Vaccinations have revolutionised the control of infectious diseases in your cats. It is essential that all cats are adequately vaccinated to help protect your pets themselves and the pet population as a whole. Responsible pet care requires kittens to be given their initial course of vaccinations, then adult cats need regular vaccination to maintain immunity against disease.
Kittens are ‘temporarily’ protected against many diseases by antibodies received through their mother’s milk. These maternal antibodies decline in the first couple of months of their lives, however until they drop sufficiently they can also neutralise vaccines. This is why a series of vaccinations is necessary for a kitten, usually starting at 8 weeks of age.
Adult Cat Vaccination
The immunity from kitten vaccination weakens over time and your pet can again become susceptible to disease. Annual health checks and booster vaccinations, when required, will provide the best protection for the life of your pet. Vaccination for enteritis and cat flu can now be given every 1 to 3 years, depending on the risks for your cat, while FIV and Feline Leukaemia vaccinations are given yearly.
A Guide to Cat Vaccination
Initial vaccination programs should provide at least two vaccinations 3-4 weeks apart against some or all of the following: feline panleucopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, Chlamydia and leukaemia virus at or after 8 weeks of age. Three vaccinations, 2-4 weeks apart, against feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) are recommended at or after 8 weeks of age.
After Vaccination Care
Following vaccination, your cat may be off-colour for a day or two, or have some slight swelling or tenderness at the injection site. Access to food and water and a comfortable area to rest are usually all that is required for a quick recovery. However, if the response seems more severe, you should contact your veterinarian for advice.
Please give us a call to discuss a suitable vaccination regime for your pet kitten or cat.
INFECTIOUS DISEASES OF CATS THAT WE VACCINATE AGAINST
Feline Enteritis (also known as Feline Panleucopenia)
Feline panleucopenia virus is actually thought to have mutated into canine parvovirus, which may give you some idea of how serious this infection can be. It is very contagious and the death rate is high, especially in kittens under 12 months of age. Pregnant cats may lose their young or give birth to kittens with abnormalities, quite often with brain damage. Symptoms of infection include depression, loss of appetite, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhoea, often with blood, and severe abdominal pain.
The virus spreads so easily that heavily contaminated areas may need cleaning with a special disinfectant. Cats that do recover may continue to carry the virus for some time and infect other cats.
Fortunately, vaccination is highly effective at protecting your cat from this disease.
Feline Respiratory Disease (Cat flu)
Cat flu is caused by feline herpesvirus (feline rhinotracheitis) and/or feline calicivirus in 90% of cases. We can vaccinate against these two viruses, but cannot protect against other less common causes of cat flu. Even if your cat is fully vaccinated, you may still see a mild form of cat flu, but vaccination is still recommended so that your cat doesn't succumb to chronic respiratory disease.
Feline respiratory disease affects cats of all ages, but is especially severe in young kittens, and Siamese and Burmese cats. It is highly contagious and causes sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, nasal discharge, loss of appetite and tongue ulcers.
Fortunately, the death rate is low except in young kittens, but the disease is distressing and may persist for several weeks. Recovered cats can continue to carry and spread the infection for long periods, and can show signs of the disease again if they become stressed.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline AIDS is a disease caused by infection with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and affects the cat’s immune system. Their natural defence against attack by other diseases may be seriously affected, much in the same way as human AIDS. This a fairly new disease in cats, only being identified in 1986 and further research has now produced a vaccine to protect your cat against this virus.
This disease is not transmissible to humans or dogs.
FIV is almost always transmitted by bites from infected cats. The virus that causes the disease is present in saliva. While some infected cats show no sign of disease, others may display initial symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes.
As the disease progresses, vague symptoms may develop, such as weight loss, sores in and around the mouth, eye lesions, poor coat and chronic infections.
Eventually, the immune system becomes too weak to fight off other infections and diseases. As a result, the cat may die from one of these subsequent infections.
In Australia, up to 20% of outdoor cats are infected with FIV! Any cat that goes outside may be exposed to the disease through fights with other cats. Keeping your cat indoors will prevent spread of the disease, otherwise vaccination is your cat's only protection against the virus.
For more information on FIV, click here to visit the stopFIV website.
Could your cat be at risk? Click here for an FIV risk assessment form.
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) also affects the immune system. Cats with this virus are more susceptible to infections, and are more likely to develop cancers or anaemia. Infection with FeLV can be fatal, especially in younger cats.
The virus is spread through close contact between vets, such as grooming, sharing food bowls, and through wounds, so can easily spread between stray cats, and through a household of cats once an infected cat is introduced. So far in Australia, FeLV is seen in about 2% of the cat population, but without control this will increase with time.
Your cat is most at risk of contracting the virus when young, so vaccination is recommended until your cat is about 2 years of age. Diagnosis of FeLV is via blood tests, but there is no treatment other than supporting the cat by treating any infections.
Fortunately, there is now a vaccine available to protect your cat against infection, starting with 2 injections initially, then an annual booster while the cat is young. If you are in a higher-risk area, or your cat does like to roam and interact with other cats, FeLV vaccination is recommended.