There are a number of highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases which can affect your cat. However, for many of these conditions there is a simple protection in the form of vaccinations. Ensuring that your cat completes an initial course of vaccinations (two injections from 6 weeks of age, 3 – 4 weeks apart) and then receives annual booster injections is important if you want to keep your cat fit and healthy. Please Contact Us for an appointment for vaccinations for your kitten.
How do vaccines work?
Most vaccines are given by injection under the skin. They all work by training the white blood cells in your cat’s body how to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular bug if your cat is in contact with it again.
What diseases can my cat be vaccinated against?
Feline Panleucopenia (also called Feline distemper or Feline Infectious Enteritis)
Before the development of a safe vaccine, this was one of the biggest causes of death in cats. It is particularly dangerous for kittens and young cats, when severe vomiting and diarrhoea can cause fatal dehydration within 2-3 days of symptoms starting. The virus is spread in infected faeces and it can survive for long periods in the environment.
Cat Flu (caused by Feline viral rhinotracheitis and Feline calcivirus)
Nearly all cases of respiratory disease in cats are caused by one of two viruses; herpesvirus and calicivirus. Cat flu is only rarely fatal except in very young or old cats and those which are already ill with some other disease. The effects are the same as in human flu – sneezing, a runny nose and eyes – but mouth ulcers may also occur. Once infected a cat may carry the virus for a long time and pose a risk to any unvaccinated cat it meets. Cats carrying the virus may not have any symptoms or may have mouth ulcers or ‘snotty noses’ which never get better. The protection given by vaccination may be short-lived therefore your cat should receive annual vaccinations.
Feline Leukaemia (FeLV)
This is probably the most important viral disease in cats. Not all cats that are infected with the virus get the disease. But, in those that do, it is almost always fatal and treatment can only prolong the cat’s life. The disease destroys the cat’s defences against other diseases and may cause fatal cancers. The virus is spread by direct contact with other cats. So any cat that goes outside or mixes with other cats is at risk.
This is a disease which causes painful inflammation (conjunctivitis), ulcers and discharge from the eyes. It may cause infertility in some female cats. Young kittens with the disease may have sore or runny eyes from a few weeks old. It is mainly a problem where large numbers of cats live together and once a cattery is affected, the disease often keeps coming back. Cats living on their own are at low risk of catching the disease. This disease can be treated with a long course of antibiotics. There is no satisfactory vaccine yet for other important viral diseases of cats such as feline infectious peritonitis and feline immunodeficiency virus.
When should my cat be vaccinated?
Kittens are protected against many infectious diseases through compounds called antibodies, which they receive in the first few hours from their mother’s milk (colostrum). Early vaccination is pointless because these antibodies prevent vaccines working properly. However, by about seven weeks the immunity provided by the mother begins to wear off. For most of the above diseases, kittens should be given their first vaccination at about eight weeks and then given a second vaccination at about twelve weeks. Until your kitten has received all its injections and for a few days after, it should not mix with other cats unless you can be certain that they are free of disease.
Why is it necessary to have repeat vaccinations?
Most vaccination courses start with two separate injections 2-4 weeks apart. This course must be completed before your kitten is fully protected by the vaccine. The protection given by most vaccines wears off in time and at different rates for each particular vaccine. If your cat has not been given a booster for more than two or three years, your vet may think it is safer to start from scratch with a new course of injections. It is particularly important to make sure boosters are up to date in cats that fight regularly with other cats. Most catteries will insist on seeing proof of regular vaccinations before looking after your cat.
Do vaccines always work?
The quality of vaccines available today is very high but occasionally an individual cat may not get the full protection from the vaccine. This may be because the cat was already ill or was stressed when it was vaccinated and his or her immune system wasn’t working properly. Your vet will examine your cat before vaccination and if any signs of illness are detected will delay vaccination until your cat is well again.
Can vaccinations be dangerous?
Often your cat will seem ‘off colour’ for a day or two after its vaccination and the injection site may also become tender and swollen. If these effects do not wear off it is worth taking your cat back to see your vet. If you are concerned about any symptoms in your cat do not hesitate to contact your vet for reassurance or advice.