Welcome again to my blog spot; this time I would like to talk about Cat Vaccinations.

Why Vaccinate?

The purpose of vaccinating your kitty is to protect them from several nasty infectious diseases, but it also serves to curtail them from transmitting disease onto other animals in your neighbourhood. We advise keeping your cat/kitten indoors until they are fully vaccinated.

Vaccines introduce a “safe” version of the infectious agent into your cats’ body which then stimulates its immune system to fight the actual infection next time it comes into contact with it. The vaccines themselves can be categorised into core- and non-core vaccines; core vaccines are what we would call absolutely essential for all cats, non-core vaccines depend on the individual cats requirements based on age, lifestyle, and contact with other cats.

When should I have my Kitten Vaccinated?

Kittens need two sets of vaccines at the start of their lives; the first set is given at around 9 weeks of age and then the second set is given at 3 months old to boost their immune system. Once they’ve had this first course of injections (the primary course) they usually just require annual booster vaccinations to keep them in tip-top shape. Here at Saint Leonards we offer very competitive rates for our vaccines, and remember that our gold plan entitles you to lots of extra services within it, including worming and flea treatments that all cats should receive too as part of their routine care.

Cats that haven’t been vaccinated within the previous 12 months will need to restart their primary vaccine course, but this time the two vaccinations can be given with just a couple of weeks interval between them. The annual booster injections will then continue again as normal; at Saint Leonards we would recommend this course of action for any cat that is either a stray you wish to rehome or for any cat whose vaccination history we can’t be sure of.

What Diseases does the Vaccination protect against?

The cat vaccinations protect against

· Feline Viral Infectious Respiratory Disease (Cat ‘Flu)

· Feline Panleucopaenia (enteritis)/ Feline Parvovirus

· Feline Leukaemia

· Rabies.

Cat ‘Flu:

Feline Herpes Virus (FHV) and Feline Calici Virus (FCV) are commonly grouped together because they are responsible for the vast majority of upper respiratory tract infections in cats. Both viruses are highly contagious and transmitted (passed on) by direct or close contact between animals, for example in the droplets when a cat sneezes or from discharge from the eyes. They are also able to survive in the environment short-term, potentially being spread via litter trays, bedding, shared food bowls, or grooming tools.

Signs your cat may have the ‘flu include sneezing, discharge from their nose and/or eye, conjunctivitis, and mouth ulcers. Symptoms can range from mild to very severe and sometimes other complications such as Pneumonia may occur, requiring urgent Veterinary assistance.

With FHV, similar to cold sores in humans, even after the first signs fade, most cats will stay permanently infected. This often leads to “flare-ups” especially when their immune system is low for whatever reason. Current treatment of cat ‘flu is centred on treating the secondary bacterial infections with anti-biotics, although affected kitties often need additional supportive measures such as Intravenous fluids (drip), steam inhalations, and nutritional support.

Both FHV and FCV are very common in our Feline population and can be very severe in effect which is why vaccination against it is considered to be essential for all cats. Although the vaccinations don’t prevent 100% of infections with these viruses, they can greatly reduce the severity of the disease; as we say here at Saint Leonards “prevention is always better than cure”.

Feline Panleucopaenia (Enteritis)/ Feline Parvovirus:

This is a highly contagious disease usually spread via bodily fluids, faeces (poo), and fleas. Additionally it can be transmitted by contaminated food bowls, bedding, floors and hand contact. It is a tenacious virus, able to survive for up to several years in the environment and unfortunately has built up a resistance to many disinfectants. These factors make it the largest disease threat to rescue facilities country-wide and it carries a very high mortality (death) rate, especially in unvaccinated kittens.

Cats that are suffering with this infection will experience acute vomiting and diarrhoea (often bloody).Infected pregnant Queens can transmit it to their unborn kits, which can affect brain development and cause mobility issues once born.

Unfortunately there is no specific current treatment and despite supportive treatment cats will often suffer with huge secondary infections and dehydration, with poor outcome results.

The vaccines are highly effective and we advise that all cats and kittens are vaccinated against Feline Infectious Enteritis because this particular virus is so much easier to prevent than treat.

Feline Leukaemia:

Feline Leukaemia attacks the immune systems white blood cells (Leucocytes, hence the name), leaving infected cats more vulnerable to other infections and illnesses, as well as increasing the likelihood of them developing certain cancers.

Transmission occurs from infected cats by grooming, sharing food and water, biting, or an infected Queen transmitting it to her kittens. In the early stages of the disease cats may appear symptom free but as it progresses you may notice weight loss and lethargy, pale gums, fever, diarrhoea, poor coat condition, and repeated respiratory tract infections.

Unfortunately an infected cat will progressively get worse and worse as time passes, and there is no specific treatment currently for this virus. Secondary infections are common due to the immune system being attacked and so treatment focuses on keeping the cat free from pain and discomfort, but their survival time is significantly less than that of uninfected cats.

If a cat tests positive for feline leukaemia then it must be isolated from other cats and kept inside to prevent further infection.

Rabies:

Rabies attacks the Central Nervous System and by the time symptoms appear it can no longer be treated with an almost 100% fatality rate. Its spread occurs through the bite or scratch of infected animals, and also via infected saliva which means open wounds can become infected. The Rabies virus is a master at “hiding” from the immune system meaning that no immune response really develops to combat it. For this reason we would regard it as an essential vaccination here at Saint Leonards.

At present the UK is rabies free thanks to our quarantine laws and extensive vaccination programme. For those of you wishing to take your kitty abroad, vaccination is compulsory and you can read our blog on Pet Passports for further information.

What problems may be associated with Vaccination?

Side effects are very rare thanks to the advances in vaccine technology, especially in view of the thousands that are given each year. Your cat may be “off colour” for a day or two following its vaccination, and there may be tenderness at the injection site.

More marked effects are vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, and lameness; allergic reactions to the vaccines are rarer than they used to be as vaccines are now much purer and so provoke much less of a response from the body.

In very rare cases the cat may suffer an anaphylactic reaction, developing acute breathing difficulties and collapsing; immediate veterinary attention is obviously needed in this case. This type of reaction usually occurs very quickly after vaccination which is why we at Saint Leonards advise you to wait for approximately 10 minutes in our reception.

If you have any concerns about your cat then please don’t hesitate to contact us for advice or an appointment.

Until the next time, stay safe, stay healthy and be happy 🙂