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What’s the Scoop on Vaccines for Cats?
There has been a lot of debate on frequency of vaccinations and vaccines themselves for cats. Recently there have been discussions on whether vaccines can be given every three years but as of late there has been no evidence/’challenge studies’ to show that these cats are protected well enough at the three year mark to warrant a change in frequency. There are definitely side effects to vaccines. Cats can have reactions to vaccines, as well as any other injection or medications given. They can also develop local reactions to injections including local hair loss and rarely tumours (one in 10,000-20,000 cases, there is also a genetic predisposition to these injection related tumours). Fortunately, these are much less common than exposure to some of the diseases that are vaccinated against.
Vaccines for cats can be broken down into upper respiratory diseases, gastrointestinal diseases, immunosuppressive diseases and rabies. Cats that stay indoors and have no exposure to cats that go outside need not be vaccinated for feline leukemia or feline AIDS (FIV). Only those cats that get into fights are considered for the FIV vaccine.
Cats that stay indoors can be exposed to upper respiratory viruses through open windows and doors and therefore are vaccinated yearly. Recently one of the respiratory viruses, calici, has become much more aggressive creating not only respiratory problems, but also a potentially deadly liver disease.
The gastrointestinal virus is most important for kittens. The vaccine works very well and as such prevents disease if vaccinated properly as a kitten. If a cat/kitten is exposed without a previous vaccine this virus can be deadly for them.
Rabies is the only disease that is contagious to people and all mammals. We take this very seriously at Scottsdale Veterinary Hospital. The animals most likely to spread rabies to our pets include bats, skunks and raccoons. Any cat that goes outside or could be exposed to bats (i.e. on an open deck) should be vaccinated. In BC approximately 10% (1 in 10) of all bats carry and can transmit rabies through a bite or scratch. The first vaccine given (usually as a kitten) is repeated in one year, and then it is given every three years thereafter.
When your cat sees your veterinarian every year, he/she not only gets vaccines but more importantly has a full physical exam. This allows us to ideally pick up any abnormalities or diseases early in order to prevent further progression or help treat and provide further care.
Each cat and situation is different. Your veterinarian will discuss each cat individually with you in order to decide on the best vaccine protocol. That protocol can often change from year to year. Our goal is to weigh out the risks and benefits of different vaccines and disease exposure on each pet in order to provide the best preventative health care plan for your cat.