At Cats Limited, we follow the vaccine guidelines developed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) ( www.catvets.com). Although there are a number of vaccines available for cats, we carry and recommend only three for our patients.
The AAFP recommends all cats be vaccinated against Rabies and Distemper (FVRCP). The Feline Leukemia vaccine is recommended for kittens (due to increased susceptibility of infection) and for at-risk cats (i.e. cats that go outside, and cats exposed to Feline Leukemia positive and untested cats). Other available vaccines are not recommended by AAFP or our hospital. Please visit their website http://www.catvets.com for further information:
Our hospital uses the Merial PUREVAX® feline annual rabies vaccine to protect cats against the rabies virus. This vaccine is approved and safe to give to cats as young as 12 weeks of age. Unlike the older multi-species 3-year adjuvanted rabies vaccine, this vaccine is not adjuvanted, reducing the risk for vaccine reactions.
Note: This vaccine is required by state law for all cats 3 months and older.
Rabies virus is a fatal infection typically transmitted through bite wounds, open cuts in the skin or onto mucus membranes (i.e. saliva). There is no treatment available once your cat is infected with rabies. This virus has very real and serious human and pet implications.
Indoor Cats: What Pet Owners Need to Know
Some cat owners feel indoor cats do not need to be vaccinated against rabies. All cats, including indoor cats, are required by state law to be vaccinated against rabies. Consider the following:
There is a small, but real potential for rabies to enter your household. Wildlife such as bats, raccoons or skunks may bring the virus into your house and expose your cat to rabies.
In 2015 there were 170 documented cases of animals with rabies in Connecticut. Twenty-nine of these were in Hartford County.
FVRCP (Distemper) Vaccine
The Distemper vaccine protects cats against three highly contagious viruses, which are easily passed between cats: feline herpesvirus, feline calicivirus and feline panleukopenia. The initial kitten series includes a vaccine every 3-4 weeks, with the last vaccine administered after 16 weeks of age. The vaccine is administered again at 1 year of age and then every 3 years.
Feline Herpesvirus (Feline Rhinotracheitis)
Clinical signs are associated with upper respiratory infection signs such as sneezing and discharge from the eyes and/or nose. This virus can become latent (inactive) in some cats. These “carrier” cats may have long-term infections that reactivate in times of stress or with treatment that suppresses the immune system.
Clinical signs include respiratory signs (sneezing, eye discharge, nasal discharge), oral ulcers, anorexia, and joint pain (lameness or stiffness).
Feline Panleukopenia (Feline Distemper Virus)
This virus most commonly attacks the intestine, bone marrow and brain and can cause severe disease, including death. Clinical signs may include severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, fever, lethargy and anorexia. The immune system is often compromised, resulting in secondary infections. This virus is very resistant in the environment and may survive for over a year.
FeLV (Feline Leukemia) Vaccine
Recently, the AAFP (American Association of Feline Practitioners) has recommended vaccinating all kittens against FeLV in their first year of life. After the initial kitten series (2 vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart), this vaccine is only administered to cats that spend any amount of time outdoors or are exposed to FeLV positive or untested cats on an annual basis. A FeLV test should be performed prior to vaccination.
Feline leukemia is a significant cause of illness and death in cats. The feline leukemia virus is spread through mutual grooming, sharing food or water dishes, or biting. Survival time for cats with FeLV ranges from 6 months to 3 years after infection. Clinical signs associated with a viral infection are not specific and may include immune-mediated diseases, tumors, bone marrow disorders including anemia, and secondary infections.
What You Need To Know About Vaccine Reactions
We use the safest vaccines currently available to the veterinary profession. We have chosen these vaccines and follow the current AAFP Vaccine Guidelines (1) to protect our patients, (2) give only the number of vaccines necessary for protection, (3) to minimize the chance of side effects to our patients. Even with safe protocols, a few cats may still have a vaccine reaction. Below is a summary of possible reactions and signs to watch for. If your cat has had a vaccine reaction in the past, please let us know and we will tailor a specific vaccine program for your cat to help avoid such reactions in the future. Please call us if you notice any of these reactions.
Mild vaccine reactions, if they occur, may last for a couple of days after the vaccination and may include:
- Decrease in activity
- Mild pain or soreness at the injection site
- Mild decrease in appetite
- A small lump at the injection site
Severe vaccine reactions may occur within a few minutes to a few hours after vaccine administration. If you notice any of these severe vaccine reactions, veterinary attention is required IMMEDIATELY.
- Vomiting / Diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the face
- Profound lethargy