- Cats can pick up illnesses from other cats, the ground, and from you.
- Regular vaccinations train your cat’s immune system to fight new diseases.
- Starting as a kitten at 9 weeks, is essential for the best cover.
- Our vaccine covers Feline Leukaemia Virus, Feline Enteritis, and Cat Flu.
- Vaccinations are essential for the health of your cat, and are required if you plan on putting them in a cattery for any time.
Why do cats need vaccinations?
Like humans, cats catch infectious diseases. They may pick these up directly from other cats, or from contact with the ground or other objects. Going to the cattery, or living in a household with other cats increases the risks. Diseases like enteritis and feline leukaemia virus infection are very serious and may be fatal. Cat ‘flu may cause serious complications and can be permanently debilitating. There is no cure – the only protection for your cat is regular vaccination.
Remember, that even if your cat rarely meets other cats, viruses can be carried on your shoes and clothing, and an isolated cat will have less natural protection from meeting infections regularly. Older cats need boosters as much as younger cats.
When should I vaccinate my cat?
Vaccination should start as soon as possible after a kitten reaches 9 weeks of age, with the second vaccine of the primary course given 3 weeks later at 12 weeks or older. At Mill House, we recommend vaccinating against all three diseases:
- Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV)
- Cat Flu; and
- Feline Enteritis
We now use a combined injection for this. The newer component, FeLV can be omitted if you wish, but is strongly recommended as it is the biggest killer of younger cats after the motor car. A single booster injection every year will keep your pet protected.
Primary and booster vaccination protects against these diseases.
What is Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and why is it so important?
FeLV is the number one infectious killer of cats in the western world. The virus is in the same general group as that causing Aids in man, and causes cancer in cats as well as reducing resistance to many other diseases. Many cats will shake off the infection and become immune, but others will be permanently affected and show signs some time later. The virus is shed in saliva and spread through contact and biting. A survey carried out across the UK indicated that East Anglia has a relatively high level of infection, and over 20% of sick cats tested were positive for the virus. It is recommended that cats are tested for the virus before vaccination, but this is not essential. A test for FeLV and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) is available at the practice – please ask for details.
What is Feline Enteritis?
Feline Enteritis is an extremely contagious disease, associated with a high death rate in younger cats, although any age can be affected. The virus survives some time in the environment, and causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea which is difficult to treat. Cases often occur as sudden deaths, with no obvious cause – it may be assumed a cat has been poisoned.
Vaccination is a safe and effective means of preventing the disease.
What is Cat Flu?
This is rather mis-named as the disease is not a type of influenza, but is caused by two groups of viruses:
Feline Herpes Virus (Feline Rhinotracheitis) causes severe respiratory disease with sneezing, loss of appetite, fever and sore eyes. Kittens can be particularly severely affected. Once infected, a cat may remain infected for a considerable time or permanently, and show symptoms and spread the virus to other cats at times of stress or illness.
Feline Calicivirus also causes serious respiratory disease with similar symptoms. Mouth and tongue ulcers may cause severe discomfort and inability to eat. Infected cats also become carriers and shed the virus continually to other cats for some time after infection.
Both viruses are unpleasant for the cat, but also pave the way for more serious infections, such as pneumonia. The eyes and nose may be permanently damaged after infection, and recurrent bouts of illness may follow.
All these diseases are seen locally, sometimes with fatal results. We cannot stress too highly the importance of keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date to prevent the suffering we see in unvaccinated animals.
Why do boosters have to be given? People don’t have boosters, so why do pets?
In fact, people do need regular booster vaccinations when at risk, for example if travelling abroad. None of the above diseases have yet been eradicated and cases of all the above diseases are still reported. A pet is thus always at risk of potential exposure to one of them if it goes out or comes into contact with other cats. Immunity is also neither lifelong or of the same duration in every animal.
Annual booster vaccination is an effective way of ‘topping up’ a cat’s immunity thereby minimising the risk of disease when challenged by natural infection. We use vaccines that are very safe. Human vaccines are boosted where there is an increased risk of exposure, for example against ‘flu or polio.
My pet is so old it’s not worth vaccinating
Elderly animals, like elderly people, start to lose the ability to combat infection. They are like the young and need more help to protect themselves, hence we recommend continuing to vaccinate elderly pets, just like older people are recommended to have ‘flu vaccinations.
Homeopathic vaccines – what about them?
The main concerns most vets have about their use is that there is no proper independent evidence to show that they work in protecting pets by preventing disease. Indeed, the few properly designed trials that have been carried out by using homeopathic nosodes have shown no evidence of protection. Without evidence of effectiveness, homeopathic nosodes may pose far greater risk to dogs by leaving them susceptible to disease.
Company literature says that only healthy pets should be vaccinated; why is this and what are the risks to unhealthy pets?
To get the full benefit of the vaccine it is important that the pet is healthy, which is why it is essential that your vet carries out a health examination before vaccinating your pet. When faced with an animal with long-term disease such as heart disease or diabetes, most vets will advise that vaccination should be continued. There is no evidence that such animals fail to respond or are at greater risk of problems.