Vaccines are given to prepare the immune system to fight disease. Just like in people, cats need vaccinations to keep them healthy. Vaccines, usually given in injection form, contain antigens. Antigens are foreign substances that look like disease. When the body finds the antigen, it forms antibodies against it. These antibodies are then circulating in the system and ready to fight. Then, if the cat is ever exposed to the disease, the antibodies jump into action and kill off the disease before it makes the cat sick. Over time, the circulating antibodies can decrease if the cat is never exposed to the disease. It is for this reason that regular vaccinations throughout the cat’s life is needed.
What kind of vaccines are needed to protect my cat?
The American Animal Hospital Association has done research and come up with guidelines for vaccination schedules. The have divided available cat vaccinations in to “core” and “ non-core” vaccinations. Core vaccinations are ones that every cat needs regardless of age, breed, location and/or lifestyle. Non-core vaccinations are recommended depending on the cat’s needs and risk of exposure. Below is an explanation of both:
- Rabies-Rabies is a fatal virus contracted usually through bite wounds that affect the neurologic system. Symptoms include excessive drooling, stumbling, aggression and seizures. All mammals have the potential to be infected, including humans. Thus, due to the risk to people, the rabies vaccine is required by law. State requirements vary. Please see the below schedule information for the law requirements of Texas.
- Feline Panleukopenia-Sometimes called Feline Distemper, Feline Panleukopenia is caused by a parvo virus. It is not the same virus that causes parvo in dogs, however. It does cause similar symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. It can also cause sudden death and tremors. Cats are infected by coming in contact with bodily fluids from the sick cat or from the womb of an infected pregnant cat. This disease can be fatal.
- Feline Calicivirus- The Calicivirus causes respiratory disease, mouth ulcers and occasional limping. Cats contract the disease through ingestion. Infected cats can be very painful. Often times they don’t eat well due to oral ulcers. At times, these cats can develop a secondary pneumonia that can be life threatening.
- Feline Herpes Virus- Herpes virus affects domestic and wild cats. It causes eye discharge, conjunctival swelling and corneal ulcers. These ulcers can be severe and cause loss of the eye. Cats that are infected will commonly have eye problems throughout their life.
NON-CORE- The non-core vaccines offered at Animal Medical Center are for diseases that put our cat patients at most risk in Lubbock, Tx and surrounding areas. The non-core vaccinations offered in other cities may be different. Talk with your veterinarian to decide what your cat needs in your area to be protected.
- Feline Leukemia Virus- According to Pet.Webmd.com, Feline Leukemia virus is the second leading cause of death in cats, killing 85% of persistently infected cats within three years of diagnosis. It is contracted by close contact with other cats, through saliva, blood, urine and feces. Our cat patients succumb to the disease through lymphoma or infection from a suppressed immune system. This is not considered a core vaccine because not all cats are outdoor enough to pose a risk. However, even if your cat is indoors, Animal Medical Center suggests at least 2 rounds of the vaccine. This may help protect your cat if he/she accidentally gets outside. Also, new cats brought into the house can be a risk. We recommend all new cats be tested for this disease before exposure to established cats in the household.
What are the risks of giving my cat vaccines?
The risks of side effects are low for cats. The most common “reactions” we see are low grade fever, inappetence and lethargy. These symptoms usually don’t require treatment and resolve within 24 hours. More serious reactions that do require treatment include hives, facial swelling, vomiting, severe pain and swelling at injection site, difficulty breathing and collapse. Please call or see a veterinarian if you see any of these symptoms. A recent worry related to vaccines is the risk of tumors developing at the injection site. It is believed that the repeated injection of vaccine in the same area can cause inflammation and the formation of cancer cells. This is a very rare happening and veterinary specialists believe the benefits of the vaccines by far outweigh the risks of a tumor developing. Feel free to ask any veterinarian at Animal Medical Center for more information on this matter.
When do I get my kitten/cat vaccinated?
At Animal Medical Center, we follow the recommendations of the American Association of Feline Practitioners for vaccine schedules. Please keep in mind that these recommendations are guidelines only. Each individual cat needs their risks assessed by a veterinarian to decided on the appropriate vaccine schedule. In addition, certain chronic illnesses at times prevent cats from receiving a regular vaccine schedule.
- Kittens-Kittens need regular vaccinations at close intervals to evoke a good immune response. We recommend kittens return every 3-4 weeks for boosters. If a kitten starts vaccinations 16 weeks or older, we recommend at least two sets of vaccines for protection. Kittens are AT RISK for contracting these diseases while getting their vaccines. Please avoid high cat traffic areas until 2 weeks past the last kitten vaccination required. This includes exposure to outdoor cats, groomer and certain boarding facilities. Below is a basic schedule for the core vaccines according to cat age.
- 6-8 weeks-Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus
- 9-11 weeks-Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus
- 12-14 weeks-Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus
- 15-17 weeks-Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus
- 18-20 weeks-Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, Rabies
- Animal Medical Center starts the Feline Leukemia Virus vaccines between 12-14 weeks of age with a booster 3 weeks after the initial vaccine.
- Adult Cats- All cats, regardless of age, need to come in yearly for a physical exam. At each visit, the need for vaccines will be addressed. At Animal Medical Center, we work closely with our cat owners to develop a vaccine schedule that provides ideal protection and health. Below are basic recommendations for adult cat vaccinations.
- Cats 1-6 years old receive yearly Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus and Rabies ( and Feline Leukemia if given.)
- Cat 7 years and older with a good history of vaccinations will receive Panleukopenia, Rhinotracheitis and Calicivirus every two years. These cats still need a Rabies (and Feline Leukemia ) vaccine yearly.
Why don’t cats receive a Rabies vaccine every 3 years like a dog?
As mentioned above, vaccine related tumors are extremely rare. Even so, it seems that cats are more sensitive to these tumors. Vaccines formulated to be given for 3 years have more chemicals that are believed to stimulate cancer production. For this reason, we do not recommend using 3 year vaccines in cats.
How do I make an appointment for my cat/kitten for vaccinations?
Scroll down to make an appointment online or call our office at 806-794-4118.