Vaccines for cats explained by Dr. Dietsch

Dr. Denise Dietsch
Dr. Denise Dietsch

One of the easiest ways to keep your cats happy and healthy is to keep them up to date on vaccines. Why is it so important to vaccinate? Vaccines trigger the immune system to produce antibodies for a disease, so if there is an exposure to the disease, there is an immediate response to fight it. Without a vaccine, it could be days before the immune system responds.

Vaccines are referred to as core and non-core. Core vaccines are routine vaccinations that should be given to all cats. Non-core vaccines, are for those cats with more threatening environments such as outdoor cats. The core vaccines are for Rabies and FVRCP. Below, we’ll explain these vaccine in more detail:

Rabies causes inflammation of the brain. Symptoms include: aggression, restlessness, lethargy, vocalization, loss of appetite, disorientation, seizures and death. It’s transmitted through bites and scratches. High on the list of carriers are bats, racoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes. Opossums are not on the list. Humans are susceptible. This is why rabies vaccines are for cars and dogs are required by city and state health departments.

Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis:
FVRCP stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis Calici Virus Panleukopenia. It is an upper respiratory infection. They look like we do with a cold. Symptoms include Fever, sneezing, nasal discharge, inflamed, weepy eyes. FVRCP progresses to depression and loss of appetite. The usual course is 5-10 days but some severe cases can last up to 6 weeks. This virus is in the herpes family but not usually transmitted to people. It is spread from cat to cat through contact with eyes or noses of infected cats. Can also be infected from toys, blankets, water and food bowls contaminated by sick cats.

Calici Virus:
This virus effects the mouth and lungs. Ulcerated lesions can often be seen on the tongue. This can also cause difficultly with eating and drinking. Signs are most often seen in kittens that are 8-12 weeks old. The prognosis is usually good and the virus usually runs its course in 7-10 days.

This is a highly contagious disease and often fatal. The symptoms include: fever, depression, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. This disease usually runs its course in 5-7 days. This virus can be picked up through a contaminated environment and there does not have to be direct contact with an infected cat.

Non-Core Vaccine:
Feline Leukemia: Feline Leukemia is a non-core vaccine because the chances of an indoor car getting leukemia are slim. There has to be direct contact with an infected cat, which is why this vaccine is very important for outdoor cats. Feline Leukemia causes the suppression of the immune system. Signs are usually from secondary illness due to the poor immune system. Anemia, cancer, intestinal problems and neurological disorders can all occur. The progression of the disease can be slow, ranging from months to years. It is usually fatal for cats that show symptoms. Transmission is through saliva and urine. The usual routs are grooming, shared litter boxes, and fighting. Mother to kitten transmission is the greatest source though. There is no cure. It is highly recommended to test any new cat for leukemia before allowing any contact with other cats in the home.

So, for your cat’s health, make sure that they are up to date on vaccinations. Please contact your veterinarian and find out what vaccination protocols they recommend. Show your cats you love them!

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