Vaccination is vital to protect your animal from a wide range of highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases. Prevention is better than cure and vaccination provides an effective and safe way to ensure your pet is protected.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines stimulate your animal's immune system by effectively mimicking the bugs without causing any of the symptoms of the disease. This means if your pet encounters the disease, it recognizes it and mounts a strong immune response, preventing the disease from establishing. Two vaccinations are needed initially to allow this immune stimulation to occur, but after this it can be boosted by annual vaccination.
When should my cat be vaccinated?
Vaccination should start as soon as possible, as younger animals are more vulnerable to infection and can be more severely affected than older animals. We advise vaccinating your kitten with their first vaccination at nine weeks old, and their second at 12 weeks. Full immunity does not develop until one week after the second injection. We have chosen this vaccine as it gives earlier protection than some other vaccines.
Which vaccinations should my cat receive?
We follow and recommend WSAVA guidelines on vaccination and frequency. We recommend vaccinating against Feline Herpes Virus, Feline calcivirus and Feline Panleucopenia Virus, as well as Feline Leukemia Virus. These are all given as a single, annual injection. If you are considering travelling abroad with your cat, check with the practice at least six months and with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to see if your cat needs any other vaccinations.
About the Diseases
Feline Herpes Virus (FHV)
FHV belongs to the same family of viruses that cause cold sores in humans. Along with Feline Calcivirus (FCV) it is the major cause of 'Cat Flu'. This condition is most common in young kittens and causes sneezing, nasal discharge, oral ulcers, conjunctivitis and can result in permanent damage to the eyes. Once an animal contracts FHV, it is infected for life and the condition can resurface during times of stress and spread to other cats in close contact. Cat Flu normally lasts for up to two weeks.
Feline Calicivirus (FCV)
FCV is the other major virus involved in Cat Flu. It has similar symptoms to FHV but is more likely to cause oral ulcers than FHV. These oral ulcers can be very painful, your cat may be unable to eat or drink and may drool excessively. Clinical signs are not as severe as FHV but the FCV is a more common cause of infection. It is possible to have a mixed Cat Flu infection. Cat Flu is rarely fatal but can progress to pneumonia and death in young or immunosupressed kittens.
Feline Panleukopaenia Virus (FPV)
FPV is also known as Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE) and is a highly infectious virus that is stable in the environment. Because of this, it can be picked up and spread by owners when they leave the house, even if your cat doesn't. FPV causes vomiting, diarrhoea and anorexia and is fatal in between 25 - 75% of cases.
If a pregnant cat is infected with FPV, then the virus can cross the placenta and affect the unborn kittens. The virus moves into the developing brain of the kittens and prevents proper development of the part of the brain involved with movement and co-ordination known as cerebellum. This manifests when the kittens start to move around and they develop a shaky, trembling gait when they try to walk.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
Feline Leukemia Virus is another virus that is most common in young cats. FeLV requires direct contact with an infected cat and therefore, isolated indoor cats are at minimal risk. FeLV causes a wide range of clinical signs and as its name suggests, it can cause Leukemia. It can also cause other cancers, such as lymphoma which, depending on the location, can carry a very poor prognosis. FeLV also commonly causes immunosuppression and anemia. Other conditions associated with FeLV include liver failure, fertility problems, including abortion and stillbirth, and inflammation of the gut.
There is no treatment for FeLV once your cat has contracted it. Symptoms can be treated symptomatically, but the underlying cause can not be removed. It has been estimated that 85% of infected cats die within three years.