Vaccination is a key component of preventing infectious disease in individuals as well as reducing the risk of exposure to
(and by) others. Testing for the presence of feline leukemia virus (FELV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) in our patients
is also crucial in prevention of the spread of preventable diseases between cats.
Vaccination Guidelines Immunization is a method of enhancing or influencing the immune system and to develop resistance to
infectious disease by inducing the production of antibodies and/or immunologically sensitized cells. A vaccine consists of
material administered to induce immunity and is a preparation of weakened (attenuated), killed or immunologically active subunits
of active virus or bacteria, which are unable or unlikely to cause the disease against which they are designed to protect.
Vaccines are usually administered parenterally by injection or by mucosal route.
In 1998, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) released Feline Vaccination Guidelines intending to review,
update and summarize vaccine-related issues affecting how a practicing veterinarian chooses to formulate vaccination strategies
for cats. Controversy arose as some practitioners feared that reducing the frequency of vaccine administration might result
in outbreaks of well controlled infectious diseases and that clients would visit veterinary clinics less frequently thereby
preventing early detection of disease and implementation of medically valuable preventative care opportunities as well as
threaten a cornerstone of practice revenue.. This resulted in much beneficial discussion within the profession. An update
was published in 2006. Both documents are available at
http://www.catvets.com/ in the Guidelines section.
The following is an attempt to summarize the key points of the 2006 document.
1. Vaccines continue to play an important role in the control of feline infectious diseases in an overall preventative health
care program for cats.
2. Vaccinations should be selected for each patient based on risk of exposure to specific pathogenic agents.
3. Core vaccines are those recommended for administration to every cat because of a) severity of disease, b) transmissibility
between animals and/or c) zoonotic potential. As such, panleukopenia (FPV), feline viral rhinotracheitis virus (FHV-1), feline
calicivirus (FCV) and rabies are considered core vaccines for cats. In the newest version of the Guidelines, FELV is highly
recommended in kittens.
4. Non-core vaccines are those whose use should be restricted to individual cats deemed to be at a reasonable risk of exposure
based on their lifestyle or environment. These would include FELV in adult cats, chlamydophyla, feline infectious peritonitis
(FIPV), FIV, bordetella and giardia vaccines.
5. While vaccine administration is not an innocuous procedure, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks for the
majority of cats. We must continue to vaccinate our patients to prevent recrudescence of infectious diseases we now control.
The objective of feline vaccination protocols should be to vaccinate more cats in the population, vaccinate individuals less
frequently, and only for the diseases for which there is a risk of exposure and disease.
In other words, rather than being viewed as a routine, annual requirement and the driving force behind the annual exam, vaccination
should be a carefully considered medical procedure discussed thoroughly with the client. At each visit, vaccination requirements
should be revisited as the risk factors for that patient change through life.
When developing a vaccination protocol for an individual cat, the following questions may be considered. Is this individual
at risk for this disease? Does this disease have high morbidity? Is it readily treatable? Realistically, could this agent
cause fatal illness? It may be inappropriate to use a vaccine against a disease that is rare or against a disease that is
not associated with a high morbidity. What kind of protection do I expect from this vaccine (prevention vs. decreased severity
of illness)? What side effects or adverse reactions might this vaccine cause? How long does immunity last and when did this
cat receive this vaccine last? Each infectious agent is different; in general those that cause severe systemic disease result
in lifelong immunity (e.g., panleukopenia) whereas those that cause superficial infections produce more transient immunity
or a carrier state following recovery (e.g., FHV-1).