As a follow-up to our previous post regarding canine vaccines, we would like to take some time to discuss the feline-specific vaccines that are available and recommended for your whiskery family members. As with their canine counterparts, the Veterinarians at West Park Animal Hospital will take your cat’s individual lifestyle and previous vaccine history into account prior to recommending specific vaccines, to make sure that they are protected appropriately.

Just like with dogs, the rabies vaccine is required by law. However, because we all know cats like to steal the spotlight when they can, cats have been found to respond differently to some of the additives (or “adjuvants”) that are commonly used in some versions of this vaccine. While they are well-protected with the rabies vaccine that is licensed for both cats and dogs, studies show that cats had a higher likelihood of adverse reactions. These responses ranged from a mild local reaction to the development of a growth at the site where the vaccine was administered. For that reason, our West Park Veterinarians recommend using a rabies vaccine that was specifically developed for our feline friends to help decrease the likelihood of those reactions.

The other vaccine that is considered core for your cat’s vaccination schedule is a combination vaccine that may be referred to as “feline distemper,” and is typically abbreviated FVRCP; this stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia. Rhinotracheitis is a general medical term for inflammation and often infection in the upper airways and sinuses- commonly causing those troublesome upper respiratory symptoms that you may see in your cat, including sneezing, discharge from the eyes and nose, and conjunctivitis. In cats, it is most commonly caused by viruses, many of which your cat may have picked up before you brought them into your house- or even before they received their first vaccine! Calicivirus, feline herpesvirus, and others are ubiquitous in the general feline population, so it is common for cats to be exposed to these at various times throughout their life. While the vaccine does not prevent against all strains of these viruses, vaccination can help dramatically reduce the symptoms and severity of an upper respiratory infection. The final virus in the FVRCP combination vaccines- Panleukopenia- is a disease that in cats is very similar to parvo disease in dogs. It can cause fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe dehydration that can lead to hospitalization, but thankfully, vaccination has been proven to be very effective at drastically reducing the prevalence of this disease.

The Feline Leukemia vaccine is the last vaccine we will address. It is commonly recommended in kittens that have tested negative for feline leukemia, but this is a vaccine that your Veterinarian will recommend based on your cat’s current lifestyle. Cats that are most likely to be exposed to this disease are those that may encounter other unvaccinated or infected cats or kittens- for example, if they live all or part of their life outdoors, are raised in a cattery or shelter environment, or even if you foster young kittens through your local shelter or rescue.

As always, the veterinarians here at West Park Animal Hospital are here to help you understand and feel comfortable with your pet’s veterinary care. Our first priority is providing your pet with the highest quality medical care that addresses their individual needs. To schedule a consultation and exam for your feline friend, please give us a call at (813) 749-6863, or you can visit our website and schedule online.