea, reproductive problems, increased susceptibility to infections, leukaemia and tumours. Death usually occurs within three years of contracting the virus. Not a routine vaccination at Veterinary Happiness as this disease has a very low prevalence in Australia.
Why do we vaccinate and how does the protection work?
Feline vaccinations help a cats’ immune system to develop resistance to diseases
that are potentially very harmful or life-threatening when they are naturally exposed to them.
Cats receive ‘maternal immunity’ from their queens (in the uterus and through her milk) which fades away between four and eight weeks of age. There is no easy way for us to test how strong this maternal immunity is and when it fades in an individual kitten.
For this reason, the first vaccination a kitten receives usually occurs between six and eight weeks of age in an attempt to give it some protection as soon as possible in life. If, however, the kittens’ maternal immunity is still high when it is vaccinated, the kittens’ immune system will effectively ‘neutralise’ this vaccination and the kitten will receive no benefit from it.
This is why it is very important that a kittens’ vaccination schedule of a second vaccination at 12wks of age and another at 16wks of age is completed as a kitten needs to have two vaccinations of each component of the vaccine, four weeks apart, to give it the best chance to develop an ongoing immunity to each component of the vaccine.
Yearly vaccination boosters are then required to keep a cats’ immunity optimal for life.
What are the most common adverse reactions to vaccinations?
Adverse reactions to feline vaccinations do occur, however they are rare and uncommon. This is not a reason to avoid vaccination; instead, it is sensible to use only vaccines that are necessary at clinically-proven safe and effective intervals.
The most common reactions involve a stinging sensation at the site of injection, soreness, a temporary lump, a transient fever and the change in behaviour and inappetance which can occur associated with these reactions. A very small percentage of pets suffer from these complications and they resolve within a day or so of the vaccination.
I have heard that vaccinations can be harmful – how?
In the USA, fibrosarcomas (skin tumours) at the site of Rabies and Leukaemia virus vaccine injection have occurred – these are due to the carrier that the vaccine is dissolved in for injection – these carriers or adjuvants are not used here in Australia.
The APVMA Report of Adverse Experiences indicates a very low number of reports to all vaccine antigens available in Australia when taking into consideration the large number of pets vaccinated each year so the overall risk/benefit analysis strongly supports the continued use of vaccinations.
I have heard that vaccinations are not necessary every year – is this true?
There have been many studies to try to assess how long a cats immunity lasts after vaccination. The queens’ immunity, the vaccination regime used as a kitten, the type of vaccines used, and the responsiveness of the individual cats’ immune system all affect how long their immunity will last.
The vast majority of cats are protected with annual vaccination intervals. Some cats with poorly responding immune systems may require vaccinations more often and some cats with highly responsive immune systems can go, in some cases, much longer than a year and still maintain a good level of immunity.
For these reasons, the best option would be to take blood at a cats’ annual check up visit for antibody assay of the core diseases and only vaccinate if antibody levels drop below levels able to prevent disease. The problem is that at this stage, in Australia, these tests are difficult to access and much more costly than the vaccinations themselves.
Further to this, there are currently no vaccinations registered in Australia for use at intervals of greater than 12 months.
There are some advances in vaccine technology which mean that a CANINE Three Year Vaccine for three of the five vaccine antigens may be released here in Australia soon
– there are no such vaccinations planned for release for cats in the next few years.
Will a future 3 Year Vaccine mean I only have to come to the vet every three years?
NO – this is equivalent to you only going to the doctor every 27 years! How many health problems could develop in this amount of time?
The most important health care routine for companion animals is that they visit their regular vet for a check up AT LEAST annually – twice a year for pets over six years of age. There are many critical reasons for this – dental, skin, eye, and heart examinations, dietary advice, behaviour management, parasite control checks, geriatric screening (so useful for detecting disease early) and vaccination programme reviews all help improve the quality and quantity of life our pets enjoy (and give us longer to enjoy THEM!).
What vaccination regime is best for my pet?
Please be assured that, at all times, we will keep up to date with the latest advances in vaccination research and protocols, as they come to hand, and the disease prevalence in our geographical area. This will allow us to recommend the best vaccination regime for your individual cats’ environment and lifestyle.