Vaccination has revolutionised control of infectious disease in our pets. It is essential that all pets are adequately vaccinated to help protect the pet population as a whole. Responsible pet care requires kittens to be given their initial course of vaccinations, but this cannot protect them for the rest of their lives. Adult cats require 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.
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 will provide the best protection for the life of your pet.
A Guide to Cat Vaccination
Our clinic recommends the following kitten vaccination programme:
first vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age
second vaccination at 12-14 weeks of age
third vaccination at 16-18 weeks of age.
We recommend that during this initial vaccination programme your kittens be covered against Feline Enteritis and Feline Respiratory Disease or Cat Flu.
After the initial kitten vaccinations we recommend an annual health check and booster vaccinations for your cats again Feline Enteritis and Feline Respiratory Disease or Cat Flu.
Sometimes we may need to recommend that kitten and cats be vaccinated against several other preventable diseases. Our advice to you on this will depend on the circumstances in which your cats live and whether or not they have any other underlying problems.
Feel free to telephone the clinic and discuss with us a vaccination protocol that is suitable for your cat.
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 us for advice.
INFECTIOUS DISEASES OF CATS THAT WE VACCINATE AGAINST
Feline Enteritis (also known as Feline Panleucopenia)
Feline Enteritis is caused by a very contagious virus. The death rate can be high, especially in cats under 12 months of age. Pregnant cats may lose their young or give birth to kittens with abnormalities including, quite often, brain damage. Symptoms are 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.
Feline Enteritis is one of the core diseases we recommend vaccinating against and it is mandatory that cats be covered for this disease if they are boarding.
Feline Respiratory Disease (Cat Flu)
In 90% of cases, Cat Flu is caused by feline herpesvirus (feline rhinotracheitis) and/or feline calicivirus.
Feline Respiratory Disease affects cats of all ages, especially young kittens, 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.
Like Feline Enteritis, Cat Flu is one of the core cat diseases for which we recommend yearly boosters. It is also mandatory to have your cats vaccinated against Cat Flu if they are going to a boarding facility.
Chlamydia (also known as Chlamydophila)
Feline Chlamydia causes a severe persistent conjunctivitis in up to 30% of cats. The disease is caused by a bacterium.
Kittens are more severely affected by Chlamydia when also infected with “Cat Flu”, and Chlamydia can be shed for many months. Vaccination against Cat Flu and Chlamydia helps protects against clinical disease. Fortunately this disease can also be treated relatively easily and for this reason we do not routinely vaccinate against Chlamydia however there may be times when we will suggest that this is warranted.
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
Feline Leukaemia is a serious viral disease of cats caused by feline leukaemia virus.
The virus attacks the immune system and may be associated with lack of appetite, weight loss and apathy, pale or yellow mucous membranes, vomiting, diarrhoea, reproductive problems, increased susceptibility to other infections, leukaemia and tumours. Many cats may be infected and show no signs at all.
About one third of infected cats remain chronically infected and may shed virus in their saliva, tears, nasal secretions and urine. The disease is then spread to uninfected cats by mutual grooming, fighting, sneezing or even flea bites.
Cats infected with the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or suffering from chronic Cat Flu are much more likely to be susceptible to FeLV infections than healthy cats and for this reason we do recommend FeLV vaccinations for such patients once we carry out a blood test to establish that they are not carrying the virus in the first place. We may recommend FeLV vaccinations in other instances. When you visit our clinic, talk to our veterinarians to see if it's necessary to include FeLV in your cat's vaccination programme.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)
Feline AIDS is a disease caused by infection with the 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 the Human Immunodeficiency Virus causes AIDS and affects humans. The disease was first isolated in cats in California in 1987 by Dr. Niels Pedersen.
Feline Immunodeficiency Virus is not transmissible to humans.
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, symptoms may occur 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.
Unfortunately in Australia, a lot of cats are infected with this virus and in some places the incidence of infection can be up to 30% or more in the neighbourhood cats.
The cat groups most at risk are:
un-desexed tom cats that get to roam around a lot
cats living in high density outdoor populations where the incidence of cat fights is high and the cats incur frequent bites and subsequent cat bite abscesses
young cats between the ages of around 6 - 18 months that are new to a neighbourhood and are subject to bullying by the established cat populations until they sort out their "pecking" order
males (desexed or not) are more likely to be carriers than females because males are more likely to get caught up in fighting and being bitten than females. Desexed females have the lowest incidence of the disease.
The best prevention against FIV infection is to either keep your cats indoors or confined to well built outdoor cat runs. This is not always feasible or desirable. Vaccination against FIV is also possible and we can discuss with you whether or not this should be a necessary part of your cat's vaccination protocol. Choosing to vaccinate against FIV depends a lot on the environment your cat lives in.