Puppy and Kitten Care, Shelter and Rescue Resources, Vaccines
Cat Vaccine FAQs
By The Revival Education Team
August 2, 2016
Is Cat Vaccination Necessary?
Yes. Vaccination can help prevent your cat from contracting potentially fatal diseases. Vaccines contain modified or killed versions of common feline diseases. When they are injected into the body, your cat’s immune system will attack them. If your cat is later exposed to the disease, the immune system will remember the disease and quickly counteract it.
Should I Vaccinate for Everything?
Not necessarily. There are two classes for feline vaccines: Core and Non-Core.
Core vaccines are recommended for all cats, regardless of breed, size or location. All cats will see these life-threatening diseases in their lifetime. If it didn’t kill them and they were lucky enough to recover, they would still suffer from side effects for the rest of their lives. The core vaccines include Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Rabies (required by law).
Non-core vaccines are reserved for pets with unique exposure risks or needs. These include Leukemia, Chlamydia Psittaci, and Bordetella. If any of these diseases are prominent in your area, you may want to consider vaccinating for them.
Standard 3-way vaccines offer protection against the “Core” feline diseases. Other 4-way combinations add “Non-Core” disease protection against Chlamydia and Leukemia. The non-core options should be added if your cat’s lifestyle or area of the country exposes him to these diseases. Talk to your veterinarian for specific recommendations concerning your cat.
What Vaccines Does My Cat Need?
Knowing what diseases to vaccinate your cat for can be tricky and confusing. Try using the Revival Vaccine Finder. This free tool will help you choose the right vaccines for your cat.
Is There a Risk in Giving Vaccines?
As with human vaccination, there are always risks. However, the benefits of a healthy life certainly outweigh the risks of contracting a life-threatening disease. Your cat may have mild discomfort at the site of injection or sneezing with intranasal vaccination, a fever or a lack of appetite, but these will go away in a day or two. If they persist longer, you should talk with your veterinarian. Rare cases have reported allergic reactions and sometimes death, but the chances of this happening are very low.
Increasing evidence has been given to vaccine-induced sarcoma, a potentially fatal cancer, which is associated with the injectable FeLV (Feline Leukemia) vaccines only. Although this is also a very low-risk reaction, experts recommend that cats without the FeLV risk should not be vaccinated. However, if your cat is at risk, the vaccination risks are still better than the disease itself. If swelling from the vaccine doesn’t disappear in a couple weeks, check with your veterinarian to make sure that cancer is not developing.
If you have any concerns with your cat’s vaccinations, don’t hesitate to check with your veterinarian. Also, if your cat has had reactions to vaccinations before, it’s best to let your veterinarian give the vaccines. Let them know of the reactions, so they can make the proper adjustments and preparations.
Which is Better: Intranasal or Injectable Vaccines?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it often depends on the situation. Intranasal vaccines offer quicker protection against disease and are less likely to be affected by maternal antibodies. They also don’t cause vaccine-induced sarcoma. However, they are more difficult to administer to some cats who struggle and sneeze, resulting in inadequate dosing and protection. They also have more side effects, such as nasal discharge, sneezing, mild conjunctivitis, fever, etc.
Whichever type you choose, make sure you follow the administration instructions. Never give an intranasal vaccine by injection, or an injected vaccine intranasally.
What’s the Difference Between MLV Vaccines and Killed Vaccines?
An MLV (Modified Live Vaccine) is a live but weakened version of a virus that is used to stimulate immune response. A Killed vaccine is an inactive form of the virus, with all infectious bacteria taken out and killed.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both. MLV vaccines are more effective in preparing the immune system, they last longer, and they’re also faster, achieving immunity in one dose. Killed vaccines pose no risk of infecting the animal, but are less effective in providing immunity and usually require two doses.
Why Do Kittens Need a Series of Vaccinations?
Kittens receive antibodies from their mother’s milk, giving temporary protection against disease. These antibodies also see vaccines as a disease and can eliminate them before they stimulate the immune system. There is a time after weaning called the “window of susceptibility,” where the antibodies wear off and the kitten is at risk for disease. However, it’s almost impossible to determine this time period for each kitten. By giving a series of vaccinations, you boost your kitten’s protection as soon as the mother’s antibodies wear off, whenever this happens.
Can I Give Vaccines to Pregnant or Nursing Cats?
In general, treatments of any kind are not recommended for pregnant or nursing animals unless the manufacturer has tested and proven them to be safe. The same is true with vaccines. If you have questions, check with your veterinarian first.
Keep in mind that vaccinating a nursing animal will not pass the protection on to the babies. Newborns only receive the antibodies from the colostrum in the first 36 hours of nursing, and the vaccine will take a week or more to fully affect the immune system. If the mother needs vaccination, it’s best to wait until after weaning, when the stress of pregnancy and nursing is removed. She will be better equipped to respond after she’s had adequate time to recover.
Do Cats Need Annual Boosters?
Up until a few years ago, this was the standard recommendation. However, recent studies show increasing evidence that some vaccines last much longer than a year. Talk to your veterinarian for recommendation. One vaccine schedule is not universal for all pets, so your vet will have the best insight into what kinds of vaccines your cat should receive and when he should receive them.
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