Sunday, September 29, 2013

What Vaccines Should My Cat Have?

by Amanda L. Maus DVM
Catalina Pet Hospital
Tucson, AZ

Most veterinarians use the guidelines developed by the American Association of Feline Practitioners to help determine which vaccines are needed on an individual basis for each feline patient.  Core vaccines should be given to all cats during their lifetime since they are the most important to guard against.  These core vaccines include:

Feline Rhinotracheitis aka Herpes virus
-   Symptoms: Upper respiratory infection: fever, sneezing, nasal discharge, runny eyes, eye ulcers

-   Transmission: Direct contact, 2 - 6 day virus incubation

-   Vaccination lessens symptoms, does not prevent disease

Feline Calicivirus
-   Symptoms: Upper respiratory infection: sneezing, fever, nasal discharge, mouth ulcers

-   Transmission: Direct or indirect contact, 3-4 day virus incubation

-   Survives 1 month in environment

-   Vaccination lessens symptoms, does not prevent disease

Feline Panleukopenia aka Parvo/Distemper
-   Symptoms: fever, vomiting, lethargy, severe dehydration, sometimes diarrhea

-   Transmission: Direct contact – fecal oral or from queen, 2 – 9 day virus incubation

-   50 – 90% mortality rate!

-   Vaccination gives complete protection in most cats


Until recently, Rabies was also considered a core vaccine.  Since Rabies can spread to people, most states and counties require cats receive Rabies vaccinations so in that way it is still a core vaccine.

-   Symptoms: behavior change, drooling, can’t swallow, paralysis


-   Transmission: bite wound, saliva into skin wound, placental

o   3 week to 6 month virus incubation period

Other available vaccines include: Feline Leukemia virus (FeLV), Feline Immunodeficiency virus (FIV), Chlamydophila, Bordetella, and Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP).  These vaccines can be considered in outdoor cats and cat colonies and shelters.

Indoor only cats should continue to be vaccinated on a schedule determined in a conversation with your veterinarian at your cat’s annual exam visit.  Vaccination is determined by your cat’s age, lifestyle risks, and the health status of your cat.  At our hospital, we have had clients with indoor only cats exposed to rabid bats who somehow made it into the house.  Cats exposed to rabid animals or cats who bite a person who seeks medical care,  are required to have a 6 month quarantine if they are not up to date on their Rabies vaccine. 

Also, most cat owners get another cat later down the road.  These cats are usually strays or rescues with unknown vaccination and health status, so isn’t it better to keep your cat current on immunizations in case you rescue a new cat in the future?  Also, that way if you ever need to board your cat at a kennel, you don’t have to stress with making a last minute appointment at your veterinarian’s office to get updated on vaccines.

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