Vaccination

Information regarding vaccinations and the diseases they protect against

All kittens should be vaccinated. This is done twice; the 1st one at around 9 weeks of age, the 2nd at around 12 weeks of age. Good breeders will have these vaccinations carried out on all their kittens before they leave for their new homes. Always walk away from a breeder who sells unvaccinated kittens, it is against GCCF rules.

After these initial 2 vaccinations, cats can be vaccinated annually, within 7 days of the last vaccination. This will ensure the best immunity. These are called “booster” injections and are a simple single injection. 

Indoor only cats don’t need to be vaccinated within these strict guidelines, some people don’t bother at all with no ill effects, it is up to each individual to decide what is best for their kittens/cats.

Be aware that vets will strongly encourage you to have all available vaccinations carried out, it increases profit for them.  

Kittens are usually vaccinated against 3 diseases, in one injection; Feline Infectious Enteritis (FIE), also called Panleukopenia, feline calicivirus (FCV), and parvovirus (FPV).

Feline infectious enteritis (FIE) is spread by direct faecal-oral contact and also indirectly following contamination of the environment or objects by an infected animal. Cats can become infected by dogs shedding parvovirus. It can spread through the mother’s uterus to unborn kittens. Infection in late pregnancy leads to the underdevelopment of the cerebellum, an area of the brain concerned with coordination of movements. 

Kittens that are infected as they are developing in the uterus often appear normal at birth but as they become more active, they show uncoordinated movement, walking with their legs wide apart and with muscle tremors frequently present. In kittens over three or four weeks of age and adults, the virus causes a severe enteritis, following an incubation period of five to nine days. If the immune response is not adequate to protect the cat, the virus will enter the bloodstream and travel to the bone-marrow and lymph glands, leading to a marked decrease in white blood cells. From there, the virus travels to the intestines where it destroys the rapidly dividing cells of the lining of the gut. Infected cats and kittens usually have a fever, are obviously depressed and will not eat. This phase is rapidly followed by severe vomiting and bloody diareha. Occasionally kittens will be found dead, having shown no signs of the disease previously. 

No specific treatment is available and it is vital that any suspected cases are nursed in isolation as this is a highly contagious disease. Cats often die from dehydration and massive secondary infection, so fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics are crucial. Severely dehydrated cats will usually require intravenous fluids and veterinary support is essential. Anti-emetics (to stop vomiting) and vitamin supplements can also be helpful. Feeding the cat small meals as soon as the vomiting has resolved is also important. Good nursing care is vital to help sick cats, especially young kittens, recover from the disease. 

Feline Calicivirus (FCV). Feline Calicivirus (FCV) is a strain of the common cold. It is a virus of the family Caliciviridae that causes disease in cats. It is one of the two important viral causes of respiratory infection in cats, the other being feline herpesvirus. 

FCV can be isolated from about 50 percent of cats with upper respiratory infection. There are different strains of FCV that vary in virulence. The prevalence of FCV varies depending on the environment. In private households, FCV is present in about 10 percent of cats (either in active or carrier state), while the prevalence in shelters or catteries is 25 to 40 percent. 

FCV replicates in the oral and respiratory tissues and is secreted in saliva, faeces, urine, and respiratory secretions. It can be transmitted through the air, orally, and on fomites. Infected cats usually shed the virus for two weeks. Following this period, infected cats never shed the virus again or become latently infected and shed the virus continuously or intermittently. Co-infection with either feline herpesvirus or feline immunodeficiency virus causes a more severe disease. 

Symptoms in cats infected with FCV may develop acutely, chronically, or not at all. Latent or subclinical infections often become symptomatic when the cat is stressed, such as at the time of adoption. Acute symptoms of FCV include fever, conjunctivitis, nasal discharge, sneezing, and ulceration of the mouth (stomatitis). Pneumonia may develop with secondary bacterial infections. In addition to stomatitis, some cats may develop a polyarthritis, both probably immune-mediated through immune complex deposition. Stomatitis and polyarthritis can develop without any upper respiratory infection symptoms, but fever and loss of appetite may occur. Less commonly, glomerulonephritis can develop in chronic cases secondary to immune complex deposition. The great variability of symptoms in individual cases of FCV is related to the relative virulence of different strains of the virus VS-FCV can cause a rapid epidemic with a mortality rate of up to 67 percent.

Initial symptoms include discharge from the eyes and nose, ulceration in the mouth, anorexia, and lethargy, and occur in the first one to five days. Later symptoms include fever, enema of the limbs and face, jaundice, and multiple organ dysfunction syndrome. 

There is no specific treatment for FCV. Antibiotics are used for secondary bacterial infections and immune modulators, such as Lymphocyte T-Cell Immune Modulator has been used for immune support. Nursing care and rehydration are used for dehydrated and anorexic cats. Corticosteroids or azathioprine may be used for polyarthritis. Stomatitis is very difficult to treat. Antibiotics, corticosteroids, and tooth extractions all have been used with varying success. Cats on corticosteroids must be monitored carefully for worsening of any upper respiratory infection.  

Feline Rhinotracheitis (FVR) or Cat Flu.

Feline Rhinotracheitis (FVR) is an upper respiratory infection of cats caused by feline herpesvirus 1, of the family Herpesviridae. It is also known as feline influenza and feline coryza. 

Viral respiratory diseases in cats can be serious, especially in catteries and kennels. Causing one-half of the respiratory diseases in cats, FVR is the most important of these diseases and is found worldwide. The other important cause of feline respiratory disease is feline calicivirus. FVR is very contagious and can cause severe disease, including death from pneumonia in young kittens. All members of the Felidae family are susceptible to FVR; in fact, FHV-1 has caused a fatal encephalitis in lions in Germany. FVR is transmitted through the air and direct contact. It replicates in the nasal and nasopharyngeal tissues and the tonsils. Viremia (the presence of the virus in the blood) is rare. The virus is shed in saliva and eye and nasal secretions, and can also be spread by fomites. 

FVR has a two to five day incubation period. The virus is shed for one to three weeks post infection. Latently infected cats (carriers) will shed FHV-1 intermittently for life, with the virus persisting within the trigeminal ganglion. Stress and use of corticosteroids precipitate shedding. 

Initial signs of FVR include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, and sometimes fever (up to 106) and loss of appetite. These usually resolve within four to seven days, but secondary bacterial infections can cause the persistence of clinical signs for weeks. Frontal sinusitis and empyema can also result. FHV-1 also has a predilection for corneal epithelium, resulting in corneal ulcers, often pinpoint or dendritic in shape. Other ocular signs of FHV-1 infection include conjunctivitis, keratitis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (decreased tear production), and corneal sequestra. Infection of the nasolacrimal duct can result in chronic epiphora (excess tearing). Ulcerative skin disease can also result from FHV-1 infection. FHV-1 can also cause abortion in pregnant queens, usually at the sixth week of gestation, although this may be due to systemic effects of the infection rather than the virus directly. In chronic nasal and sinus disease of cats, FHV-1 may play more of an initiating role than an ongoing cause. Infection at an early age may permanently damage nasal and sinus tissue, causing a disruption of ciliary clearance of mucus and bacteria, and predispose these cats to chronic bacterial infections. 

Diagnosis of FVR is usually by clinical signs, especially corneal ulceration. Definitive diagnosis can be done by direct immunofluorescence or virus isolation. However, many healthy cats are subclinical carriers of feline herpes virus, so a positive test for FHV-1 does not necessarily indicate that signs of an upper respiratory tract infection are due to FVR. Early in the course of the disease, histological analysis of cells from the tonsils, nasal tissue, or nictitating membrane (third eyelid) may show inclusion bodies (a collection of viral particles) within the nucleus of infected cells. 

Antibiotics are commonly used to prevent secondary bacterial infection. There are no specific antiviral drugs in common use at this time for FVR, although one study has shown that ganciclovir, PMEDAP, and cidofovir hold promise for treatment. More recent research has indicated that systemic famciclovir is effective at treating this infection in cats without the side effects reported with other anti-viral agents. More severe cases may require supportive care such as intravenous fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, or even a feeding tube. Conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers are treated with topical antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection. L-lysine has been recommended anecdotally to suppress viral replication. A more recent study supports the use of L-lysine for treatment of ocular signs of FHV-1 infection. The only way a cat can be immune to these conditions is if it is immunised or has contracted and survived the disease. Essentially, the cat is inoculated with an inert form of these diseases, this trains the immune system to recognise the infection and resist it before it gains a foothold.  

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding vaccinations, their effectiveness and how necessary they are. I personally recommend that every kitten should be vaccinated, then have their 1st year booster injection. If they are indoor only, then I don’t feel it’s necessary to keep vaccinating every year, but this is personal choice. 

Some vets will agree with me and say that lifetime immunity is gained from the first course and 1st years’ booster, others will insist on annual injections. 

I do NOT recommend the vaccine for Leukaemia. Many cats can have an adverse reaction to this and I really don’t feel it’s necessary. Vets will always encourage having this vaccination, they of course benefit from the profit made! If you feel the need to have this vaccination, I recommend waiting until your kitten is at least 9 months old, after the immune system has matured enough.

Also, be aware that vaccinations should only be carried out on a healthy and ‘well’ cat or kitten.